Listen to the Podcast About To Gather In Grace

Podcast for To Gather In Grace

Podcast Summary

In an insightful episode of Eventful Endeavors, host Andrew Dethloff engages in a warm conversation with Lauren Tarnacki, the passionate and committed event planner behind ‘To Gather In Grace’. Commencing with their interaction at a Dallas-area wedding, Andrew praises Lauren for her efficient, hands-on approach to wedding planning which goes beyond typical expectations in the industry.

Hailing from California and then moving to Alabama, Lauren Tarnacki is highly recognized within the wedding vendor community for her ‘go with the flow’ attitude, which she attributes to her laid-back West coast upbringing. Having started her journey into wedding planning at the age of 21, she openly credits the romantic-comedy film ‘The Wedding Planner,’ starring J.Lo, for inspiring her to step into the industry.

Notably, during the move to Alabama, she invested time understanding the uniqueness of Southern brides, which she found profoundly different from those in California. Drawing from this diverse experience, she managed to establish To Gather In Grace and incorporates elements true to her style and personality, enabling her to curate exquisitely harmonized wedding events.

Lauren’s zeal and proactive involvement in her projects demonstrate her conviction in nurturing the wedding vendor community and supporting each other. She firmly believes that having connections across locations and industries enhances the potential for future collaborations. Echoing Lauren’s thoughts, Andrew agrees that such networking connections are indeed vital to guide clients to make informed choices in the event industry.

Their engaging conversation provides an insightful window into the world of wedding planning, emphasizing the importance of networking, adaptability, and the passion essential to flourish in the industry. Stay tuned for more insights on Felix and Fingers Dueling Pianos.

Podcast Transcript

Andrew (00:24)
All right, welcome to another episode of Eventful Endeavors. I’m here with Lauren Tarnacki of To Gather In Grace events. How’s it going, Lauren?

Lauren Tarnacki (00:31)
It’s going good. I’m so excited to be here.

Andrew (00:34)
Yeah, we’re happy to have you. Um, so we met at a wedding in the Dallas area a month ago or so, maybe we played the wedding and you were the event planner. Um, it was a super fun one and, uh, you just seemed perfect because you were so easy to work with. Uh, and not all planners are the same, I would say. So, uh, you did a great job and you were easy to work with. So I figured we’d, uh, try to connect and it’s all about kind of supporting each other and, you helping each other and having the good people, find the good people.

Lauren Tarnacki (00:43)

Yeah, absolutely. I’m all about like the wedding vendor community. It’s so fun when you can actually work together and it just makes for such a cohesive day and then just building those relationships is so important. I mean, I’m in Alabama and you’re in Texas, but it’s still great to have connections all over the place because who knows, maybe we’ll get to work together again.

Andrew (01:22)
Yeah, for sure. I mean, it’s a really strong industry, but you know, there are so many different vendors and a lot of times people that are stepping into weddings or events of other kinds are unsure of where to start. And usually one good lead, such as a planner or doing piano’s company, can lead to other good choices. So it pays to have that networking connection for sure.

Lauren Tarnacki (01:42)
Yeah, absolutely.

Andrew (01:44)
So tell me about yourself and your business from your first wedding to being inspired by J.Lo to ending up in Alabama.

Lauren Tarnacki (01:50)
Yeah, so I am actually from San Diego, California. I live there most of my life. So I feel like I have a very, very chill laid back personality, which I think is like the complete opposite of what most people think of a wedding planner. But I’m more of just like a go with the flow kind of quick on my feet type of person. And I very much so feel like that, that San Diego West Coast style.

helps me to be a little bit more of like, I don’t know, just the peace in the middle of a storm on a wedding day, you know? But I started wedding planning when I was 21. I had kind of grown up watching The Wedding Planner and I loved J.Lo. It sounds so silly, but I really, I saw that movie and I was like, I love what she does. That’s what I want to do. I wasn’t like a college superstar. I didn’t get a degree. I just…

I had a friend who was getting married and she was so kind to just let me go for it. And really, I just threw myself in the fire and I learned so much as I went. And it was amazing. I mean, I look back and that was 10 years ago this October and I’ve come so far since then, but I will forever be grateful for the faith that my friend put in me to get started.

Andrew (03:16)
So you ended up moving to Alabama and that’s where you actually started forming kind of committing to it and forming your company.

Lauren Tarnacki (03:26)
Yeah, so I did just a couple years of, I only did maybe like three or four weddings, just for friends, just kind of freelancing and getting my toes in the water. And then I moved to Alabama five years ago and my husband and my son and I, we just kind of started fresh. We wanted to be somewhere different. He had gotten out of the military and we just wanted to live in South. So we moved to Alabama and I studied what Southern,

brides were like, which is very different than a California bride, which is very cool. I do love my Southern brides and I knew I wanted to have my own company and I wanted to implement my own style. I wanted it to be very true to who I was, like my heart and my style. And so I do, I think I have this really good mix of that West Coast.

Andrew (04:00)
and so…

Lauren Tarnacki (04:22)
maybe modern design, but also that very like heart -filled Southern hospitality style delivery. So it’s kind of a culmination of my life experiences and yeah, that’s just kind of what I try to push through with my work.

Andrew (04:40)
Nice. Well, it definitely reflects, I can, now that you kind of explained that, I can see that in sort of how you were running things at the wedding a few weeks back. Um, so let’s, let’s dig world of into the kind of the industry trends. So are there any trends that you’re seeing in like wedding event industry in your area that’s maybe different from California or different from a year ago or 10 years ago when you started?

Lauren Tarnacki (05:00)
Definitely. I will say that the South is a little bit slower to trends. I think that a lot of the bolder trends kind of come out of the West Coast. So I feel like what might be trending now isn’t exactly what’s trending on the West Coast. But I am seeing people here start to loosen up and step away from the traditional design elements.

And I think that they’re just starting to get a little bit more bold with their color schemes and like their floral arrangements. Every time I have a client, I try to push them to be unique with the decisions that they make. So right now I’m seeing a lot of fun and funky flowers and just design elements as like tablescapes, like fruits and rocks and different elements like that, that are really kind of pushing that design envelope for.

traditional weddings and we’re moving more into like an art form and I love that. I’m all here for that.

Andrew (06:05)
Yeah, I think I’ve noticed a bit what you’re talking about. And I actually think at the wedding we met at, they had some of that, or you did, I guess. You sold them on some of those things, maybe. Because there was, I remember the fruit on the table. It was really beautiful.

Lauren Tarnacki (06:16)
Yeah, the.

Yeah, definitely. I love that.

Andrew (06:22)
Cool. So what about 10 years ago when you did your first couple of weddings versus now? Has your approach changed? I imagine it has. Yeah.

Lauren Tarnacki (06:29)
I’m a lot more organized. Honestly, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was just kind of like there and ready to step in however and whenever I could and just make sure like the time, the timeline was flowing. But today, yes, I am so much more organized. I’ve got some systems in place. I just think that when you do it for so long, you get that experience, you gain that confidence, you know what to expect in a wedding day.

You’re mentally prepared for, you know, plan A, plan B and C. And I just think that I’m a lot more confident now as a planner and as a person. So I think that, you know, that level of comfort has just grown as a wedding planner through experience and with time, working with all sorts of people and just learning what works. But I will say you have to be flexible. You know, every client I take on, I try to have the same process, but…

no one works the same. So you do have to be flexible in the sense that not everyone works the same as the last person that you worked with.

Andrew (07:36)
Certainly. So on that note, what advice would you give to someone who’s just kind of starting on their wedding planning journey? What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago if you could?

Lauren Tarnacki (07:45)
Yeah, I would say that the first thing is to really like lock in your systems, like your booking systems, how you onboard clients, like your emails, just try to have like a firm foundation of what it’s gonna look like to get bookings and how you’re gonna communicate with your clients, how you’re gonna organize all of your documents and all your files.

Andrew (07:54)

Lauren Tarnacki (08:11)
and just whatever works for your workflow, just making sure that that’s locked in before you take on too much. Cause if you’re taking on too much and you don’t have a good organizational system, you know, you’re going to get overwhelmed and it’s easy to get overwhelmed in this industry.

Andrew (08:26)
Yeah, absolutely. And that you’re kind of playing with fire in that regard because this is something somebody is pouring a ton of their life and often funds into. So if, you know, they’re relying on you in a big way. So I totally get that organization is super important. There’s a lot of backend stuff people don’t realize, you know, with, with probably a lot of industries, but ours as well, you know, it’s, it’s not all for us, for example, it’s, you know, people see us playing piano lights and stuff like that, but there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes as well. So I’m sure that’s, that’s very true for you as well.

Lauren Tarnacki (08:45)
Mm -hmm.

Andrew (08:56)
So if you had to give some advice to some couples based on the experience you’ve learned, what are some things they should never do? Like cringe -worthy things that you hate seeing at your events or that you’ve seen at other events?

Lauren Tarnacki (09:07)
That’s such a good question. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But the best piece of advice that I can give to couples is as nicely as you can, make it a point to share with your family, especially if they’re paying for your wedding, what you want out of your wedding day. I know that there might be certain expectations from parents or grandparents, but…

Andrew (09:12)
Ha ha.

Lauren Tarnacki (09:34)
You want your wedding day to be a reflection of who you are as a couple. And if that means having a much more casual meal, like a taco food truck instead of a sit down dinner, because that’s your personality, it’s really important to voice your opinions and your wants for your special day. Even if it means your family members don’t agree with it, I think that kind of at the beginning process, it’s just important to convey.

your wants and your visions to your loved ones about what you hope for. So otherwise, your voice is going to get lost in the mix of what everyone else wants and their opinions.

Andrew (10:14)
Yeah, and I know what you mean. There’s oftentimes a lot of people that have their hands sort of in.

things. We see that very often because doing pianos is sort of a fun alternative, you know, non -traditional as well. And a lot of times we’ll see or I’ll see that the bride really wants it or the groom really wants it but their parents don’t and so it’s kind of a, you know, this tug -of -war lock down that happens. So I know exactly what you’re talking about. So this is actually a question that you kind of put into our little system here. What is your favorite part of a wedding day?

Lauren Tarnacki (10:21)

Thank you.

Um, I think that I’ll always, no matter how long I’ve been doing this, get emotional during the ceremony, just because I’ve spent so much time getting to know this couple, especially the bride. Um, I really, you know, put my heart and my soul into this job. And with that, like, you’re going to get my heart into the relationship that I’m building with you as a bride or a bride and groom. Um, it’s, it’s a highly emotional time. So I feel like we’re both emotionally invested in one.

when we finally get to see the fruits of the labor and we’re finally getting to that moment that’s been so built up of them finally being married, I almost feel like I’m giving them away. Like it’s really special. So especially when the couple gets really emotional, I just, that always like hits me in the feels. So definitely that’s a favorite.

Andrew (11:39)
Yeah, I could definitely see it being difficult to, it’s almost like if you become part of your family or become a family member or friend, then you have to sort of step away from that. Do you retain sort of friendships and relationships with a lot of people that you work with?

Lauren Tarnacki (11:55)
I do. That’s like my biggest goal is just to build, just to build a relationship. And I hope that it will carry over even after we finish. And I would say most of my clients are still friends with me on social media and like will comment on my posts, you know, will randomly message me. Most of my weddings come from referrals from former clients, which is a huge honor and such a compliment. So I do think that.

It’s important to build those relationships and anytime that I can continue to have a relationship with a client, it’s like I feel honored.

Andrew (12:32)
Yeah, I understand. So you’re kind of talking about earlier some kind of bolder and more fun and funky sort of trends and styles, opposed to new, more traditional styles, and even in different parts of the country. So what’s like a really fun or maybe the most fun or unique idea you’ve seen at a wedding or an event, whether you were planning it or otherwise?

Lauren Tarnacki (12:53)
Hmm. That’s fun. I think that anytime you really have just those, I keep coming back to those bold like flowers and those really like artistic design elements. Whether you’ve got a tablescape that’s full of just fruit or if it’s like all different colored stones and you’re just, you’re making your…

your tablescape feel like an art exhibit. I think that that’s something that people will definitely notice. I feel like I follow Pinterest trends all the time. So my mind is going in a million different directions, but any just fun installation, whether it’s like these huge hanging flowers or just, you know, a bar that was tiled and gold rocks, anything that’s like fun and different.

and just bold. I don’t know, that kind of all stands out to me.

Andrew (13:58)
And of course having dueling pianos at your wedding, can’t forget that too, you know, that’s a, that’s a.

Lauren Tarnacki (14:00)
Yes, dueling pianos. That was the first time and that needs to be at every wedding because that was so much fun.

Andrew (14:08)
Yeah, that was a really fun one too. I mean, we do lots of weddings and they’re all fun, but that one was up there for sure. Everybody was really having a good time.

Lauren Tarnacki (14:16)
Yeah, I think it was made for you. Like you guys fit in perfectly for that broad and groom.

Andrew (14:22)
Yeah, so you kind of mentioned this a little bit earlier, kind of your unique style or blending of styles, but tell us about kind of what makes your service unique.

Lauren Tarnacki (14:32)
Yeah, I think that for me, again, it’s just who I am as a person, I think, stands out because I am a relational person. I love to build relationships and I’m not going to treat you like you’re just another number, just another client. Every person that I work with, you’re getting fresh ideas. You’re getting like my full attention, my full heart and soul poured into your project. And I just think that that shows.

when you genuinely care. And I’m not saying that other planners aren’t like that. I just know for myself that people have told me that they can see my work based on pictures or just by seeing the design because they can see my heart and soul put into it because it’s different with every client. It’s been made unique to each person that I’ve worked with. So I think that the fact that I’m able to…

form this relationship and get to know who these people are and create a design that reflects them, I feel like that really stands out.

Andrew (15:41)
Yeah, just even my brief encounter at the wedding we met at it was beautiful and it was all the vibes were right from the design to sort of your attitude to it, which is why you know, kind of stood out so can’t recommend you enough. Yeah So let’s yeah. Yeah, so let’s get into some of the details about how your business sort of works for anybody that’s listening that might be interested So how does your sort of availability and flexibility work? How’s your current availability?

Lauren Tarnacki (15:52)
Well, thank you. Well, thank you. I appreciate that.


Andrew (16:10)
How far in advance do you book?

Lauren Tarnacki (16:12)
Definitely at least a year. I’m really starting to get a lot more of full planning services, meaning anywhere from 10 to 12 to 14 months out from their wedding day. And I’m getting clients who want me there for every decision that they make. And so it’s really important because I don’t take on a ton of weddings in a year. I have a small team. Really, it’s just me. And then on the day of, I have a few assistants that I can pull in.

but I don’t want to overwhelm myself and I don’t want to take too much on so that I can’t give my all to each client. So, you know, I only work with a handful of people a year, so at least a year, if, if, you know, not more.

Andrew (16:58)
Sure. Do you take bookings that are less than a year? Would you take somebody that was six months out, three months out?

Lauren Tarnacki (17:04)
Yeah, I definitely would. I’m always going to respond to an email, even if I’m already booked, because you never know. I mean, I might still have availability. It could be an off year where, you know, I haven’t gotten as many bookings and I’m not as booked out as I am like this year, for example. Especially if it’s an elopement and they’re like, hey, let’s go to Greece in three months. And I’m like, okay, let’s do it. I’m there for that.

Andrew (17:30)
So how is this year looking for you? What’s your availability sitting like? Do you have a lot of availability or are you totally booked out?

Lauren Tarnacki (17:38)
Yeah, this year I feel extremely blessed. I’m already booked out for the year. It’s hard to turn down people. I don’t like to say no to them, but I am also going to school again and I’m a full -time mom and wife and I have to just kind of know my boundaries. And I’ve just recently booked my last wedding for the year. And so now 2025 and beyond are open.

Andrew (18:05)
Gotcha. Yeah, that’s a lot to take on and manage. Half of that is a lot to take on and manage, so I can only imagine. Okay, cool. So talk to me about sort of pricing and payment. How does your pricing sort of compare to maybe the industry standard or colleagues of yours? So elaborate on that a little bit.

Lauren Tarnacki (18:06)
but 2024 is fully booked.


Sure. I think with wedding planning you can either go two routes. You can do a percentage based fee or you can do like a flat rate fee. The way that I work is I just do a flat rate. I don’t really like to overwhelm people with numbers. I try to keep it as simple as possible because with weddings it feels like you’re paying for something every week. Something new, something small every week and I don’t want to overwhelm people and that’s just a personal preference.

So I try to make it as clear cut as I can. I’m pretty flexible with like payment options as far as how far out we need to schedule payments. But I do take an initial deposit just to hold the date. It goes towards that final fee. And I try to work in a couple, every couple of months we’re paying that off, but it’s pretty straightforward.

Andrew (19:03)

Lauren Tarnacki (19:26)
Yeah, so again, this is hard because I’m such a people person. I…

I will always keep the initial deposit just because when you’re booking with me, you’re taking away one of those very limited spaces from other brides who are looking for planners. So out of respect for me and for what I do, I do require a non -refundable deposit and it can be anywhere from 10 to 25%. And that’s just…

I think that that’s out of respect for me and what I do and taking away from other brides. And then canceling, I’ve had someone cancel their wedding two weeks before they were supposed to get married for unfortunate reasons. And it was kind of a difficult situation, but they paid me for my time. And that’s just…

Andrew (20:15)


Lauren Tarnacki (20:29)
I don’t know, I think I take that kind of case by case when it’s stuff like that that happens. You know, money can be tricky and relationships are kind of messy at times. So I try to make it as easy and straightforward as I can while still, you know, being someone who understands your situation.

Andrew (20:33)
Sure. Yeah.

Yeah, that’s a fine line to walk because you’re becoming so heavily invested in so much of

Lauren Tarnacki (20:54)

Andrew (20:54)
but you’re also.

That’s a tricky line to walk, I imagine. Okay, so say somebody’s booked their wedding with you, they’re coming up on the big day. Who would be the main point of contact prior to the event? I’m thinking you.

Lauren Tarnacki (21:00)


Oh yeah, for sure.

Andrew (21:12)
Trust nobody else. Um, so you said you’re, it’s mostly just you. You said you had, you hire a few assistants the day of, but, uh, you know, in regards to how involved you are in the planning process, is it, is it just kind of you writing solo and just really plug it in with, with the couple and taking it from start to finish all the way.

Lauren Tarnacki (21:13)


Yes, I’m there from start to finish. I know I’m at a point in my business where I really need to start growing, especially in the next couple years. You know, I have a ton of goals and plans for my business, but…

I’m at that point where it’s hard to find the right people who will fit not only on my team but also understand the vision and love what they do because it’s a tough job. You really are working for other people and you deal with a lot and you have to be patient, you have to be flexible. So I am currently looking for people who want to join.

Andrew (21:54)

Lauren Tarnacki (22:11)
that aren’t just for the day of, but I’m looking for like good hearts, hard work, and you know, just someone who kind of matches my personality and can understand what I do and love that too. But I’ve got quite a few girls that I can call on like the week of the wedding or the day of the wedding that are super hard workers, have a good eye for design, and I rely on them heavily on the day of a wedding for sure.

Andrew (22:37)

they should reach out to you, but I can completely understand you’re basically handing a piece of yourself away to entrusting somebody with it to do it in the same way with the same approach and with the same vision like you said so yeah I imagine that’s a not going to be a whole lot of people that magically just populate that that category got to find the perfect fit right

Lauren Tarnacki (23:05)
Yeah, it’s hard to, hard to build a brand for yourself, you know, and then trust someone to carry that brand on their own. You know, it’s. Yeah.

Andrew (23:16)
Yeah, and if you’d want that person to be able to handle the whole point of it would be…

and service more people. So you want to be able to trust that person not only to do their job well.

sort of branded style.

Sure. Yeah. Okay, so last couple questions here. Do you have any recommended or preferred vendors and are your couples required to use them? Do you have a hand in that or how does that work?

Lauren Tarnacki (23:36)
Yeah, scary. I will always pass along the vendors that I have worked with that I prefer to work with, but I don’t have like a, I’m not working this job if you don’t, you know, hire this person.

I want my couples to be happy and if they decide on a certain caterer or florist that they can’t live without, even if I have a bad experience with them in the past, I will work with them as professionally and as bestly as I can. And at the end of the day, it’s all about making your clients happy and serving them the best that you can, even if it means getting over your pride or having to mend a relationship that maybe was…

Andrew (24:14)

Lauren Tarnacki (24:36)
that was difficult in the past. I haven’t had that happen yet, but I will always initially refer vendors that I’ve worked with, that I love, I can vouch for and know we’ll do a good job.

Andrew (24:52)
Right, so more of a strong suggestion as opposed to sort of pushing it or yeah. Cool, so speaking of sort of working with different vendors and ones you maybe haven’t known or can’t vouch for, this is another question you kind of raised which I’m curious to hear your side of it. What is the most sort of embarrassing experience maybe that you had on the day of a wedding or in the planning process or with the vendor?

Lauren Tarnacki (24:58)
There you go.

I was hoping you would answer this question first.

Andrew (25:20)
any juicy, juicy story that kind of sticks out in your mind? I’ll answer it too. I’ll answer it too. Although I might have to think about it for a second, but yeah, you go ahead.

Lauren Tarnacki (25:29)
Yeah. Embarrassing, I don’t think I have had anything that’s been embarrassing. I’ve just had a lot of like family drama that’s arrived, like that’s come up on the day of a wedding. And obviously I’m not going to call anybody out, but I have had to be like that peacemaker and physically stand in between, you know.

two people and just try to bring peace into a situation for the sake of a wedding day and a happy couple. And that’s a really hard position to be in, especially because I’m only five foot one. I’m not very big. And to be a peacemaker for two people who are over six feet tall, like that’s hard.

Andrew (26:15)
Yeah, yeah, that’s when you have to remember remind them it’s To Gather In Grace you guys missed the title you missed the memo Hmm

Lauren Tarnacki (26:20)
Exactly. I missed the memo hard on that one. But yeah, no, I just, anytime that there’s family drama, that’s so hard, you know? And it’s always something that I’m looking out for too. It’s one of the things that I have to talk about with my couples too before a wedding day, just so I’m like well -versed. I’m like, you know, who’s going to be the crazy one on the day of the wedding that I might need to remove? Like, let me know.

Andrew (26:45)
Yeah, I don’t know if I really have an embarrassing one since you want me to answer to maybe the most embarrassing was a calling out of the bridal party entry and Every name I swear it’s like somebody Concocted the hardest to pronounce names and then put them all on one page and so I Chased down the groom and had him go through and I even wrote out like, you know phonically pronunciation notes for myself

Lauren Tarnacki (26:59)


Andrew (27:13)
And man, I still just, I still did not do a super great job. Yeah, it was pretty rough. I was getting the stink out. I did my best, you know? And they kind of sprung that on me the last second that I was going to be doing that, so to be fair. But, oh, it’s, yeah, and the worst was that it was a long list. So, you know, I’ve already built this and I’m getting some stairs and I’ve got 12 more names to go and I’m just standing there awkwardly. It was, I know, it was not cool.

Lauren Tarnacki (27:14)

That’s terrible.

I’m so sorry. That makes me cringe for you.

How dare them. Oh my.

Andrew (27:44)
Awesome. Well, it’s been awesome talking to you. Thanks for doing this. I know also if anyone’s listening and wants to book with Lauren from To Gather In Grace, and you mentioned this podcast, I think you said you’d offer a 5 % discount for planning services, which is super cool. So can’t recommend you enough. You know, your 2024 is full, but like you said, 2025 is open. So really appreciate it. Appreciate you. We’ll have all of Lauren’s information with this posting. Her website contact.

Lauren Tarnacki (27:55)


Andrew (28:14)
So if you’re looking for a wedding next year, you know who to call.

Lauren Tarnacki (28:18)
Yes, thank you so much, Andrew. I had so much fun that this is, I feel so honored that you asked me to be a part of this. So thank you for your time. I had a great time and I’m hoping that, you know, we can get a reunion. Let’s do another wedding soon.

Andrew (28:23)
Yeah, absolutely.

Yeah, let us know. You know who to call.

Lauren Tarnacki (28:32)
You come on down to Alabama.

Andrew (28:35)
I will, I will. But all right, Lauren, I’ll talk to you again soon, thanks.

Lauren Tarnacki (28:39)
All right, thank you so much.

This interview was made possible by Felix & Fingers Dueling Pianos

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