The Art of Design

Jamie Newhouse utilized her background in architecture to launch a full-service wedding planning business – Island Dreams Event Design. Her first client? Herself, of course.

When it came time to build her perfect wedding, Jamie Newhouse had all the right qualifications. An architect by trade, she had briefly worked for a season under the tutelage of Vineyard florist Aubrey Sirois, of Aubrey Maria Designs, hustling through a flurry of weddings, unloading flowers, draping garlands, and placing centerpieces.

“It was usually three weddings a Saturday in the season,” said Newhouse. “I got to see a lot of venues that way; I really got into wedding design through Aubrey.”

When her Island-born partner Brian Montambault, a data scientist, proposed in 2019, Newhouse already knew she would take the lead on the wedding planning. Having dreamed about a pink-tinged, princess-dressed wedding since childhood, Newhouse envisioned a venue alive with color. A romantic ombré of reds, pinks, and whites – from deep wine all the way down to ivory – would draw the eye without overwhelming the senses. To create such a color scheme that didn’t feel too busy in a room, she went to the drafting board – literally. Leaning back on her architect training, Newhouse put together design boards chock-full of visual inspiration.

It was the first wedding she had planned, but it would not be the last. The process inspired her to launch a wedding planning business: Island Dreams Event Design. She’d offer full-service planning with an architect’s sensibility, and she had her own wedding as a trial run.

The majority of the time Newhouse spent planning her own wedding, she was based primarily on the mainland, conducting the orchestra via phone. She set a two-year timeline, already aware of the Vineyard’s popularity as a wedding destination and the difficulty of securing coveted vendors last minute. But being off-Island did pose certain challenges.

“In retrospect it might have been nice to have someone as point person on the Island,” she said.

Jamie Newhouse and Brian Montambault’s ceremony took place at Sailing Camp Park in Oak Bluffs, overlooking Lagoon Pond. Following their vows, the party migrated inside, where tables featured a trail of ombré roses in reds, pinks, and whites crafted by Aubrey Sirois.

Instead she relied on her Vineyard vendors, such as Big Sky Tent and Party Rentals, photographer Larisa Stinga, and caterer Truly Scrumptious, and her familiarity with the process from working a past wedding season. Her first step post-Pinterest was to secure a venue and accommodations, the two biggest pieces of wedding planning, according to Newhouse, especially if it’ll be a destination for most of the guests. “Book the venue and get the word out. Even if it’s just word of mouth, it’s really important. That will literally make or break the wedding,” Newhouse said.

Next, she secured the vendors. On a small Island with lots of weddings, vendors can book up fast, she said. Newhouse suggests booking the caterer, florist, photographer, and rentals next. “Start with a vendor who really fits your vibe,” she said. If you have to resort to off-Island talent, then it’s back to increased accommodation and travel costs.

After choosing Sailing Camp Park in Oak Bluffs as the all-in-one venue for their October 10, 2021 wedding, Newhouse turned to a specialized architecture software along with trusty Photoshop to design floor plans. Focusing on how a person will enjoy a space is instilled in design school students from day one, Newhouse said. It made no difference to her if she was designing a luxury apartment, or a wedding day; the space needed to be well utilized for guests to be comfortable.

“I wanted to see how the colors work, how tables flow, how the room would look and feel before anyone stepped foot in there on the event day,” she said.

After a trip to the Sailing Camp to measure the space, Newhouse decided on three long tables seating seventy-two people spaced five feet apart for the reception dinner. The tables would be draped in light-pink velvet, with a trail of ombré roses – designed, of course, with the help of Sirois – down the center. She and Montambault would sit at a sweetheart table against a backdrop adorned with roses arranged in the shape of a heart. The backdrop would transform into a photo booth, operated by Salty Snapshots Photobooth Rentals, post-dinner. Velvet merlot napkins and gold accents introduced more color and texture while keeping the vision elegantly simple.

As Newhouse learned along the way, planning your own wedding means last-minute troubleshooting falls on you. She was still putting details in place even as wedding guests were arriving on the Island. Luckily, her family members are the type who were happy to lend a hand.

In the end, her day went off effortlessly. The five-foot aisles between tables left plenty of room for seamless movement around the reception. By taking wedding party photos before the cocktail hour, Newhouse and Montambault had time to chat with their guests – and actually have a cocktail. The dance floor was accessible – and well used thanks to DJ Duff Entertainment.

To achieve a balance of aesthetic and functionality, Newhouse approached the planning process for her wedding with the day-of experience in mind, for both the bride and groom and the guests. “The most important thing for me was making the guests felt taken care of and thought about,” she said.

She even included details like hand-warmers and shawls in preparation for the October weather and a stash of end-of-evening cookies for guests to take home to stamp out any post-party hunger.

Anticipating small ways to make the guests more comfortable can communicate to friends and family how much they are valued at the event, she said. “You want everyone to go home thinking this is the best wedding they’ve ever been to – that’s all you want to hear as a bride or a groom.” Curate a space that’s welcoming, enjoyable, and feels like home, she said. “Otherwise, it’s just poor design at the end of the day.”

Newhouse and Montambault’s invitation suite, along with the sign above, were created by Maidenwood Press.