Business

Little Lights Events goes bigger

Second venue opened in summer

The entrance is seen at Little Lights on the Lane Weddings and Events in West Branch on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. Erin and
The entrance is seen at Little Lights on the Lane Weddings and Events in West Branch on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. Erin and Jason Vincent designed their venue with weddings in mind, from wall colors to surfaces and spaces such as the bride and grooms’ suites. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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WEST BRANCH — Erin Vincent knew since she was young what she wanted to do when she grew up.

“I always knew I wanted to open an event center,” Vincent said one recent morning. “It’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was 12.”

Vincent and her husband, Jason, opened their second event center this past summer after operating Little Lights Events in downtown West Branch for six years.

That venue can accommodate about 60 people, but a larger facility was her plan for a long time.

“It gave me a lot of inspiration and guidance,” she said. “I learned a lot. We learned about what to have, what couples are looking for.”

Vincent worked as a wedding photographer for about 12 years before opening that first Little Lights in a historic building across the street from the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site.

She majored in therapeutic recreation at the University of Iowa because it covered most of the skills she expected she’d need. The university since has added majors in hospitality-oriented fields.

“I just learned about working with people in all kinds of different scopes,” Vincent said. “That was my focus.”

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Working with an Indiana architect specializing in event venues, Vincent applied her experience to the new building’s design.

She surveyed former clients and contractors to determine the features to include.

“We brought a hairstylist in for the bridal suite and talked to her about, ‘What are the things that make the space really functional for you?’” Vincent said. “Same thing with the kitchen and the bar — ‘If you could do this from scratch, what would you want this to be like?’”

Work at a three-acre site east of downtown West Branch began last March.

“It was a 155-day build,” Vincent said. “We just kept running into delays, then we had the polar vortex and the wettest spring anyone had ever seen. The guys showed up and they built right through the mud.

“There was a lot that had to happen.”

Little Lights on the Lane hosted its first wedding in August. The original Little Lights remains in operation.

“They’re really different spaces,” she said. “The downtown location is very intimate, with lower ceilings. I love small, intimate weddings and I think there’s a place in the market for both.”

Little Lights on the Lane seats 300 in its 5,180-square-foot main ballroom. The facility includes a catering kitchen, separate bridal suite and groom’s room, a porch, deck and courtyard.

“You can come here at 9 in the morning and you don’t have to leave,” she said. “You can get your hair done here, you can get your makeup here.

“There’s something for the guys to do. We’ve really thought out the flow of the whole day and what you need to feel comfortable.”

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The full-time staff of eight includes an on-site logistics manager to handle client needs and last-minute complications. Catering, photography and bartending is handled by outside contractors.

“We do have a recommended list, but we don’t require anyone to work with any, other than our alcohol provider” for licensing and liability reasons, Vincent said.

Local caterers, photographers and other service providers are accustomed to working with each other, an attitude that extends to the venues themselves.

“It’s a common misconception among people that we’re all in competition,” Vincent said. “But usually one couple gets married at each venue per Friday through Saturday. There’s a lot of couples, so we all work together and support each other.”

Most couples book their venue first, planning their wedding weekend around the location.

“We try to really be helpful with them,” providing references for other services, Vincent said.

She works closely with Iowa City hotels that provide shuttle service to and from the venue.

“We want guests to stay in Iowa City and shuttle out here, so there isn’t drinking and driving,” she said.

Beyond weddings, Little Lights on the Lane hosted a New Year’s Eve gala. A Valentine’s Day celebration is in the works, and West Branch residents can expect other events this spring and summer.

“It’s really important for an event center to be used for not just weddings,” she said. “We’re going to have family-friendly Friday nights, when we have food trucks come out. People can sit outside on the hill, and we have a band.”

What else is Vincent looking forward to in 2020?

“Not being under construction,” she said.

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At a glance

• Owner: Erin and Jason Vincent

• Business: Little Lights on the Lane Weddings and Events

• Address: 2 Ember Lane, West Branch

• Phone: (319) 330-4607

• Website: littlelightsonthelane.com

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