Event center opens in Crosslake, specializing in weddings

Goal is to make events affordable for people

The Gathering Event Center Inside1.jpeg
The Gathering Event Center is open on County Road 3 in Crosslake, specializing in weddings and many other events.

CROSSLAKE — When Haley Van Buren decided she needed a bigger venue for her wedding just a month before the big day, little did she know the last-minute change would lead to a business opportunity.

Her parents, Ben and Jill Gibbs, own a building on County Road 3 in Crosslake and offered the empty space to their daughter to use for her wedding.

The Gathering Jason and Haley Van Buren.jpeg
Jason and Haley Van Buren were married in October 2021 at what is now The Gathering Event Center in Crosslake. The Van Burens manage the business in the building owned by Haley's parents, Ben and Jill Gibbs.

The wedding was Oct. 9, 2021, and shortly thereafter The Gathering Event Center was born with Van Buren and her husband, Jason, as managers.

“I just wanted a space where I could fit all of my guests and not worry about weather,” Van Buren said of her wedding.

She’s a do-it-yourself thrifter and thoroughly enjoyed decorating the space for her wedding.


“It was so fun,” she said. “I had a vision of what I wanted it to look like.”

The wedding with 225 guests was all she wanted it to be, and friends approached her parents asking if they could get married and host events in the space. Some people were interested in buying the decor.

“I wanted more people to use it,” Van Buren said, noting she had spent so much time piecing it all together for her wedding.

Now The Gathering has decor - including tables, chairs, table settings, candles, signs and numerous other items - for the 12 weddings booked this year. Brides and grooms have many choices and options with no two weddings looking the same. Items are continuously being added.

“That’s our hope and goal for this space is people can show up and have everything they need for a wedding on a budget,” Van Buren said.

The Gathering Event Center owners Ben and Jill Gibbs.jpeg
Ben and Jill Gibbs, of Crosslake, are shown in the building they own that recently opened as The Gathering Event Center in Crosslake. Their daughter and son-in-law, Haley and Jason Van Buren, manage the business.

The Gathering isn’t just for weddings. Pequot Lakes High School is interested in using the space for prom next year, and the business can host celebrations of life, birthday parties, graduation parties, fundraisers, baby showers, family reunions and community events - all at an affordable price.

“We just want to serve people who want to do it affordably,” Van Buren said, noting she and Jason are recent college graduates with student loans, so they understand many people’s need to watch costs.

They offer weekend packages for $5,000 or less that include using the event center for the rehearsal dinner, wedding and gift opening.


“People just want a space and don’t want to spend thousands and thousands of dollars,” Van Buren said.

A goal is to put together a book of information listing area bakeries, caterers, photographers, videographers, hairstylists and florists for weddings.

The Gathering Event Center can host up to 300 people and will offer outside space as well for weddings and events.

That’s our hope and goal for this space is people can show up and have everything they need for a wedding on a budget.
Haley Van Buren

Van Buren, her husband and her parents are also working to open a 25-person vacation home rental near The Gathering as a place where bridal parties could stay and get ready for weddings and where retreats could be held.

Van Buren grew up in Crosslake and met her husband at Bethel University in St. Paul. The couple was living in the Twin Cities until recently moving to Crosslake to run their business.

“I always wanted to come back to Crosslake,” Van Buren said.

For more information about The Gathering Event Center, visit

Nancy Vogt, editor, may be reached at 218-855-5877 or Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at

Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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