Behind Every Great Design is an Even Better Planner
We recently had the exciting opportunity to sit down with Ayanna Stephens of Chasing Cayden by Design and Designs by Ayanna to get to know her, her thoughts on the event industry, and what items she can’t design without! With numerous luxury events under her belt (including one featured on VH1) and styled shoots that will make you swoon, you won’t want to miss out on her insight and tips below.
Questions & Answers
Hi Ayanna! Could you please introduce yourselves to our readers?
Hi! I’m Ayanna, a planner and event designer from New Jersey. My love for event planning and design started at a very early age but it wasn’t until after my own wedding that I decided to pursue my passion for planning and design. I am a wife, a mama of two beautiful (and silly) little boys, a lover of all things beautiful and crazy obsessed with spreadsheets.
How did Chasing Cayden by Design begin?
Chasing Cayden began right after I had my second son. It was born out of my love for creating unique celebrations and special memories for the most important moments in life. As I look back on all my personal celebrations with fond memories – my wedding, baby showers, bridal shower, etc. – I want to bring that same happiness to my clients. I even named the company after my two sons Chase and Cayden. Those two are the reason I work so hard and find such happiness in what I do so I take that and pour it back into my business.
What lead you to the event industry?
I have always had passion for design. As a young girl, I aspired to be a fashion designer and spent countless hours sketching gowns and women’s apparel. During my high school years, I explored many different career options; I started an accessories business through a school-sponsored program, I worked for a major apparel company as an intern and ultimately decided that my love for helping people was the direction I wanted to go in. So, I went to college to become a social worker but later began a career in Human Resources on Wall Street (go figure!).
I spent a few years doing corporate events but it wasn’t until my wedding in 2006 that I discovered my passion for planning and event design. It was in that moment that I set out to start my own event planning and design business. Marrying (pun in intended) my love for design with my business skills and my passion for helping people is what gave birth to my career in the events industry (yeah, I know – it’s a long way from social work.)
What influences your special brand of event styling?
I am influenced by so many things art and fashion are two of my biggest inspirations as well as other creatives. I am always looking for ways to add texture into my designs and if my clients will allow, a little bling. I love styling events that create the intended ambiance that my clients want – romance, glamour, etc. I also like to style events that have a touch of something unique. There are so many amazing designers out there so it’s important that each client feels as though the event represents them.
What is the most difficult part of your job?
The most difficult part of my job would have to be bringing my brides back to reality. With the Pinterest wave, and constant inspiration drawn from social media their wish list goes up, fast, without their budget increasing. So sometimes I find myself being the bearer of bad news but it’s always followed by a budget friendly alternative. I usually encourage my brides to stay off Pinterest once they’ve decided and stuck to a plan.
You and Chasing Cayden by Design were featured on VH1, how did it feel to be before such a large audience?
Being featured on VH1 had it’s very high moments! The truth is, even if you’re being featured on television, you still have a job to do and a bride to please. For me, my bride’s approval by far outweighed anything about being seen on television. So the majority of my concern was focused on my couple.
The feature on VH1 was an amazing opportunity for me and my business as well as for the companies I had the chance to collaborate with like CV Linens. The feeling is truly one-of-a-kind, because not only is your work presented to your 300-plus guest list, it’s also presented to the world! Not to mention I only had 3 months to plan and design a live TV wedding! Talk about stressful! And to add to that, I was the matron of honor for the bride. I was very grateful to have the opportunity to showcase my work with the world watching.
Thank God for my amazing team, otherwise I would not have have been able to pull it all off! After that wedding, I know I can do anything that comes my way.
Why does Chasing Cayden by Design choose CV Linens?
CV Linens is my go-to source for linens for my events. Their great customer service, readily available options from linens to event decor makes my event planning process a one-stop shop. The quality of the linens is great and I have continued to use items for other events and also photo shoots.
What are your favorite items from CV linens?
There are so many, let me prioritize: first, anything lamour! This fabric is amazing. It’s the perfect linen for subtle glamour and can be used for dining tables, cake tables and everything in between. Second, Wave Satin, LOVE THIS! I usually pair Wave with Lamour in the same color to add a different texture to my styling. Third, chargers and pipe and drape kits!
What trends do you see emerging in event decor?
There are lots of trends emerging. I have a few that I love and would want to see stay. I love the metallic accents, like rose golds, coppers and pewters. I also love greenery, it’s a perfect spin for the conservative bride.
Do you have any tips for aspiring event planners?
I’d love to share a few tips with aspiring event planners; one, dare to be different. In a world where trends are always in front of us, and everyone wants to have the same party theme, it’s okay to find unique ways to stand out from the crowd. Lastly, know your worth. A lot of times potential clients aren’t knowledgeable about event planning and the hard work it takes to customize events. Avoid lowballing because your hard work should be compensated.
What’s next for Chasing Cayden by Design?
There’s a lot in store for the Chasing Cayden brand. I can’t share all of the details yet but just know that it includes rentals, and lots of luxury parties! 2018 is in for a treat!
Thank you for taking the time to sit down with us, Ayanna!
Your insight into getting started in the event industry, how to keep yourself grounded, and tips for beginning planners are truly invaluable. Stay up to date with Ayanna’s work by following her on Instagram and Facebook!