WOMEN IN WEDDINGS: Meet Chenai, Planner in Chief at ByChenai Events
Creating a wedding day experience that has a unique 'identity' is definitely an ambition for most of the couples I speak to. People understandably want their big day to reflect who they are as individuals - and styling is key to achieving that [along with having a super-personalised wedding ceremony that tells your one-of-a-kind love story but, ugh, ENOUGH ABOUT ME!].
Now, it's all very well having the vision and going wild on the Pinterest boards, but then comes the tricky part where you have to bring all your big ideas into reality. You've got to find the venue, track down your dream suppliers, source all those little extra bits and pieces (that none of your guests will really notice but you know will make all the difference)... and that's not to mention coordinating everything and everyone on the day!
Enter the gorgeous Chenai, owner of ByChenai Events. A woman with the creative chops, the organisational prowess and, most importantly, the naughtiest sense of humour to make all your wedding day fantasies come alive - in the most beautiful and brilliant way possible.
Chenai is a wedding and events PRO and just the sort of woman you'd want by your side as you embark on the wedding planning process. I've stalked her on Instagram for ages, and her gorgeous smile, AMAZING HAIR and enormous passion for her work always light up my day.
It was a pleasure to chat more to her about what she does and her big plans for her business.
Tell me ALL about what you do and what makes you different!
I'm an event designer and planner. The core part of my business is weddings but I plan parties as well. I use the word 'designer' because, whilst I do offer the logistic planning service (where I manage the 'project' as it were and run the day), my true love is in the creative. Taking a brief, translating it and then executing someone's vision is a real joy for me.
When did you decide you wanted to be a wedding and events planner?
One of my favourite chores when I was young was to set the dinner table when we had company. My mum was THE ultimate hostess. She really cared that people were comfortable and had a great time. That stayed with me as a young girl. I knew, whatever happened in the future, I'd be doing something that involved hosting and throwing parties.
What is it about you that makes you good at your job?
I'm a natural extrovert and I'm interested in people, so I use those skills to influence and negotiate on my client's behalf, to produce weddings and parties that look great but, most importantly, are enjoyable.
How do you work with your couples? Can you explain the wedding planning services you offer?
It all starts with getting to know the couple and establishing their expectations for their day. I want to know what's important in their story and what their style is. This first consultation isn't about deciding on a 'mood' or palette, but it will inform subsequent decisions that we make together. Working with me is a collaboration.
My primary offer is a bespoke styling and planning experience. I take the reigns, work on vision boards, act as a concierge for you and your guests, if required, decide on a final brief and then pull together suppliers who will suit your style, the scale of the wedding, and budget. I am there from the very beginning until bouquets are tossed and the heels come off on the dance floor! My secondary offer is a styling and decor service. This is for those couples who may have secured venues and are confident with the other wedding planning elements. These couples have the bones of a vision and my role is to turn the vision into a reality. In essence, I'm bringing the "wow" to their wedding or party.
My latest offer is the Luxe London Elopement service. The spontaneous London wedding for those who live abroad is more complex than some assume and the demand for intimate, but beautifully curated elopements, is increasing. Combining my knowledge of timelines and regulations, with my styling and planning experience. makes me well placed to design London elopements that are truly memorable.
Who are the couples you love working with?
The couples who favour stylish, creative, contemporary, luxe design. They want their event to be representative of their style and they want it to be seamless and stress-free. I love working with clients who want their celebration to be an experience, executed beautifully. I'm waiting for my "outrageous" request client. I've got to know some brilliant luxury planners in the industry, and, when I speak to them about turning points in their journey, a few cite the client who pushed the envelope in terms of their ambition for their wedding or celebration. I welcome any couple who wants to try something seemingly un-doable; an unusual location, an unusual theme, or even who just want a fresh perspective on a classic design.
What's your number one top tip for anyone just starting out on the wedding planning journey?
Starting to plan as early if possible is key for those planning their own weddings and I'd say that nailing your budget is very important. You have to know what you're working with financially, in order to then pull together the elements to make the wedding you want.
Are there any standout events you've LOVED being a part of?
I planned a weekend wedding in the Welsh countryside for a very special couple last year. I had a relatively short time frame (around four months) to plan a three-day celebration for 135 guests from scratch. Their venue was abundant in natural beauty so I only styled spaces that absolutely needed it, to echo the gorgeous landscapes. I created surprises for the couple along the way which I love to do. It brought me so much joy and satisfaction but I learned so much more about myself and how I want to run my business - and I think that's the secret sauce: Continuing to perfect your craft, to ensure that the next one is as good or better.
What do you love about working in the wedding industry?
The support within the industry has been the standout for me. I've found those one or two people who are real cheerleaders, who are at the same point in their growth, with the same ambitions. Groups like the London Wedding Breakfast club have been really instrumental in my growth - what an awesome network of professionals that is! I am not intimidated by competition, it's healthy. I find it motivating to see other professionals that consistently produce beautiful work.
Is there a frequent misconception that people have about wedding planners that you'd like to bust?
I still think that people may not understand what we do or think that it is an extravagance reserved for fictional characters in RomComs. This comes from underestimating how much is involved in planning a wedding and, actually, what going it alone can take away from your wedding experience. I talk a lot about this in my Facebook group for couples who are on their wedding journey.
Where does By Chenai go next? What's coming up for you that you're excited to shout about?
There is still so much I have to do! A rebrand is on the horizon. The future is ByChenai becoming a boutique events agency that operates internationally. A truly international party planning business that produces inspired and unforgettable experiences.