From a young age, Ashley’s energy could be characterized as motivated and detail-oriented. She’s always had an eye for opportunity, an appetite for hard work, and the confidence to problem solve any situation. Although she originally wanted to be a lawyer, after graduating from St. James High School and starting her studies at the University of South Carolina, she quickly realized that practicing law was not her passion. As many students experience, she faced the obstacle of switching her major numerous times searching for “it” – the feeling of doing what you were meant to do that everyone deserves. She was lost and decided to come home during her junior year of college to focus on what she really wanted for her future.
Ironically, this time frame happened to be when one of her best friends was getting married. Ashley was a bridesmaid and on the day of the wedding, the planner never showed up. As the natural “jump in and save the day” person that Ashley is, she and her now-husband, Cory, instantly came to the rescue. They decorated, coordinated, and handled all aspects of the event making the day a beautiful celebration. “On the way home, my heart was exploding!” Ashley exclaimed, “I finally realized what it felt like to do something I truly loved!”
She immediately started booking interviews with local wedding coordinators so that she could find an internship. Many of the companies stated that to be hired later on as a full-time coordinator, a college degree was a necessity. Good thing Ashley’s determination and hands-on work ethic outshined any classroom learning. She explained, “The difference was that the other interns were there for a course credit, and I was there to start a career.” After a short time, Ashley was hired as a planner. Not only did she learn how to plan and coordinate, but she fully submerged herself into the industry from catering, floral design, and venue management. She became an expert on helping others celebrate their special day.
In 2018, Ashley officially opened her own company, Ash Events, with her first intern and right-hand lady, Callie Walton. Her primary focus will always be weddings, but she also plans proposals, bridal showers, baby showers, birthday parties, engagement parties, and charity events. These types of events tie in well with Pawleys Picnics, another company that Ashley started with her sweet friend, Jana Tyler Gibson, who is also a talented photographer with Magnolia Photography. During quarantine, as the world was shifting away from big parties, the idea behind this business venture was to create small, intimate gatherings that still feel like planned, curated experiences. From cute date nights for couples to petite soirées for close groups of friends, Pawleys Picnics can handle many types of unforgettable get-togethers.
Most recently, Ashley and Jana also paired up with Jessie Johnson, the brilliant floral designer who owns Willow Event Designs, to launch Caluna Event Design Collective, which is also a new venue space in Pawleys Island. The personalities and styles of these three entrepreneurs complement each other well and many of their clients need all three to plan their perfect occasion. Caluna makes the process of planning easier so that the client can understand all of their unique, skilled perspectives while also being the perfect intimate venue for doing so. Ashley’s business mindset is as dynamic as it is inspirational.
When I asked what makes an event successful, Ashley replied, “Teamwork! Knowing that I have the right vendors and team to help me every step of the way means that no matter what goes wrong or unplanned, we are going to fix it. Some people are quick to panic, but we put our whole hearts into every event and we always find a solution. We never give up!” Not only does Ashley love to travel for events she plans, but she also dreams of growing Ash Events. If there is a business that knows how to plan and coordinate the most iconic celebrations, it’s Ashley and her enthusiastic team.