A 23-year-old couple officially said “I do” under a beautiful, bright blue sky at the Biscayne Bay Campus of the International University of Florida in North Miami.
In addition to the 40 family members and friends they invited, Juana Guzman and Adrian Cameros also had 40 happy and excited students of the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management and their professors watching and waiting for them. This is because fabulous weddings and receptions were produced and organized entirely by FIU Hospitality students in Social Event Planning and Advanced Food Production classes.
“Let this happen now, it ‘s beyond anything I thought could happen to me,” said bride Guzman. “I did not think it could happen to ordinary people.”
The students have been planning the wedding for months, seeing every aspect of the event and securing local vendors, who also provided their products and services at no cost. The idea was sparked by assistant professor and local supplier Bill Hansen of Bill Hansen Catering and supported by FIU Hospitality Professor John Noble Masi and instructor Cristina Moguel.
Hansen urged couples to submit videos of why they should have a wedding, which his students would produce as their class project. His class chose the winning couple, who actually shared their marriage story in 2019, but were unable to celebrate as planned in 2020 due to the pandemic.
The couple met while attending Miami Coral Park High School in west Miami-Dade County in 2016. They got married in May 2019 and planned a ceremony in front of family and friends for May 2020, which was to be canceled due to COVID – 19 pandemics. In February 2021, they entered the social media video contest run by the FIU social events class and won.
“My educational philosophy is to engage students to do something worthwhile where we can share our time and talent with others to create great events,” Hansen said.
Visitors wore masks and their temperatures were checked before boarding a cart for the waterfront ceremony. Students were assured that the event followed all health and safety protocols as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The guests were then escorted to the Patio space for the Chaplin School hospitality for the wedding reception.
“This is one of the most practical projects I have ever done and it has been a blast,” said Alicia Ordacowski, a senior at the Top 10 US Hospitality Program.
Social event planning students Ushas Joy and Ordacowski led the team in everything from menu coordination to the invitation template to the “Destiny Islands” theme from the popular Kingdom Hearts video game series. The game’s “Fruit Legend” was even included in the salad, with the addition of a portion of the star fruit.
“We could not have been in better hands,” Cameros said. “From the beginning, they were so eager to get every last detail right, even small snacks, to include our wedding story.”
Speaking of appetizers, the guests were served the couple’s favorites for short ribs and chicken wings from Flannigan, where Cameros had proposed. Professor Masi and his students set up the menu with a salmon perfectly welded to the main course. Vendors, many who have worked with Bill Hansen for years, such as Cake Designs by Edda, J Del Olmo Wedding Dresses and Aroma Express Coffee Cart, donated their products and services to support the couple and the students successfully wedding. as their final project.
“I’m not really getting any monetary value from it, but I’m gaining the experience to give to the community and give to someone who really deserves it,” said Joey, whose duties included maintaining the bride’s wedding dress is trained so that she does not travel to the bar.
As the couple swallowed yellow sangria to match the yellow tropical flowers on the table, Cameroses smiled and the bride added: “I am very grateful that a dream could come true.”
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