Claire Albrecht / The Daily Gamecock

Students organize wedding for USC alums

“See? I told you I wouldn’t ask my students to do any work that I wasn’t willing to do,” said Annette Hoover as she whisked out the kitchen door with stacked dinner plates on the way to the reception of the newly wedded Mr. and Mrs. Johnson. Hoover was immediately followed by her gaggle of Wedding Planning and Management class students, who were in the middle of pulling off USC’s 27th Love Story wedding. 

The process began five and a half weeks ago when HRTM 362 students selected Ashley Wheeling-Goodson and Samuel Johnson, two USC alumni, for their class project. The class plunged into wedding planning details for the happy couple. The only catch: the betrothed had no say in the preparation whatsoever. Wheeling-Goodson and Johnson entrusted one of the most memorable nights of their lives to a group of college students. To add to this, the students had to do it without spending a cent. No problem, right? 

For several years now, Hoover has been guiding her classes of aspiring wedding and event planners through the process of planning a wedding with no time or money. The class reached out to local boutiques, bakeries, florists, caterers and many other businesses to make the Johnson wedding happen.

The result of their work was an outdoor ceremony on Thursday at The Farm at Ridgeway in Blythewood. Hoover’s students could be seen ushering in guests, preparing the lodge-style reception hall and tending to family pictures before the ceremony. Everyone knew their job and were rushing around to get it done just in time. From consoling a crying flower girl to getting the ice sculpture set up, the students kept their professionalism. 

Each student is a member of a team which oversees specific aspects of the wedding. When asked, mid-dishwashing, if they would recommend this class as an elective to fellow USC students, Shaye Gulotta, a fourth-year public relations student, and Meagan Bell, a fourth-year environmental science student, agreed that this class was a lot of work but definitely a good experience.

 “It’s a challenge and if you want to challenge yourself, I say go for it,” Gulotta said.

Fourth-year hospitality and tourism management student Isaac Pressley, whose dream is to own his own event planning business, was grateful for the chance to get practical experience in his field.

 “I love to see people be happy and I think that something that is really important that you get out of this class,” he said. 

 Pressley shared his opinion that this class has helped him gain more experience in wedding planning. He encourages his fellow male students to give this class a try. His advice: “be willing but don’t settle.”

Hoover’s words of praise over her students could not be mistaken for anything other than genuine pride in their work. Hoover said that her students will have spent 22 hours over two days on the wedding site, working hard to make the 27th USC Love Story a reality. 

When asked what she would say to any USC students thinking about taking her class she simply stated, “You have to understand that working in this industry — and I’ve been in it for 45 years —
that you have to forget your personal feelings and think only of the bride and groom.” 

And think of them they did. These students orchestrated a 10-day honeymoon to Bologna, Italy for the couple, scheduled for just after Christmas thanks to The Association for Wedding Planners International. Along with this, students planned a “mini moon” down to Hilton Head immediately following the ceremony. 

All their work came to fruition at 6 p.m. on Nov. 9. The ceremony was briefly interrupted when the bride, wearing a strapless gown donated by Jo-Lin’s Bridal, got her heel stuck in the pavement as she walked down the aisle. She bravely marched onward barefoot, and Howard was there to scoop up those heels. Students could be seen with smiles and a release of tension as the newly-wedded couple said, “I do.” 

As the bride and groom are both Gamecocks, an official sandstorm was brought to Ridgeway by Cocky himself. The energy of the evening kept rolling and soon the bridal party had all shared their speeches, toasts were made and the cake had been cut. 

“This was the best night of my life. I could not have expected anything more than what we received tonight,” said bride Ashley Johnson when asked about her satisfaction with the students’ product. 

The groom made his feelings certain when he stated, “I just want to put that on the record, that each and every individual in the class deserves an A.” “We’re both Gamecock alum … so it means the world, to have Cocky here, to have USC put this wedding on means so much to us and to be able to begin our lives as Mr. and Mrs. Johnson.” 

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