One engaged couple will have the opportunity to celebrate a wedding in Columbia — for free.
And the future bride and groom will not have to deal with any of the headaches and stress of planning that wedding because it will be arranged by the University of South Carolina’s Wedding Planning and Management class, “USC’s Love Story Wedding.”
Couples can apply, if they are willing to have their rehearsal dinner, wedding, reception and honeymoon locations decided by the 70-student class, taught by professor Annette Hoover.
“It is a legit wedding,” said Jordan Bridschge, a senior majoring in advertising who is taking the wedding planning class this semester at USC. “We can’t mess this up, this is somebody’s wedding,” she said in an interview with The State.
Hoover has experience with free weddings. This will be the 33rd class that she has taught at USC that will plan a wedding.
The class, which is part of the university’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management, was to select the couple on Sept. 6, according to Bridschge. The students were to have voted on applications.
“The couple must already be engaged,” said Girik Gupta, a junior on the marketing team who is part of the class. “They have to be affiliated with USC.”
That means the couple must either be students, graduates or relatives of Gamecock alums. The couple also must be S.C. residents and both over the age of 18 years old.
To apply, couples send their love story in either a 500-word essay or a three-minute video to explain why they should be selected to be married on Oct. 29 at Spirit Communications Park — the baseball home of the Columbia Fireflies.
Hoover says the couple must sign a contract, certifying that they will “accept what we give them,” as she turns the process over to her students.
The students will meet with the couple during class, and the future spouses will have the chance to voice preferences and explain whether they wish to have a ceremony grounded in religious or cultural traditions.
Hoover said one of her previous classes planned a traditional Indian wedding, that included the groom riding an elephant.
The couple may choose who they want to officiate their wedding, but Hoover has served in that role in the past, including a 2016 nuptials at the Fireflies stadium.
The students will make the final decisions, but the university is not paying for the wedding.
While the wedding is free of charge to the couple, with a few exceptions like paying for airfare to their honeymoon destination or alcohol if they want it to be served at the reception, the university is not footing the bill.
Everything will be donated by local businesses.
That includes the bride’s wedding dress, the maids of honor dresses, tuxedos for the groom and groomsmen, as well as formal wear for the rest of the bridal party, family and even the ring bearer and flower girl.
The donations also include wedding bands for the couple, catering for the events, the wedding cake, the venues, the decor and table settings, photography, flowers, invitations, the music and room and board for their honeymoon.
Hoover said the average budget would run around $41,000 for the couples her class has planned weddings for.
Although it can be good publicity for the businesses that make donations, that is not their only interest. Hoover said they are scouting the class and evaluating them as future employees.
“This class is the future of the wedding industry,” said Hoover, who also operates a wedding planning business..
If that means she has to get involved to help her students, she will. She has had to do it on a few occasions in the past.
There was one “bridezilla” that had to be reminded about the contract, and one grandfather who had to be driven home after getting drunk at a wedding.
There were some other times she said she had to intervene just to restore logic.
“You have to step in when a 14-year-old wanted to marry a 19-year-old,” Hoover said. “I had a prisoner who asked us to come out to the facility he was at to marry him, but I had to let him know that’s not allowed.”
Hoover said those instances are dwarfed by the successes. The class has pulled off weddings on boats, upscale restaurants, the USC campus and even the Governor’s Mansion.
And every year, the Love Story has a theme. This year, because the wedding will be at Spirit Communication Park, Hoover said she hopes the class can make the theme “Hit a home run.”