A pair of 23 year olds officially said "I do" under a beautiful, bright blue sky at the Biscayne Bay Campus of Florida International University in North Miami.
Besides the 40 family members and friends they invited, Juana Guzman and Adrian Cameros had an extra 40 happy and excited Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management students and their professors watching and waiting on them. That's because the fairytale wedding and reception were entirely produced and hosted by FIU Hospitality students in the Social Events Planning and Advanced Food Production classes.
"To have this happen right now is beyond anything I ever thought could happen to me," said bride Guzman. "I didn't think it could happen to ordinary people."
The students have been planning the wedding for months, seeing to every aspect of the event and securing local vendors, who also provided their products and services at no cost. The idea was sparked by adjunct professor and local caterer Bill Hansen of Bill Hansen Catering and supported by FIU Hospitality professor John Noble Masi and instructor Cristina Moguel.
Hansen put a call out for couples to submit videos of why they should receive a wedding, which his students would produce as their class project. His class chose the winning couple, who shared their story of actually getting married in 2019 but being unable to celebrate as planned in 2020 due to the pandemic.
The couple met while attending Miami Coral Park Senior High School in west Miami-Dade County in 2016. They were married in May 2019 and planned a ceremony in front of family and friends for May 2020, which had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In February 2021, they entered the social media video contest run by FIU’s social events class and won.
"My educational philosophy is to engage students in doing something worthwhile where we can share our time and talent with others to create wonderful events," Hansen said.
Guests wore masks and their temperatures were checked before boarding a trolley to the waterfront ceremony. Students made sure 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 Chaplin School hospitality patio space for the wedding reception.
"This is one of the most hands-on projects I've ever done, and it has been a blast," said Alicia Ordacowski, a senior in the Top 10 U.S, public hospitality program.
Social event planning students Ushas Joy and Ordacowski led the team in everything from coordinating the menu to the invitation design to the theme of "Destiny Islands" from the popular video game series Kingdom Hearts. The game's "legend fruit" was even included in the salad, with the addition of a piece of star fruit.
"We couldn't have been in better hands," Cameros said. "From the very beginning, they were just so keen to get every last detail right, even the little appetizers, to incorporating our story into the wedding."
Speaking of appetizers, guests were served the couple's favorites of short rib rolls and chicken wings from Flannigan's, where Cameros had proposed. Professor Masi and his students elevated the menu with a perfectly sauteed salmon for the main course. Vendors, many who have worked with Bill Hansen for years, like Cake Designs by Edda, J Del Olmo wedding gowns and Aroma Express Coffee Cart, donated their products and services to support the couple and the students, who had to successfully pull off the wedding as their final project.
"I'm not really getting any monetary value from it, but I'm getting the experience to give back to the community and to give to somebody who really does deserve it," said Joy, whose duties even included carrying the bride's wedding gown train so she wouldn't trip in the grass.
As the couple sipped on yellow sangria to match the yellow tropical flowers on the table, the Cameroses smiled and the bride added, "I'm so grateful a dream could actually come true."