Growing up in the small town of Hartington helped Carly Becker appreciate all things family and community.
The senior hospitality, restaurant and tourism management major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln watched during her youth as her parents proudly showed their affection, took the family to church often and made routine visits to her grandparents.
Her appreciation for family inspired her to follow the path to becoming a wedding planner after graduation, where she can play a big role in the creation of new families.
“I’ve had a passion for romance and love and organization,” she said.
That passion has been put into practice this fall, as Becker and nine other UNL students' class project was to plan a free wedding for an Omaha couple at Nebraska City's Lewis and Clark Visitors Center.
Students in the class, Advanced Event Operation, plan multiple events for real-world clients.
Kristin Malek, an assistant professor and event management specialist, leads the class. The students learn how to communicate with clients and adapt to their needs and also gain valuable marketing experience.
When coordinators from the Lewis and Clark Visitors Center reached out to Malek about its rental venue, Malek visited the site.
When she saw the golden hues highlighting a vast forest and the Missouri River, she knew the center was the perfect wedding venue.
Malek and her students jumped at the opportunity to showcase the site, and the center offered a contest for a free wedding giveaway.
So, Saturday, with two months of intense planning by the students finally complete, Jordan and Michael Hasenkamp of Omaha tied the knot on a perfect fall day.
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With the responsibility of planning a wedding, along with juggling commitments for other classes, work and activities, stress was inevitable for the students.
“The wedding has added pressure because it’s a special day for someone,” Malek said.
But Emily Zetterman said the students continued to grind away to help make the couple’s big day everything they hoped for.
The students contacted various vendors to donate food, flowers and decorations for about 100 guests, she said. The team also kept the clients up to date on progress while also planning minute-by-minute timelines for decoration set-up, the ceremony and reception. They also created a back-up plan in case of bad weather.
“It’s been a cool experience,” Zetterman said. “It’s been stressful with deadlines and expectations, but I’m definitely growing. And I am excited to apply it in my professional career.”
The intensity of the project also taught Becker about delegating tasks.
“It’s a learning experience, managing nine students. Not only planning a wedding is a new experience, but taking a leadership role and managing my peers is definitely a new role for me,” she said.
Despite the challenges, the students learned to work together. Zetterman said they created a solid support system for each other.
“I did not know anyone prior to this class starting,” she said. “It’s really cool to get to know people who have the same interests as I do.”
Malek said the students’ hard work was worth it, as they pulled off a wedding in a short time with little experience.
“The students have been rocking it, and I’m proud of them,” she said.
As they worked Saturday morning to set up, the aspiring event planners had an idea of what success would look like.
“Magical day would be a day where the bride and groom don’t feel stress and everything is taken care of,” Zetterman said. “They can sit back and enjoy the day with family and friends."
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