CAFNR students get early professional experience at Bridal U

The wedding industry is huge. More than 2.3 million couples wed every year in the U.S. – nearly 6,200 weddings a day. It is a $72 billion per year business.

Eight CAFNR hospitality management students are getting hands-on experience in the groom and bride trade. They are collaborating with a local wedding planner to present Bridal University, a wedding-planning workshop for Columbia brides.

“The purpose of Bridal U is to help brides not become overwhelmed and learn to create their budget,” said Tiesha Gaten, a junior hospitality management major and one of the event coordinators. “We want to educate brides on how to successfully plan their weddings.”

Insight Into the Big (Financial) Day

Topics covered at Bridal U include the big ticket items – menu and event planning, lighting and décor and financial planning. The average wedding cost today is $26,501, according to Brides Magazine. The reception accounts for 36 percent of wedding costs, with an average price tag of $13,367. Outside of the reception, the largest chunks of money are going to photography/videography ($3,367), wedding rings ($1,495) and flowers ($1,426).

Bridal U is sponsored by The Knot, a national wedding web resource. The Knot’s Britt Story will serve as a celebrity guest at the event.

The idea for Bridal U came from Natalie Imhoff, owner of The Bridal Solution, a local wedding- and event-planning firm. Imhoff, an alum of the hospitality management program, wanted to give CAFNR students the experience of planning an event from start to finish, so she began working with the College last fall to create Bridal U. The students and Imhoff have been planning the event since November.

A Laboratory With Tears and Flowers

“The women who have worked on this project will be able to tell prospective employers that they have experience with media relations, professional networking, writing letters to potential clients and working in sales,” Imhoff said.

Gaten said she and her fellow students were grateful to Imhoff for her leadership and expertise. Imhoff hand-picked the eight students from a pool of applicants, and took the students’ ideas into consideration when planning Bridal U.

Beyond the wedding planning workshop, Bridal U will give the students who planned it a significant advantage with regards to professional opportunities after graduation. Gaten said she has improved her skills in teamwork, compromise and communication.

“The work I’m doing with Natalie is going to benefit me in a number of ways,” she said. “When you are an event planner, you find yourself working in groups a lot. Pulling off a conference is hard to do, but now all of us who have worked on Bridal U will know what it takes to put something like this together.”

The event is scheduled for Feb. 19 in the Kimball Ballroom on the campus of Stephens College. Participants can register for $10 at