Dreams do come true. Love stories do have happy endings. At the University of South Carolina, Annette Hoover’s wedding planning class makes those things happen every semester.
The 22nd USC Love Story wedding went off without a hitch March 22, and as always, it was planned entirely by the students (approximately 50 in this class), and thanks to donations from local businesses, entirely free for the bride and groom and their family and friends.
For this semester’s couple, Lea Scavo and Henry Simmons, the free wedding was a blessing which came at just the right time. In September 2015, Lea’s mom was diagnosed with psychogenic non-epileptic seizures. Insurance did not cover a large part of her treatments. As Lea explained, “obviously, with her health being more important than our wedding we are not allowing my parents to help with our wedding so they can use the money towards my mom’s treatments.”
Lea, a USC graduate, said the wedding also relieved her mother’s worries. “The best thing we could ever ask God for is for my mom, his soon to be mother-in-law, to be at our wedding not feeling guilty that she could not give us our dream wedding.”
A free wedding is, of course, a wonderful thing, but yielding all the wedding decisions to the students might make some couples hesitate, but the applications roll in every semester. The class selects the lucky couple and handle everything from invitations and location to flowers to dresses and tuxedos to the reception and even the honeymoon.
“The students are completely in charge,” Hoover said. “I’m here to help, but they make the decisions.” This semester’s class faced an unexpected challenge when unexpected circumstances led to a delay in choosing Lea and Henry. The wedding had to come together in only a month. The students found pleasant surprises, however, both from the couple and the community.
“Lea and Henry have put everything in our hands completely, more than we had expected,” said Nichole Wegrzyniak, a student who chaired the public relations committee. “We had kind of expected a little bit of a bridezilla moment, but she was like ‘I don’t care. Do whatever you want.'”
Local businesses proved to be as easy to work with as Henry and Lea. “Our list of vendors is crazy long,” said Wegrzyniak. “So many people we didn’t expect to donate did.”
The River Road and Jasmine Houses and Gardens hosted the wedding and reception, and among the wedding presents waiting for Henry and Lea was a honeymoon in Mexico, donated by the American Association of Certified Wedding Planners. The students joined the association, and the donation came unexpectedly.
“They said ‘You’ve done an awesome job with this, so let us help you too,” Wegrzyniak explained.
For the couple, who met at a beach party on Hilton Head Island and experienced what Lea called “true love at first sight,” the day was perfect.
Lea said their time together had been a fairy tale, beginning the night they met and sat on the beach talking and listening to the ocean to a few days later when she arrived at work to find a bouquet of flowers on her desk with a card saying “I had a great night, I hope to see you again –Henry.”
Lea said she had never been so happy to be at work, and “I do not think I have smiled so much since the day I got my diploma from the University of South Carolina.”
There have been many more smiles since, and on her wedding day, she and Henry smiled perhaps even more than on that day. Lea’s mother was there. Annette Hoover performed the ceremony. The students attended to every detail on the day of as they had in advance, and the fairy tale ended as such things should, with the bride and groom heading off into a spring sunset to live happily ever after.
The following businesses contributed to the wedding, giving everything free of charge: 1425 Inn, Abbey Grace Blackstock, Amazing Moment Wedding Flowers and More, Ambient Media, B+B Farms, Betty’s Basket of Blessings, Blind Rabbit by Zoe Dale, Blue Marlin Signature Catering, The Beauty Amour Eyebrow Bar, The Bride’s Corner, Brittons, Corey Koon, Celebrations, Debs All Sew, DeLoache Florist, DJ B Rock, EventUs, Evelyn’s Bridal and Formal Wear, Fancy That! Bistro and Catering, FutureMrsDesigns on Etsy, The Getaway Car, Hair by Lisa Bellini, Henkaa, Hudson’s Classic Catering, The Inn at USC, Jamie Tyo – Cake, Jared Galleria of Jewelry, Jo-Lin’s Bridal and Formal Wear, Judy Kay Brian Photography, Joy Myers, The Local Buzz, The McCutchen House, Mosley’s, Pink Sorbet, Pout, Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens, The River Road and Jasmine Houses and Gardens, Southern Made Candles, Sports Trophies, Taylor Hall & Austin Taylor, USC Athletic Director Suite/Spirit Program, The Velvet Edge, Verdant Market, The Veggie Patch, Viv & Lou