People seated around a table participating in a planning meeting for the bridal show

Participating in a planning meeting for the bridal show are, from left, Bridget Lescelius, associate lecturer in the School of Journalism and Advertising; Jada Plummer of Trowbridge; Faith King, program director for Student Center Event Services; Emily Sinnett of Mount Vernon; Emily Gladser of St. Louis; and Jurnee Williams of Rockford. (Photo by Russell Bailey)

December 13, 2023

SIU students create, plan and promote inclusive bridal show on campus

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale students are doing the vast majority of the planning and work for a 2024 bridal show at the campus’ Student Center, but it will be quite unlike its predecessors and your average bridal show in many ways, highlighting local businesses and focusing on inclusivity.

“It’s going to be more of an experience than just an event,” said Jada Plummer, a senior marketing major from Trowbridge, Illinois.

Set for April 21, the concept for the unique show came about thanks in large part to SIU students. Members of the university’s chapter of the Saluki Event Planners struck up a conversation with Keesha Lo, owner of Bake Me Happy Food Co., while assisting her with a special event.  

“It was so neat that when we started talking to Keesha about reviving the bridal show, we were all already thinking along the same lines. And then we approached people at the Student Center about bringing the event back after around a 20-year hiatus, and they were already thinking about it too,” said Emily Gladser, a senior hospitality, tourism and event management major from St. Louis.

Faith King, program director for Student Center Event Services and an MBA student who is serving as project director for the bridal show, said she and her staff were quite excited about partnering with the students. Plenty of space and resources are available at the facility, and her staff is looking for more ways to serve the community, including hosting more weddings and special events.   

A different look, time and focus

The group quickly decided this show isn’t going to be cookie-cutter in any way.

“There has been a resurgence in bridal shows, but most of them take place early in the spring, even before Valentine’s Day,” said Niki Davis, professor of practice and hospitality, tourism and event management program director who also serves as adviser for the Saluki Event Planners, one of the two student groups coordinating the show. “As the students talked, they decided they wanted to do something different with their show. First, they want to focus on services and products provided by local businesses, especially smaller businesses that may not be able to afford to get involved in the bigger bridal shows. And they also want the emphasis of this bridal show to be inclusivity. It will feature and showcase things for people with disabilities, for same-sex couples, for all types of less-traditional weddings.”

They also decided to hold their show a little later in the year, when the pace slows down but people are still in the thick of planning for prime wedding season, Davis said.

Organizers are planning to issue invitations to vendors for the inaugural show beginning in January.

A true experience

The Salukis quickly decided to give their event a distinctive name and concept.

Emily Sinnett, a senior advertising major from Mount Vernon, Illinois, and member of the Saluki AdLab, conceived the name, Dazed & Engaged – a Southern Illinois Wedding Experience, as well as the logo for the event. The Saluki AdLab team is assisting with branding and all of the other aspects associated with advertising and promotion.

The students say the April premier will feature a bridal fashion show, vendors, advertisers, music with a live DJ, gift bags, door prizes and much more. The venue will be staged to show how it could be set up for a wedding. Plans call for even more elaborate shows in coming years.

Professional partnership

The members of Saluki AdLab are handling all branding, promotional, marketing and advertising aspects of the event.

The Saluki Event Planners are taking care of planning, organization and logistics, including creating floor plans, determining facility usage, working on budgets and spreadsheets, seeking and contacting vendors and more, just as professional event planners do in preparation for a major event.

“We are getting practical experience while we are still students,” Gladser said.

Saluki AdLab seeks real-life clients to work for and the students handle all of the various components involved in a complex project, according to Bridget Lescelius, associate lecturer in the School of Journalism and Advertising and adviser for Saluki AdLab and the student chapter of the American Advertising Federation.

“It’s a perfect partnership, mimicking the way the industry works,” she said. “They are taking care of things and talking in real terms, not just theoretical. I love working with Niki Davis and taking an interdisciplinary approach. It’s so great for the students.”

Lescelius noted that taking on a project like this requires dedication.

“It’s part of our mission in the School of Journalism and Advertising. We focus on giving them a true-life learning experience,” she said. “Working on this project, it becomes obvious which students have a great passion and desire, who is willing to give up their weekends and evenings and really engage in getting the tasks accomplished. They are preparing to launch into careers where they will be doing these kinds of things, and they are getting a great jump start in preparing for those careers.”

She said students from all majors can participate in Saluki AdLab and it is a required course for advertising students. They work with a variety of local and regional clients and compete in the AAF’S National Student Advertising Competition

Providing experiential learning opportunities is also a major component of the hospitality, tourism and event management program, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year, Davis notes. Accredited for nearly 30 years, the program’s faculty come from the industry. SIU currently offers eight event management classes and will be adding two more next year, more than virtually any other public Midwest university. Some of the classes are designed specifically in partnership with Touch of Nature Outdoor Education Center, giving students the chance to assist with events at the site. Davis’ students take on a wide variety of other hands-on projects throughout the community as well.

King said she’s impressed with the talent she’s seeing in all of the students working on the project including Jurnee Williams, a senior hospitality, tourism and event management major from Rockford, Illinois, and Katherine Montgomery, a junior hospitality, tourism and event management major from Algonquin, Illinois. She said she’s also enjoying the opportunity to mentor them, just as others guided and mentored her when she was an undergraduate student at SIU.

To learn more about Dazed & Engaged – a Southern Illinois Wedding Experience contact, Faith King at or 618-453-3488.