Wedding Planning 101

Getting married is serious business. By some estimates, it is a $160 billion a year industry. And in the last four years alone, brides and grooms-to-be have shelled out 20 percent more on every last detail: flowers, music, gifts, gowns and pictures -- all to get it just right.

Weddings have become such a huge industry that George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., is offering a class in wedding planning for college credit -- the first in the nation.

No Easy A

The class is part of the school of Recreation Health and Tourism and is taught by Maggie Daniels, a professor who used to be a wedding planner. Daniels warns that the class, like the profession, is no easy A.


"There is an enormous amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to have a seamless day," said Daniels. "And for that to happen, the timelines must be perfect, the budgets must be perfect, the communication and coordination must be perfect as well."

Daniels literally wrote the book on wedding planning: She designed the course and co-wrote the textbook. In an industry where every detail counts, the course does not appear to leave a single topic uncovered.

On the syllabus students will find the difference between pin spotting and wash lighting and how to tell the Trumpet Voluntary from the Canon in D.

In addition to photography and floral decor, students learn about contracts, marketing and handling budgets of tens of thousands of dollars. The final project, a plan for a complete mock wedding, is generally 150 pages long.


Anyone who takes a look at the syllabus can see the class is serious, but Daniels initially ran into some skeptics.

"When I presented this class to the curriculum committee, it took over a year to get it approved," she said. "By the time I was done with the syllabus it looked like a graduate level course."

Future Grooms Take Interest

"The first day of class was one of the most frightening moments of my academic history I've ever had -- walking into a classroom filled with all females except for one other gentlemen," said Amir Edjlali, one of the two brave male students in the class. "When it comes to the creative aspect, I definitely feel left out. I didn't know half of the colors a lot of them were talking about."

Edjlali took the class because he was in a relationship and considering getting married. "I was in a long-term relationship, so I wanted to make sure to verse myself well in this type of field."

The relationship ended, but Edjlali still sees a silver lining. He says that as a Management information systems major, he benefited from the class.

"This class is definitely outside my realm, but it's very interesting because you can apply it to both project management in a technology field as well as wedding planning."

And now when his wedding day does arrive, Edjlali will be prepared.

"I definitely will be more involved than I ever thought I would be after this class, knowing all the inner workings of a wedding," he said. "I wouldn't think I would have been initially, but after this class, I will be hands on."

Daniels notes that students like Edjlali fit a growing trend. Grooms are increasingly involved in wedding minutiae.

"It is now more often the case that couples are paying for their own weddings," she says. "When that happens, the groom all of a sudden takes a keen interest in the expenditures because he knows it is going to come out of his pocket."