Purdue Memorial Union adds a Boilermaker touch to weddings

February 18, 2013  

PMU weddings

Adam Morrical, beverage coordinator, pours champagne for the bride and groom as they are about to start the toasts during a wedding at Purdue Memorial Union.  Photo by David Mason/ISPhotographic
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For many former Boilermakers, having their wedding in Purdue Memorial Union can feel like coming home.

Ashley Hutchcraft, event planner for Purdue Catering and Events, helps to plan more than 40 weddings a year in the Union ballrooms and conference areas. She says the memories formed at Purdue are a big draw for clients.

"Many of the couples I work with either met here or felt that Purdue had a big impact on their life," Hutchcraft says. "Returning to West Lafayette to get married is like coming home to them."

Though some of her clients are Purdue faculty and staff, or couples from the local community, Hutchcraft says, the majority of weddings are for former students, who now may live across the country.

"I've had to do a lot of email correspondence, and even handle conference calls coming in from two different states at a time," she says. "I do whatever it takes to make sure we've got all the details figured out for the big day."

Hutchcraft says she especially enjoys the opportunity to work with the various cultural aspects and requirements that are brought to her by a diverse clientele.

"We have people from many different cultures looking to get married at Purdue," she says. "For example, I've helped with a few weddings involving a Chinese tea ceremony; it's my job to be aware of what's going on at all times. This includes my understanding of the cultural significance of the tea ceremony and knowing if there is anything extra that we need to provide to make everything go smoothly."

 In addition to the elegant venues that the Union offers, Catering and Events provides a range of meal and beverage plans to suit the cost and size needs for any wedding party. Rooms and meals can accommodate parties as small as 50 and as large as 500. The department also assists couples in finding local vendors for all of their wedding needs, and offers local vendors the opportunity to exhibit their brochures and business cards in the sales showroom.

Another addition to the Boilermaker atmosphere is the catering staff, which is made up of students.

"Many of our guests comment on how much they enjoy having students as servers," Hutchcraft says. "Our staff has a great attitude and provides excellent service, and guests like the learning aspect involved in the wedding."

Furthermore, Catering and Events hires interns who experience the office, service and planning aspects of the department.

Leonard Seidel, director of catering and events, says one department goal is to provide a co-curricular benefit to students. Interns spend a portion of their time working various operations such as catering, beverage services and event planning, and then have the opportunity to plan and run an event with minimal guidance.

"The chance to experience all areas of our operation gives our interns a leg up in the industry," Seidel says. "They get to find out what they most enjoy, and then fine-tune their experience."

Tollie Johnson, a senior in Public Relations and Advertising began working for Catering and Events as an intern last fall. After spending several weeks in each department, Johnson worked alongside an event planner to assist with the planning and coordination of an entire wedding from beginning to end. For Johnson, getting to assist brides is her favorite aspect of planning weddings.

"This is such a happy field to work in," Johnson says. "Getting to see the bride and help make their day perfect is just so rewarding."

Writer: Rachel Florman, rflorman@purdue.edu

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