NORCROSS - Groomsmen in white tuxedos and bridesmaids in red dresses lined up on either side of the stage, watching the teenage bride descend down the aisle. The 400 guests rose to greet her and her father as they made their way to the front, accompanied by the familiar melody of "Here Comes the Bride."
It was an atypical exam for the students of Meadowcreek High School.
Students enrolled in the school's individual and family development course had to organize a mock wedding for 50 percent of their final exam grade.
They chose to plan a traditional Italian wedding in honor of their teacher, Trisha Hibbard, having her own in June. They had to work within her actual budget to find appropriate attire and decorations. Last year, the class planned a typical African wedding.
"I have used many ideas from wedding party gifts to invitation wording," Hibbard said. "For the cultural aspect, I am fourth generation here and was not aware of many of the cultural things that they found, which I plan to incorporate into my own ceremony."
Each student had a different role. Many of them participated in the wedding party, as the bride and groom's family members, bridesmaids and groomsmen. The bride, Coya James, and the groom, Augusto Egoavil, were selected because they were among the best students in the class. Less glamorous roles included ushers, videographers, caterers and people to set up and clean up.
The officiate, Dominique Francis, led the mock couple through the traditional Italian ceremony. Once they had said their vows, James and Egoavil lit white candles, broke bread and shattered a glass. By custom, each piece of glass represents one happy year of married life.
The groomsmen took each bridesmaid by the hand and escorted them out, closing the ceremony. As the student guests walked out of the theater, they each gave $1 to the bride as a monetary wedding gift. A brief reception followed the ceremony.
Local merchants, including David's Bridal, After Hours Formal Wear, Uniquely Arranged, Kroger and Publix sponsored the wedding and contributed props and costumes.
Putting together the elaborate mock wedding was enjoyable for the students, but it also helped ground them in reality, Hibbard said.
"Planning a wedding and the actual wedding is a stressful project," Hibbard said. "The realities of planning something within a budget and to have everything work the way you would like it to work is hard."
The students will soon have to face another reality: they will still have to take a written final exam.