Hospitality Management Student Making Dreams Come True as Hawaiian Wedding Planner

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Erina Mori

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., July 7, 2015 – Southeast Missouri State University senior Erina Mori of Nagoya, Japan, is putting her hospitality management major to work this summer,  helping couples tie the knot in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Mori is getting an up-close look at wedded bliss, ensuring couples are happy on one of the happiest days of their lives – their wedding day. Mori is working as an assistant for Watabe Wedding, a Japanese wedding company based in Honolulu.

“The best thing about this internship is that I can see customers’ happiest moments,” Mori said.

Mori, a native of Ichinomiya, Japan, said she discovered Southeast through an international search agency in Japan that offered her an opportunity to study in the United States after high school. After conducting research about Southeast and learning more about the University, she decided to pursue her education here, since job opportunities, she says, are more abundant for international students earning an American college degree.

Her internship this summer offered her the opportunity to build on her strength as a bilingual speaker.

“This internship is perfect for me because weddings are definitely in the hospitality area, and I can use Japanese and English, which is one of my strengths,” Mori said.

While some interns work in the office, Mori works in the chapel, where her duties include assisting at wedding ceremonies, cleaning the chapel, controlling the music, welcoming couples and their guests, and managing a log where she records the time each couple arrives and the length of their ceremony.

intern 1The chapels are located at Ko Olina, which is about 40 minutes from Waikiki, according to Mori. While there are three chapels at Ko Olina, Mori’s work has been based at Honu Kai Lani at Ko Olina Place of Welina.

“The name is Hawaiian language. Honu means turtle, Kai means sea, Lani means paradise. So it means a paradise where turtles live,” Mori says. “The three chapels located at Ko Olina are right on the beach, and all customers go to the beach after the ceremony to take pictures. It is a beautiful place, and Ko Olina is a resort.”

The other chapels are called Ko Olina Place of Joy and Ko Olina Aqua Veil. Each chapel can accommodate about 40 people, and each reception room can accommodate up to 26 people. The wedding parties general include, along with the bride and groom, the couple’s parents, siblings, relatives and friends.

She says her internship has afforded her many opportunities including those involving problem-solving.

Mori says she helps in managing communication at the company’s ceremonies since, in following tradition, brides and grooms do not see each other on their wedding day until the ceremony. Workers use earphones to communicate and control activity, even when glitches occur.

She also is responsible for keeping wedding ceremonies in the chapel on schedule. When a couple arrives late to the chapel, it affects the next ceremony, Mori adds. Sometimes, handling this issue entails calling the next customer’s driver to come later. The supervisor controls the situation, and they then make decisions quickly to ensure customer satisfaction, Mori says.

She says she heard about the internship from a friend and fellow Southeast student who interned at Watabe Wedding before she graduated. Mori researched her options, found a website for people bilingual in both English and Japanese, and applied to the company through the website. The company then contacted her, arranged an interview and eventually hired her.

Mori said she was ecstatic because she hopes to find a job after graduation in her native Japan, and Watabe Wedding is an important Japanese company. Southeast has helped develop her hospitality skills, and the internship has provided her hands-on experience which should be beneficial in landing a job in her field after graduation, she said.

“I had a great experience in working for the Watabe Wedding Corporation. I definitely want to work in the wedding planning field after graduation,” Mori says.

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Enjoying daily sunsets on the beach are all in a day’s work for Erina Mori.

While wedding planning is her first love, she also is considering work options in the travel industry, and offers this advice to others seeking internships and jobs:

“The important thing to getting an internship or even a job is that you need to explain how hard you will work and how much you want to get the job,” she said.

In addition to enhancing her hospitality management skills this summer, Mori is also enjoying the benefits of an internship in Hawaii — its beautiful beaches.

“The reason why I decided to do my internship in Hawaii is I had never been to Hawaii before, but I wanted to go once in my life,” Mori said. “Hawaii is a great place to travel. I see lots of tourists. The best thing is that there are beaches everywhere. I don’t see beaches in Missouri, so it is different. I also like it because I can see beautiful sunsets while working.”