Photograph: AP courtesy of
Denny’s Corp.Talk about loving foodservice. When Nancy Keller [formerly Levandowski], director of ISU Dining at Iowa State University, in Ames, saw that Denny’s was opening a new in-house wedding chapel in Las Vegas, she couldn’t resist giving them a call to see if she and her husband-to-be, Steve Keller, could get married there while in town for the Chain Operators Exchange (COEX) conference in March.
“When I called they said the space wasn’t going to be ready by the conference,” Keller says. “But they said if we wanted, we could write an essay and enter a contest to be the first couple chosen. As I was getting ready to fly in to COEX, I got the call that we had been chosen out of 24 couples.”
Taking advantage of her work trip, Keller was able to meet with the team at Denny’s, the florist and other wedding-related vendors to set everything up. She also got her first taste of the spotlight when John Dillon, vice president of brand marketing and product innovation for Denny’s, was giving a presentation at the conference.
“During his presentation he asked if anyone had every gotten married at a Denny’s,” Keller says. “He didn’t know I was at the conference. We got connected and I ended up in front of 500 people to talk about how I was planning to get married there.”
Why Denny’s? It’s a valid question Keller faced about the decision. In fact, she says the first reaction she got from family and friends about the plan was laughter. However, her contest essay got to the root of why she and her husband decided to go for it.
“It’s the second marriage for the both of us,” Keller says. “Plus, as I shared in my
essay, in college I used to study at Denny’s. It was open 24 hours and they kept giving you refills of coffee. They’d let you sit there and study and then you’d order a Grand Slam Breakfast before you went and took your final. Both my husband and I had spent plenty of the wee hours of the morning at a Denny’s.”
For the actual big day itself, Keller says, the company really took care of them. Denny’s paid for the couple’s flights and put them up in the Bellagio hotel. The wedding itself featured pancake pop wedding cake and Grand Slamosa cocktails, along with assorted Denny’s cuisine. There was even a Denny’s photo booth to capture memories of the day. What Keller didn’t plan for was the amount of media attention the event ended up receiving.
“‘Inside Edition’ filmed a segment on the wedding, and it was mentioned on
Letterman twice and once on Leno,” Keller says. “We were the Top 10 on Letterman—Top 10 Things Overheard at the Denny’s Wedding. They weren’t very nice, but they were funny. I’ve had friends in Canada and even Beirut call and say congratulations because they saw something about it on TV.”