Their dream wedding could use your business

A young couple strapped for cash are asking businesses to give them free stuff for their wedding in return for ads at the bash.

Published August 13, 2006

The bride will wear white, a strapless dress with a sweetheart neckline and a flowing train.

At least that's what Marie Baker envisions for her fairy tale wedding in June. There's only one problem: She and her fiance, Chris Porter, have little money, and their families are unable to help. Nevertheless, the couple, both college students, still dream of a nice wedding.

They think they might be able to manage it - with a bit of help.

Baker, 21, and Porter, 26, have decided to ask businesses to give them free stuff for their wedding. In return, they're promising free exposure in the form of sponsorship cards at each place setting and other types of well-placed advertising. Their methods - made famous by fallen television talk show host Star Jones - are guaranteed to make Miss Manners sniff her disapproval. Others, too.

"We've gotten mixed responses," Baker said. "Some people are not too happy. Other people are willing to help."

"There was one sarcastic response, saying that no one is going to do this kind of thing," Porter said. "We had a bunch of people who responded, saying politely, 'Sorry, we can't help you.' "

Those hopping aboard the wedding carriage include a graphic artist who has offered to design the couple's invitations and thank you cards. A printer has promised a steep discount. The pew bows - those yards of satin that decorate seats along the aisle - are covered.

This all started, said Baker, who plans to attend law school next year, when she and her fiance started planning their wedding and realized how expensive the celebration can be. They got as far as selecting a Tampa country club but have yet to put down a deposit.

The couple, graduates of St. Petersburg High School, said they didn't want to go into debt.

"We're limited right now," said Porter, a digital media student at St. Petersburg College. "We're both going to school and we're trying to get it done and trying to get married."

They are credit counselors and have seen the anguish faced by those who are overextended, Baker said.

Porter freely admits that it was his fiancee who came up with the idea for getting others to finance their wedding. An Oprah fan, she saw the idea on the talk show host's Web site and decided to try it. Last week, they composed a letter and dispatched it to businesses throughout the Tampa Bay area.

"We are both honor students preparing to graduate soon and have a very limited budget," it said in part. "Despite this, we still would like to have a beautiful wedding. What couple doesn't? With this in mind, we have a very creative marketing opportunity for you."

The couple promise that their D.J. will thank sponsors during the reception and that they will create a special display for brochures and business cards.

"It will be a little different, but that's what will bring a bit of fun to it," Porter said of the June wedding.

It'll all be extremely tasteful, he said.

"We're not going to plaster banners everywhere."

He wants Baker, whom he's known for about four years, to have the wedding of her dreams.

"I'd love like a strapless dress with a sweetheart neckline, with a long train. Form fitting," she said.