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This wedding was brought to you by ...

A couple who know the art of the deal get dream nuptials in return.

Published June 10, 2007

Bride Marie Baker, center, spends a moment with her brides maids and ring bearer Hannah Craig, 7, of Medford, Mass., right, at the Kapok Tree Pavilion, Clearwater, prior to having her formal wedding pictures taken outside in the garden area. Various businesses donated services and time for the wedding. Baker's wedding dress was made for free. She purchased the material.
[Scott Keeler Times]
[Scott Keeler Times]
A vendor card was placed on guests tables at the wedding reception of newlyweds Marie Baker and Chris Porter at the Kapok Tree Pavilion in Clearwater. The couple convinced local business to donate their services for their wedding.

Marie Baker and Chris Porter got what they wanted Thursday: an expensive wedding at a fraction of the cost.

A year ago, the couple decided to ask cake decorators, calligraphers, wedding planners, musicians and others to donate services in exchange for free advertising at their wedding.

When the Largo couple, who got married Thursday evening at the Kapok Special Events center, talked about their idea last year, they said they didn't want to go into debt to have the fabulous wedding they envisioned. Baker, a fan of the Oprah Winfrey show, had seen the idea on the talk show host's Web site.

Baker, 22, is a recent graduate of the University of Tampa and works as a legal assistant. She hopes to become a lawyer. Porter, 26, is a multimedia specialist and attends St. Petersburg College.

Not everyone approved of their wedding arrangements, Baker said.

"We've heard everything. We've heard people say that we're begging and it's not right and that it's tacky, " she said hours before her wedding.

"I think that people think I'm going to have a big flashing neon sign on my dress or something. It'll all be tasteful. I think it just goes back to the fact that it's different and people don't understand it."

While there were no flashing neon signs, a list of vendors who donated their services could be found at each place setting. A table in the cocktail area carried a display of brochures and business cards. The couple also acknowledged vendors on their wedding Web site.

Debbie Pangrass, a family friend and notary who performed the ceremony, said she admired the couple's plan.

"I think they're getting the wedding of their dreams for a price they can afford, " she said before the event.

Among those who jumped at the chance to be benefactors to the St. Petersburg High School graduates was Dean Laukhuf of Exquisite Cakes in Bradenton. The former dentist created an elaborate three-tier French vanilla cake with raspberry Chambord filling. Laukhuf said the cake with handmade gum-paste pink and white roses would normally cost about $1, 000.

The "diamond white" strapless ball gown arrived all the way from Katherine's Couture Bridal in Washington state. Katherine Shelton, owner of the company, said she sold the $1, 500 gown to the bride at cost.

Suntastic Events, a St. Petersburg company that organizes and coordinates everything from bar mitzvahs to proms, also donated its services to the couple, who approached dozens of wedding vendors with their unusual proposal.

"I got an e-mail from them and I thought it was such a hoot, " said Christina Craft, who runs Suntastic Events with her business partner, Carleen Werme. The two, who also donated a chocolate fountain, worked on the wedding for about six months, Craft said.

Paul Skye, a guitarist from St. Petersburg, said he was among the first who signed on to assist the couple.

Then there were the Doves of Love owners. Traveling from Plant City, Jennifer and Randy Hall brought a pair of white homing pigeons that they released after the 6 p.m. ceremony. They usually charge $150 for two birds, Jennifer Hall said.

Baker said she and Porter achieved their goal.

"We've probably spent about $6, 000, " she said. "If we had paid for everything, it would have been anywhere between $20, 000 and $30, 000."

Her new husband agreed. "We had an idea and we ran with it and it all happened to come together, " he said. "The vendors, they didn't have to do all this."

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at 727 892-2283 or



An elaborate three-tier French vanilla cake with raspberry Chambord filling and handmade roses

Usual cost: About $1, 000

Their cost: Free


A diamond white strapless ball gown from Washington state

Usual cost: $1, 500

Their cost: About $600 (at cost)


Two white homing pigeons, from a company in Plant City, were released after the 6 p.m. ceremony

Usual cost: $150

Their cost: Free


A St. Petersburg company that coordinates all types of events, worked on the wedding for six months.

Usual cost: About $1, 500

Their cost: Free

TOTAL: Estimated usual cost: $20, 000-$30, 000 They paid: $6, 000


[Last modified June 9, 2007, 19:42:46]

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