Sponsored Nuptials

The costs, demands, and stress of putting on a good celebration
loomed as the wedding of Jenny Baron and Alan Dowdall (pictured)
drew closer last year. The California couple had already called off
their marriage a year before when the Coast Guard abruptly
transferred Alan from San Francisco to New London, Connecticut, and
this year the show just had to go on. They wanted to get married
back home in Santa Barbara, but the pair was a bit short on
savings, and having a one‑year‑old son did not facilitate the

“I really, really wanted a nice wedding,” said Jenny, “and I
wanted to be able to include all our friends and family. But the
way it usually is, you’re looking at starting off your married life
with a $30,000 loan and all this debt. Basically we were already

Like any sensible bride, Jenny studied up ahead of time for the
event. She looked through magazines and sought out all the latest
ideas, stunts, trends, and fashions that might make the wedding all
the more fabulous — but such whims and fancies cost money. Jenny
heard of photographers who charge $4,000 for a session of snapshots
and she saw floral bouquets advertised at $800 each. The food alone
threatened to devour $12,000. “And that wasn’t even including the
alcohol, servers, or the plates and utensils. It was already double
our savings.”

Then, in the pages of a spring issue of Modern Bride magazine,
Jenny read an article that inspired her to abandon the traditional
route toward marriage, debt, and the poorhouse. The story described
several elaborate weddings that the bride and groom had pulled off
while hardly spending a buck by exchanging complimentary catering,
photography, and various decorations for simple publicity: They
acknowledged each service in their wedding speeches, they placed
contact cards and subtle advertisements around the wedding grounds,
and they offered free seating for the representatives of each

Jenny decided that she and Alan needed to do the same, but her
family, friends, and fiancé deeply doubted the idea. Why, they
asked, would any viable business involve itself in such a scheme?
Impossible! “Well, if they wrote an article about it in Modern
Bride,” Jenny pointed out, “it must be possible.”

So she went to work. She emailed hundreds of Santa Barbara‑area
businesses, requesting voluntary contributions to the wedding and
promising in return advertising, publicity, and a boosted
reputation in the eyes of the many impressed guests. Jenny also
contacted several newspapers with the hope that a wedding feature
on her and Alan’s big day would further entice vendors to surrender
their goods and services.

In the month of May came the first positive response. Amy Hayes
with La Bohème Massage gave Jenny and Alan an open offer for a
five‑hour “lovers’ massage” package on the house; then, when Sugar
bakery called back and said it would throw in the cake, even the
skeptics agreed that Jenny’s plan seemed to be moving smoothly
forward. Yet, to make the arrangements from across the continent
would not have been possible without help from Jenny’s
correspondents in Santa Barbara. “My mom and my friends were a
gigantic help,” she said. “They had to taste food, find table
linens, folding chairs, and glasses, and my mom arranged the
lanterns for the outdoor lighting and delivered the ice. She
orchestrated everything.” By mid August five different businesses
had signed up to bring life to the marriage of Jenny and Alan. The
roster included the Santa Barbara Catering Company, Sugar bakery
for the cake, Music by Bonnie for the deejay services, and Deborah
Weinstein, the volunteer photographer.

Alan and Jenny got married on October 29, 2005 at Elings Park.
The location held special meaning for Jenny. She had grown up in a
house adjacent to the park, and its grassy expanses had been her
childhood playground, the scene of her first kiss, and the location
of her dad’s marriage 20 years before. Now, on her own wedding day,
the skies were clear and blue after a week of rain. At the mild
risk of tainting the wedding with the ambience of a local business
expo, Jenny and Alan set up tables where each company rep could
offer literature and advertising material, but it all came off very
gracefully, said Jenny. The vendors did not schmooze with the crowd
as potential clients, but just as guests at a wedding. “To be
honest, I hardly knew they were there,” recalled Jenny. “They
blended right in and just had a good time.”

While the 3 p.m. ceremony proceeded, the Santa Barbara Catering
Company cooked and prepared the meal on location. The food was
Mexican, and over two barbecue pits the cooks grilled tequila
chicken and carne asada. They served the meal buffet‑style on a
white linen tablecloth amid floral decorations. As the officiant
pronounced Alan Dowdall and Jenny Baron husband and wife, the
caterers laid out flour tortillas and the taco fillings, and they
stocked the bar with all the margaritas and tequila that 120 guests
could require.

Meanwhile, Sugar bakery’s cake was an intricate, mountain‑shaped
project consisting of more than 100 carrot cupcakes layered on a
five‑tiered frame which tapered skyward to the summit. Candied
plaques had been lodged onto each cupcake and adorned with French
words of love that glowed in the sunshine. Beautiful though it was,
the cake was the source of the wedding’s one mishap. When Alan
smeared Jenny’s face with the cake as convention demands, the
blood‑red frosting tumbled down the front of her white dress,
forever staining the family heirloom with detergent‑proof food
coloring. “Every bride wears a white dress,” sighed Jenny. “I just
assumed what they put in the cake was something that would wash

The Dowdall’s honeymoon in Maui was free — a communal gift from
their guests — and the total cost of the wedding came out to
$6,000, a savings of untold thousands more. But the wedding dress …
oh, the wedding dress. Ablitt’s Fine Cleaners dry‑cleaned out most
of the stain for $200, but a pink blush still remains down the
front side. “I don’t think anyone’s going to wear it again,” said
Jenny. She said it will remain in the family, though, folded away
somewhere and faintly marked with the coloring of Sugar bakery and
the sweetness of a wedding that was almost free.


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