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She bartered her way to a dream wedding

  • Story Highlights
  • California couple barters their skills for wedding venue, photos, cake
  • Couple own their own production company and offered marketing help
  • They also traded their time and skill for video of their wedding
  • Expert: Bartering is a perk of being part of an industry
By Lynn Lamanivong
CNN
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SANTA MONICA, California (CNN) -- Jennifer Mae Fletke and Chris Watters fell in love after meeting three years ago. But when they got ready to tie the knot, they faced the challenge of an expensive wedding in a shrinking economy.

The ton of money the couple saved on their wedding left them light on their feet at the reception.

Jennifer Mae Fletke and Chris Watters were wed this April and they bartered for their celebration.

"The economy is so overwhelming. How are we going to afford this?" Watters remembers saying.

However, his future wife was determined that a bad economy was not going to stop her from her dream wedding.

She decided to trade their skills and time for what they wanted.

Fletke and her future husband bartered the videotaping and editing services of their production company, Major Diamond Productions, for the goods and services they needed for their wedding and reception.

"It literally started with one phone call and then another, and then we put stuff on Craigslist," Fletke says.

They first turned to companies and people whose work they knew from videotaping weddings, because Fletke didn't want to compromise on the quality of the wedding. She found people were amazingly open to the idea of trading services.

Getting a videographer and photographer for the wedding was a bit of a challenge: What service could they trade to someone else in the same business?

Fletke's persistence paid off when she spoke to Daniel Boswell of DV Artistry.

"I called him back and said, 'We can be a shooter at one of your weddings or we can edit some stuff.' He said, 'You know what, I'm always double-booked.' "

In trade for professional photographs of special moments at their wedding, the couple will create a multimedia piece promoting some of the work Maya Meyers has done with at-risk girls. Documenting the girls' images and their stories is a passion of the photographer.

It wasn't nearly as hard for Fletke and Watters to find a wedding planner/event designer.

The event design firm of Flowers on Mars provides wedding coordination, flower arrangements and disc jockeys -- more items the couple needed for their wedding. Company owners Nancy Flores and Mars Resendiz needed assistance in promoting their business.

"It was something we really wanted to do and it costs a lot of money," Resendiz says. iReport: Are you doing anything special to survive economy?

Fletke pitched their skills for a trade. Resendiz gives her credit for her creative thinking.

"To stay on top of the economy, you really have to put yourself out there. You have to have the right tools to promote your company and your services," he said.

For Fletke, the biggest goal was to get the venue of her dreams. She first saw the Aldersgate Retreat and Cultural Center in Pacific Palisades, California, when a friend of hers was considering wedding locations about a year ago. Fletke knew then that it was the place she wanted to have her wedding.

She bargained her way into the retreat and reached a deal to hold her wedding there for about half the facility's usual price. In addition, they also got their out-of-town families and friends a phenomenal deal.

"It's hard for them [our family]. It's $200-$400 a night for a hotel in Santa Monica. We tried to make it convenient for everyone." For a four night stay at the retreat, the charge was $150 per person.

Although Fletke joked about walking down the aisle in jeans and a T-shirt, she knew she needed a wedding dress. With less than a week before her wedding, her luck continued.

The owner of Bridal Elegance was willing to let Fletke borrow a wedding dress from her collection. Fletke walked down the aisle with a wedding dress, a veil and a tiara. She got her "something borrowed" and a dress she describes as "magical" and fit for a princess.

The catering was also a last minute get for Fletke. She found Michael C. Events through some other vendors she successfully negotiated trades with. He put together the menu for the wedding complete with appetizers and the main course. As for the icing on the cake, Fletke bartered for that, too. She negotiated the trade with the owners of Nicely Iced by Chantell and Wildflour Cakes.

Despite the challenges brought on by the economy, Fletke and Watters found a way to have their dream wedding in April for a fraction of the cost.

"I think the big thing is something that I think would have cost about $40,000 has gotten down to probably about $3,000," Watters said.

But one expert in the wedding industry says not every couple will be able to get such deals.

"It's a perk of being in any industry," says Melissa Bauer, spokesperson for TheKnot.com, a wedding planning Web site. She notes that this couple could help the cake baker, the photographer or the venue market themselves, but other brides and grooms may not have skills a vendor could use.

Bauer says a past money-saving trend of having companies sponsor parts of weddings in trade for having their logos displayed "took some legitimacy" from the occasion and the trend didn't last long.

Fletke and Watters warn that anyone considering bartering for their wedding should know that it took a lot of hard work. Negotiating each trade took added time and extra effort.

But for them, it was still well worth it. Bartering opened new doors for them in their business, and in turn, they didn't have to settle for only what they could afford to pay cash for on one of the most important days of their lives.

"No matter what is going on in your life, there's always a solution. You can't be afraid to ask for what you need. You will hear a lot of no's, but you can make anything happen," Fletke said.

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