Katie McClintock's upcoming wedding has a simple theme: free.
It's out of necessity more than anything else. Her budget is zero, zilch, nada, nil, nothing.
Since Katie got engaged last summer, she lost her job at an auction house and her fiance lost his job as a welder. Now their home in West Toledo is in the process of being foreclosed. That doesn't leave much cash for milk, let alone getting married, something she's dreamed about since the age of 8.
"What no one tells you is that life does throw you curveballs," the 25-year-old says.
Fortunately, Katie's friend and wedding planner, Alysia Jablonski, threw a curveball back. Rather than allow the couple to push back the Oct. 3 ceremony until the economy improves, she set out to make a "recession wedding" that would rival any dream version.
It wasn't always easy to convince Katie that this was possible. One article about budget weddings in a recent bridal magazine got the reception cost "down" to $98 a person. But Alysia, fueled by a belief in love and happily ever after, convinced Katie that it was just a matter of perspective.
"The problem was they kept going shopping, and at stores things cost money," she said.
The online bulletin board Craigslist, on the other hand, doesn't. On July 25, Alysia posted a plea there soliciting donations and prayers. Within a week, she had offers of free twinkle lights, manicures for all of the bridesmaids, and a donor willing to pay the $99 for a wedding dress that Katie had found but couldn't afford.
There were times over the last year that Katie got depressed about the wedding's prospects. She'd always wanted a great story to tell her children about the day she got married, and that's why she didn't want to do a quick ceremony at the courthouse. Now she's starting to realize something.
"This is my story," she says. "This is what I'm going to tell my kids."
She'll tell them how she and fiance Chris Saba, 35, sold most of their belongings in a garage sale to help pay for the wedding, only to use it for living expenses. She'll tell them how the always-positive Alysia found a Web site offering invitations for free - as long as they ordered only 10 at a time.
She'll tell them how relatives volunteered to cook for the reception and started collecting ingredients back in April. She'll tell them how her family's business, American Sign & Neon, managed to barter with local companies for flowers as well as a tent, tables, and chairs for the outdoor wedding.
There may be no way of getting around some costs, but in trying, Katie and Alysia have refocused their minds on what's important about the ceremony in the first place: love, unity, togetherness. No matter how much it costs, Oct. 3 will be a celebration of happier times - like when Chris proposed beside a river during a camping trip and asked Katie to be his "buddy for life" - and of happy times yet to come.
There's just one catch. Once the wedding is over, the rest of the challenges facing the couple will remain.
"We're still going to be broke," Katie admits.
Some things will be different, though. She'll know that there's a community out there of friends and family - and strangers - that cares about her. Equally important, she'll realize that while negativity can be a downward spiral, a positive attitude is an upward one.
But there's no time to reflect on that now. She's got a wedding to plan and more things to find. Alysia ticks off her list: A photographer. A cake. And maybe one more thing.
"They need a horse-drawn carriage."
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