PayPal Wedding Invite Irks Some Guests

Vanessa Caldwell and Cole Parker are soliciting donations from wedding guests.

September 8, 2009, 2:57 PM

Sept. 9, 2009 — -- For bride-to-be Vanessa Caldwell, nothing about her upcoming November wedding is traditional, especially in these hard economic times.

She is, after all, requesting monetary donations in lieu of gifts from those attending her wedding. There's even a link to PayPal on the couple's site to accommodate credit cards.

"We don't need pots and pans or a registry, we need a wedding," Caldwell, 28, told

And so Caldwell and her fiance, 36-year-old Cole Parker, developed a Web site,, advertised it to family and friends through Facebook, and saw the donations pour in.

So far, Caldwell has received approximately $750 toward her $2,000 goal but said she's likely far outdone her original estimate with several sponsorships she's received, from a photographer offering her services in return for free advertising at the wedding to a florist proposing a similar deal.

"We weren't trying to have a lavish wedding; this wasn't a get rich plan," said Caldwell. "This was just to help us with a small intimate wedding with no more than 75 people."

The idea for the site and the guest-funded wedding was born out of her own family and friends, said Caldwell.

"This is both mine and my fiance's second marriage, so we were thinking about just going to a court house," said Caldwell, who has been with Parker for nearly two years. "We didn't want a big shebang, just something small.

"But our friends wanted to be in the celebration and asked us what we wanted help with," she said.

Money, it turns out, was what Caldwell needed most.

She and her husband-to-be, Parker, co-own Atlanta-based, a company that helps entrepreneurs get their business ideas off the ground.

Many of the individuals who have stepped forward to sponsor her wedding free of charge have received, in exchange for their services, free consulting or help in marketing their own businesses.

"We're being creative and using our talents," said Caldwell.

Any income the duo makes, said Caldwell, goes straight back into their business, leaving them with little spending money, which, combined with the ongoing recession, led her to think outside the box for her own wedding.

Wedded Bliss on a Budget

"The recession had a lot to do with it," said Caldwell. "I've been married before, so I have the $1,000 china and whatnot; I didn't want our guests to feel the need to buy that kind of stuff."

In addition to the photographer and the florist, the site has garnered sponsors for her wedding dress, a dessert buffet, a jeweler and a place to hold the wedding, thanks to her flexibility in having a 2 p.m. wedding on a Wednesday in exchange for giving the venue some free advertising on her site.

Caldwell said that the traffic on her site, which was given a boast by the local Atlanta paper's story on the couple over the weekend, has been booming. Once visited 50 times a day, the site has seen traffic in the thousands, leaving Caldwell "sure" she'll achieve her goal of a perfect -- yet inexpensive -- wedding.

"We still need a baker for the cake or cupcakes, outfits for the ring bearer and a limo service to take us there and back," said Caldwell. "We haven't even considered a honeymoon because we can't be away from our business for that long, but we were thinking about staying somewhere in Atlanta, so maybe we'll get something from a hotel."

Is Asking Your Guests For Money a Wedding Faux Pas?

Some commenters' on Caldwell's site aren't too pleased with her idea to solicit cash to fund her wedding.

One commenter, known only by her handle "Christina," wrote, "asking for contributions has a certain 'yuck' factor."

Another wrote, "So you are begging for your wedding?? How sad."

Khris Cochran, founder of the site DIYbride, which gives readers do-it-yourself-ideas for their big day, said that she believes Caldwell asking guests to pay "what is essentially an admission fee to their wedding" is in "bad taste.

"Though many rules of etiquette are getting a modern makeover to adapt to changing attitudes and technologies, asking the couple's guests to pony up cash to pay for their wedding -- or any other reason -- is still tacky," Cochran wrote in an e-mail to "There's really no way to spin it to make the couple look anything but greedy."

"I understand couples are needing to save some money but requiring guests to pay what is essentially an admission fee to their wedding is in bad taste," Cochran said. "The better option would be scale back the wedding to fit comfortably within the couple's financial means and not put the burden on their friends and relatives."

Etiquette expert Anna Post of the Emily Post Institute said that there are ways to have unconventional weddings without making guests feel uncomfortable.

"The worry is that some guest will feel like they have to do this or they won't feel welcome," said Post. "There is still a very strong tradition in America that when you're hosting people you're taking care of them. "

Caldwell said that she isn't letting the critics get her down, even those who are family. Caldwell admitted that some of her relatives weren't so keen on the idea of only giving her cash for her wedding, and will still likely give her actual gifts.

"I'm OK with the negative comments. It's untraditional, and we understand that," said Caldwell.

One post in which a commenter called Caldwell and Parker "selfish" bothered Caldwell the most, she said.

"I don't see how I'm selfish," said Caldwell. "It's the same thing as asking guests to buy you crazy gifts like the ones you see on registries all the time, like a Wii or a microwave that costs $200 and you would never buy yourself."

And, said Caldwell, if you're not interested then don't donate.

"The wedding is still taking place."

The big day is set for Nov. 11, 2009.

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