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This wedding is brought to you by ...

By Lisa Gutierrez

Knight Ridder Newspapers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- TV personality Star Jones scored some major wedding freebies.

When she got married last November, Jones threw an extravagant New York City wedding, with a catch: her invitations, the tuxedos and her bridesmaids' gowns were all donated. In return, Jones used her star power and a Web site to plug the vendors and their products.

Not to fret for the Average Jane and Joe.

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Scoring wedding freebies isn't just for the rich and famous anymore.

Ever heard of a "sponsored" wedding? It's where couples receive goods and services for discounted prices -- or sometimes free -- in exchange for advertising the vendor at their weddings.

Todd Weiss and his bride saved at least $10,000 on their Kansas City wedding last June by throwing a sponsored shindig for about 120 guests. With college loans to pay off, they knew they had to get creative to have the wedding of their dreams.

"We could have taken out a loan to pay for the wedding, but we already had these other loans," says Weiss, 35, who married Debbie, 32.

Weiss, an assistant athletic trainer at Villanova University, saw a news report about this innovation in wedding financing.

When they told their families what they planned, the bride's family "thought she was crazy," says Weiss, who lives with his wife in Philadelphia.

The hardest part was finding vendors willing to participate, because few had ever heard of doing business this way.

Weiss sent press releases to Kansas City media outlets, hoping for publicity that would attract potential donations. And it did. After a Kansas City TV station interviewed Debbie, "we actually started getting calls from vendors," he says.

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Traci Harrison-Madge, owner of The Cakery Co. in south Kansas City, sent them an e-mail message after she saw the interview. She was just getting started baking wedding cakes and saw the arrangement as "sort of free publicity, but it wasn't really free after you got down to it."

The couple paid $50 to have Harrison-Madge cut and serve the cake to guests. But without the special arrangement, they would have paid $300 for the cake and her services.

Because they saved so much on their wedding, the couple now might be able to afford their first house.

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