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Would You Sell Tickets to Your Wedding?

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Weddings are special, private and intimate in spirit. They are a time of celebration with family and friends, an unforgettable beginning to the first day of the rest of your lives together. But what if they were more than that? What if the guest list was virtually endless, and as a newly married couple you finished that first kiss, turned to the crowd behind you, and didn't recognize most of the guests' faces? Would your wedding still feel perfect, if not private, or special, if not intimate? There are those who know the answers to those questions.

Meet Betty and Walter. As the Great Depression was just beginning to take its toll, an ordinary Wednesday evening in June saw them married at the Lyceum Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio. And they weren't alone. Joining friends and family were total strangers who bought tickets to partake of the entertainment and gobble up the wedding cake. After all, tickets were only 30 cents. This was decades before the decaying Lyceum reinvented itself into an adults-only theater. This was at a time when the Lyceum was fresh and new and ran popular movies of the era. And on that date the theater even provided special screen features for the wedding guests.

When Betty and Walter planned that 1932 wedding, they allowed other people to attend to the details. Bakers, shop owners, florists, and a host of others pitched in to provide goods, services or wedding gifts. In exchange for their efforts the vendors received months of pre-wedding advertising opportunities for their businesses. Weddings are, and were, expensive, and with the Depression bearing down on families, a publicly supported wedding could relieve a lot of financial woes. So how would that translate to today's wedding world?

The premise would still be the same -- an open venue with goods and services provided by wedding vendors in exchange for advertising. The idea is not as farfetched as it sounds. Savvy brides have already discovered how to score discounts by allowing their printer to include a tasteful ad in the wedding program, or by convincing a specific baker to "sponsor" the late night dessert bar at the reception in exchange for business cards being creatively attached to each delectable morsel. This give-and-take actually works well as long as the benefits are equal to all parties involved. No one is talking about neon signs blinking above the dessert bar, but tasteful advertising and product placement works wonders in everything from the movies to car sales. It also works at weddings. The tradeoff is obvious. It adds a commercial undertone to the event. For some that's just plain disgusting. For others it means a bigger wedding with more bells and whistles without bankrupting the newlyweds or their families to make it happen. But would you ever consider going the extra mile and actually selling tickets to your wedding?

Now that's a head scratcher. An imaginative mind could easily grasp the amazing possibilities, but the sentimental heart could just as easily be horrified by the whole concept. And what about the ticket buyers? What if you turned around in your once-in-a-lifetime, spectacular, formal attire and saw 300 bikers decked out in full leathers staring back at you? Would that be disturbing, or would it be a hoot? A wedding with ticket sales would be just like a concert. Anyone could buy a ticket.

Not every vendor would have an interest in trading goods or services for pre-wedding or at-wedding advertising, but there are plenty who would. Others might consider offering deep discounts for doing so. And no vendor is off limits when it comes to asking. For example, a public event would require insurance, but insurance vendors have a vested interest in increasing the ranks of insured parties and are always looking for new, warm bodies to bring into the fold. So it's not beyond reason to approach an insurance company about an event policy in exchange for creative exposure to a captive audience. Bartenders, caterers, disc jockeys, musicians and more may all be open to the thought of turning one event into many. Of course, no vendor can barter away every deal they make, but they may choose to participate in one or two advertising barters a year, and if your timing is right, it may be your event that they choose. But here's the rub: None of them will be interested if your guest list is small. A public event, on the other hand, would hold greater appeal.

With pros and cons aplenty, a wedding event sold to the public is something to ponder. It obviously worked well for Betty and Walter. They were married for decades -- until death did actually part them.

Yep, the thought of selling tickets to a wedding is a puzzler. Is it a concept worthy of the Idea Hall of Fame, or does it belong squarely in the Idea Hall of Shame? What do you think?

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