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When Peter Geyer caught the garter at a wedding last fall, his girlfriend Andrea Parrish immediately dropped to her knee, pulled out an opal earring, and proposed to him. Parrish admits they had been discussing getting married, so she was kind of prepared for such a moment just in case it happened. “What better way to announce it to the family than with a big dramatic moment?” asks the 25-year-old marketing writer.

It seems Parish and her fiancé have a flair for creating buzz. Known as the “wedding can couple,” Geyer and Parrish have been in the news because they are paying for their July 31 wedding solely with the $3,800 in proceeds they earned from recycling 400,000 cans.  

The Spokane couple reached their goal last week when over a ton of aluminum cans was hauled off their porch by a local recycler. They continue to collect cans to raise money for their honeymoon and to donate to Doctors Without Borders and Rim Country Land Institute.  

How did they come up with the offbeat idea? Parrish said they quickly realized they’d have to save around $500 a month to pay for their wedding if they wanted to get married in a reasonable amount of time and avoid getting into debt. They didn’t have much extra cash because Parrish was laid off from her job right after they purchased a house.  

Parrish and Geyer already had some experience collecting aluminum cans. Geyer, who works as a digital print technician, also melts cans down on his Weber grill and uses the metal to create art in his spare time.

Parrish came up with the idea to pay for their wedding in the middle of a sleepless night. She had just helped Geyer sort through some cans that evening and knew you could get money for aluminum by the pound, so she figured why not collect aluminum cans to fund their wedding and help the environment.

She woke Geyer up at 1 a.m. to share her plan. “When I told Peter about it, he kind of gave me a look that said this is a crazy idea, but you’re the type of crazy that can pull it off,” she says.

Indeed, Geyer was right. Parrish built a website and spread the word amongst friends and through social media. Alcoa donated 150,000 cans to the cause and United Recycling Services contributed another 73,000.  And others are copying their idea to raise money for weddings and other causes.

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(Photo: Andrea Parrish)

Their wedding will also be light on the planet. With only $3,800 to spend on a party for 150 people, there’s little room for excess and waste. The couple has focused on what’s most important to them (gathering their family and friends together for a lively celebration), and they’ve also enlisted help.

Here are some details about their DIY wedding:   

Venue: Corbin Art Center in Spokane, WA. Cost: $1,000.

Food and beverages: The bride and groom are providing some food, but it is mostly potluck style.  The groom has a friend who brews beer as a hobby so he’s contributing a keg or two. Parrish and Geyer are making the wine in their basement. The bride’s mom, who owns a catering and reception center in Idaho, is baking and decorating the cake. “We asked our friends to bring a potluck dish, bring yourself, and have fun, because that’s all we care about,” says Parrish.

Flowers: Parrish’s sister-in-law is growing all the flowers for bouquets and decorations.

Music: A harpist is playing free of charge during the service. Afterwards it’s “DJ by iPods,” says Parrish. Friends are creating the playlists.

Clothing: The matron of honor’s mother-in-law is sewing Parrish’s floor-length black, red, and white wedding dress. Total cost: $250 for the fabric, plus another $200 for the custom-made corset she’s splurging on. Geyer is sewing his own vest from fabric that cost $25. The couple is making ties for all of the groomsmen and telling everyone in the wedding party to wear whatever they’d like.