Since moving to North Kensington a couple of years ago, Jennifer Salinas has posted often in her local “Buy Nothing Project” Facebook group, primarily swapping toys and clothes for her daughter, Rose, now 1. Salinas once found a fence for her garden through the group, which is part of a worldwide movement to create hyperlocal gift economies that focus on building community.
Founded in 2013, the Buy Nothing concept of neighbors helping neighbors took off during the pandemic. Last year, Salinas’ North Kensington group, now well over 500 members, split off from a Kensington chapter when it topped 1,000 members. So when Salinas posted this past Jan. 4 that she was seeking an officiant for her fast-approaching wedding, she tapped into a thriving community, hungry to take part in a joyful occasion.
Salinas was looking for an officiant because her planned Jan. 26 civil ceremony at a local courthouse had been postponed due to the coronavirus, and she still hoped to marry on that date—when she would turn 25. Almost immediately after posting her request, Tara Reid, 48, who lives in the Kensington Parkwood neighborhood, offered to marry her and her fiancé, Alexander Salinas, now 30.
Reid, a midwife and doula, was looking for the opportunity to return a favor. She had received plenty from the Buy Nothing Group, including bottles, breast pumps and toys for her clients. Acts of service are “my love language,” she says. “It’s dramatic to say that this group saved my sanity during the pandemic because it’s not wholly true…but it afforded human interaction at a time that, in my life in particular, it was extremely isolating.”
Salinas’ request snowballed into a community rallying cry by Karen Vincent, the group’s co-administrator, who posted: “BNG WEDDING!” A stage actor and singer, Vincent, 39, proposed that she and a neighbor serenade the couple. Salinas didn’t take her up on the duet, but she did agree to the group’s help, posting photos and a list of items she sought. Among them, she requested a casually elegant dress or suit for the ceremony (she already had a gown for the reception on the following day), a tuxedo for her husband, and a frilly flower girl ensemble for Rose.
The community sprang into action. Several members offered their wedding dresses. “I have a wedding dress you can borrow. Very Carrie Bradshaw. Never worn, but was a floor sample,” one neighbor posted, offering a strapless bra to go with it. Ultimately, Salinas accepted the gift of a white jumpsuit with a plunging neckline that seemed meant for her. “I’m obsessed with that jumpsuit,” she says. “I remember seeing the tag, and I was like, $450…this cost more than my wedding dress!”
She also accepted offers of an ornate lace tablecloth, battery-powered candles for her reception centerpieces and beaded lace fabric that she fashioned into sleeves for her wedding gown and another neighbor used to make custom masks for Reid and others to wear.
Four neighbors also offered to officiate should a client of Reid’s have her baby when the wedding was scheduled. But Reid was able to make it. Her client delivered four hours before the ceremony, giving Reid “just enough time to, like, shower, semi-straighten my hair and throw on enough makeup to not look like I was dying,” she says.
The couple was married on Salinas’ birthday at the North Bethesda apartment where her husband’s grandmother lived and where her new in-laws married 35 years earlier, a tradition she was delighted to continue. “They’re definitely our example,” she says of her husband’s parents. “They take care of us, and we take care of them.”
Salinas grew up in the U Street area of Northwest Washington, D.C., and moved into the home of her future in-laws when she became pregnant. The newlyweds plan to expand the home to accommodate the multiple generations and raise their family there—especially now that the Buy Nothing Group has helped connect them so deeply to their neighbors.
“My big wish was completely granted!” Salinas said in a Jan. 27 post, thanking individual neighbors for their many gifts. “I could probably tag every member in this group and write an essay of how thankful I am for all of you. I’m truly in awe with all the love and support.”
But the boost went both ways. Whether members “talked about the idea or actually gave something, we all just felt like we were part of it,” Vincent says. Helping with the wedding exemplified what members say is the ideal of the Buy Nothing Group. For example, someone could easily go to the store to get eggs, but asking a neighbor paves the way for neighborliness, Vincent explains. “It ends in the same getting of eggs,” she says, “but one gives you an opportunity to talk with your neighbor and make a connection, whereas the other just gets you stuff.”