Since moving to North Kensington a few years ago, Jennifer Salinas often posted in her local “Buy Nothing Project” Facebook group, mostly swapping toys and clothes for her daughter, Rose, now 1. Salinas once found a fence for her garden in through the group, which is part of a global movement to create hyperlocal gift economies focused on building community.
Founded in 2013, the Buy Nothing concept of neighbors helping neighbors has taken off during the pandemic. Last year, Salinas’ North Kensington group, which now has more than 500 members, parted ways with a Kensington chapter as it passed 1,000 members. So when Salinas posted on Jan. 4 that she was looking for a celebrant for her fast-approaching wedding, she tapped into a thriving community eager to take part in a joyful occasion.
Salinas was looking for a celebrant because her civil ceremony scheduled for Jan. 26 at a local courthouse had been postponed due to the coronavirus, and she still hoped to get married on that date — when she would be 25. Almost immediately after posting her request, Tara Reid, 48, who lives in the Kensington Parkwood area, proposed to marry her and her fiancé, Alexander Salinas, now 30.
Reid, a midwife and doula, was looking for an opportunity to do her a favor. She had received a lot from Buy Nothing Group, including bottles, breast pumps and toys for her customers. Acts of service are “my love language,” she says. “It’s tragic to say that this group saved my sanity during the pandemic because that’s not entirely true…but they did allow for human interaction at a time when 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 theater actor and singer, Vincent, 39, offered that she and a neighbor serenade the couple. Salinas didn’t accept her into the duo, but she did accept the group’s help, posting photos and a list of items she was looking for. Among them, she requested a smart casual dress or suit for the ceremony (she already had a dress for the reception the next day), a tuxedo for her husband, and a frilly bridesmaid ensemble for Rose.
The community took action. Several members offered their wedding dresses. “I have a wedding dress you can borrow. Very Carrie Bradshaw. Never worn, but it was a floor sample,” a neighbor posted, offering a strapless bra to go with it. Eventually, Salinas accepted the gift of a white jumpsuit with a plunging neckline that seemed to be meant for her. “I’m obsessed with this combination,” she says. “I remember seeing the tag, and I was like, $450…that’s 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 she fashioned into sleeves for her wedding dress and another neighbor used to make. custom masks for Reid and others to wear.
Four neighbors also offered to officiate if a Reid client had her baby at the time of the wedding. But Reid managed to do it. Her client gave birth four hours before the ceremony, giving Reid “just enough time to shower, half-straighten my hair and do enough makeup so I don’t look like I’m dying,” she says.
The couple tied the knot 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 happy to continue. “They are 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 neighborhood of northwest Washington, DC, and moved into her future in-laws’ house when she became pregnant. The newlyweds plan to expand the home to accommodate multiple generations and raise their families there, especially now that the Buy Nothing group has helped them connect so deeply with their neighbors.
“My big wish has been completely granted!” Salinas said in a Jan. 27 post, thanking individual neighbors for their many gifts. “I could probably tag every member of this group and write an essay about how grateful I am for all of you. I’m really impressed with all the love and support.
But the boost went both ways. Whether the members “talked about the idea or donated something, we all felt like we were part of it,” says Vincent. Helping at the wedding exemplifies 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 good neighborliness, Vincent explains. “It ends with the same buying eggs,” she says, “but one gives you a chance to talk with your neighbor and make a connection, while the other just gives you stuff. “