More than just a wedding dress: How The Brides’ Project offers a sustainable alternative for brides

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By: Katrina de Schiffert

Many women dream of finding their perfect white dress for their wedding day. But today’s wedding industry is consumed with over the top spending and extravagance.  

My fiance and I decided that as we prepared for our wedding, we were going to stay true to our values of sustainable living. Spending excessive amounts of money on a wedding dress was far from sustainable in my mind.   

So my heart lit up when a friend told me about The Brides’ Project, a Toronto-based not-for-profit which opened in 2004 and offers soon-to-be-brides an alternative and renewable opportunity to shop for their wedding dress. The store sells donated wedding dresses that are no more than five years old for half the original price or less, and all the proceeds go towards various cancer research and treatment programs as well as support programs for patients and families. 

To date, The Brides’ Project has raised over a million dollars for various cancer programs and connected brides across the globe. 

I spoke with the founder, Helen Sweet, about what inspired her to start the project. 

“When I was getting married for the second time, weddings were all about spending more and having budgets that are crazy. I didn’t want to spend a lot and it really struck me how much waste there was at the end of the day. I thought, there must be a way to make a difference in this day. To make a more lasting contribution. If I loved my dress, surely somebody else will. I grew up on a farm in Newfoundland, my father was in ministry and the mentality of the community was that if you are not using something and someone else can, great! Why hold onto it?” 

 One dress sold at The Brides’ Project was worn by three different brides in three different continents within four years. “I think if the first bride looked at the picture of the second bride, she would not recognize her dress,” Sweet says, adding that the personality that fills the dress changes how it looks. 

Some of the donated dresses are almost brand new while others are altered to update or change the style. Last summer, Sweet cut eight dresses to tea-length in order to give them a new look. 

 Nina Drenth married her husband in July of 2017 and shared why she chose to buy her dress from The Brides’ Project. 

“When I was engaged, I was looking for ways to subvert the culture that says that you get to spend lavish amounts of money wherever you please because you are the Bride and it’s you BIG Day. I wanted to be conscious about where my money was going and I wanted to remain aware of the way we ‘vote’ with our dollar. So when I heard about [The] Brides’ Project, I knew it was where I wanted to buy my dress.”   

I could feel the difference in The Brides’ Project store from the moment I stepped inside. I was comfortable, largely because the volunteers made me feel welcomed, and I was excited, because I had no idea what kind of dress I would find or what story it would hold. I walked out of the store not only with a wedding dress that I truly loved, but also with a letter pinned to it. It was written for me, from the previous bride. 

She wrote to me about the hope and joy that filled her wedding day. She wrote about her first year of marriage – she was diagnosed with breast cancer. 

This bride donated her dress the moment she heard about The Brides’ Project. A place that actively supports something now so close to her heart. Wearing her dress, being a part of her story and her a part of mine, meant more to me than any other princess-style wedding dress I could afford. 

Sweet explains, when a woman donates her wedding dress, “It is not like giving to goodwill, there is so much more. All those good and hopeful feelings that from your day come with your wedding dress, your passing that onto the next woman.” 

To learn more about The Brides’ Project and how you can contribute or volunteer click here: https://thebridesproject.com/

Photos: Creaphotography

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