By Cristin Trosien
“We Did Live Life, And Loved Each Other
Every Moment Of It.”
An Engagement and A Surgery
After two years of dating, Mike took a relaxed moment at home to propose to Kristen on her 25th birthday. Not wanting a long engagement, the couple planned to have their wedding only six months later. The bustle of planning quickly took a backseat only two months before the big day; Mike began to feel sick and was subsequently diagnosed with testicular cancer. During a time when most engaged couples are preparing seating charts and menus, Mike and Kristen found themselves preparing for a major surgery. The surgery left the doctors optimistic but just two weeks before their wedding, they found out that Mike would also need to undergo chemotherapy after the nuptials. Kristen remembers, “We were devastated, but determined to have an incredible wedding and to enter into this battle as husband and wife.”
An Absolutely Perfect Day
Kristen and Mike were married on July 17th, 2010, at Kristen’s grandparent’s church in Cheboygan, Michigan. After the ceremony they took pictures in front of the Mackinac Bridge and danced the night away at their reception, surrounded by family and friends. Kristen describes the day as “absolutely perfect in every way… Mike and I vowed that day to always love each other and to be together until death do us part.”
Mike Smiling Down
With Kristen by his side, Mike continued to fight his battle with cancer for the next four years, but lost to it in December of 2014. As this month marks their five year anniversary, Kristen decided to donate her gown to The Brides Project, feeling that it would be the perfect way to celebrate the brief but loving relationship that she and Mike shared. “To be able to help cancer families in need by donating my dress means the world to me and I know Mike is smiling down on this!”
Kristen and Mike may not have gotten to grow old together as planned, but in her words, “we did live life and loved each other every moment of it!” The Brides Project is so proud to represent the Cancer Support Community as it supports those families, just like Kristen and Mike’s, touched and scarred by Cancer. And, we are beyond honored to be entrusted to pass on Kristen’s gown – and all of the love that it represents – to another Brides Project bride.
Say Hello to our Featured Volunteer, Krista Gravatt!
Volunteer Position: Bridal Consultant and Volunteer Event Planning Assistant
How long have you been volunteering with us? Since Feb 2015
What do you like most about volunteering at The Brides Project? The fact that we are taking a positive experience (getting married) and using it to help support people who may be in a difficult situation (cancer diagnosis, chemo, surgery, etc). People who come into our shop usually have a passion for our mission and want to help. Also, the fellow volunteers are awesome!
Favorite memory while volunteering: We had a wonderful, good-humored family come in-a mother and two daughters. They were bilingual and the bride said something to her
mother through the dressing room curtain, and I asked if she was telling her mother how much the dress cost. Her mom started laughing and said I must be bilingual too. We had a good laugh about it. She ended up buying that dress!
Current Celebrity Crush: It’s a tie between Bradley Cooper and Channing Tatum.
Any interesting hobbies/hidden talents? I was a fencer in college, I play piano by ear, and I’m a licensed Zumba instructor.
Would you like to volunteer with The Brides Project? Contact us!
By Cristin Trosien
Photo courtesy of Kat Foley Photography
The Brides Project loves to extend its family of fabulous brides to those who didn’t happen to purchase their gown from us, but do find us after their big day and decide to donate. Bride, Julie McGill, was one such bride.
A Great Time Dancing All Night
A Donation She’ll Never Regret
She goes on to offer this advice to brides, struggling with the same decision: “If you are hesitating about donating… Think about your wedding dress in a box in the back of your closet. You may think you want to save it for your daughter…but IF you even have a daughter, don’t you think she will want to shop for her very own wedding dress, just like you did? You are NEVER going to wear this dress again. Love your photos and memories and share it with someone else!!! It is truly the best thing to do. Just DO it.”
Thank you, Julie! We couldn’t have said it better. Your donation is greatly appreciated, and inspiring. Donation information is always available at http://www.thebridesproject.org/donate/
By Cristin Trosien
A Laguna Beach Wedding
Kelly Vantrease and beau, Brode, got married early in the morning of October 18th, 2014, on a cliff overlooking the ocean at Laguna Beach. Kelly is a California-native and always knew that she would love to get married at this, her favorite beach.
Kelly found her West coast-bound gown at The Bride’s Project after visiting other bridal salons in both Ann Arbor and her hometown of Los Angeles. Upon visiting TBP, she was “surprised with the number of dresses available, certainly more than [she] had seen in any store.” She found her dream dress, albeit different than what she had pictured initially, thanks to the help of three volunteers in the shop. “They were warm and funny and it was like having three personal shoppers.”
On their wedding day, the morning marine layer in the air made for beautiful pictures on the sandy beach, and the couple kicked off their shoes and had some fun. However, the couple underestimated the surf and both got wet! Kelly’s dress still has sand stains, but she plans to keep it forever – dirt and all.
On her December wedding day, Samantha’s dad saw her in her dress and said she “looked like a princess…like the one from Frozen.”
The classic winter-wedding feel was exactly what she was going for. The traditional, elegant gown featured beading and detail-work that happened to resemble snowflakes from afar. Samantha accented the look with a fingertip veil and blusher purchased at The Brides Project, personalized with 100 Swarovski crystals by Samantha herself.
Samantha and her prince, Timothy, met when they were only five years old. Samantha and her gown were not as quick to find each other. With her mom and sister, she visited The Brides Project and tried on a variety of different dresses with the help of four volunteers.
Samantha remembers, “The combination of it being for a great cause and the dresses being so reasonably priced hooked me right away! I knew I was going to buy my dress there. It was just a matter of narrowing down the options.” Ultimately, the “Frozen Princess dress” took the wedding cake, and our own Jan Lee worked her magic to make the too-big dress fit just right for the big day.
On her wedding day she looked radiant, and had a fairytale day with her groom and 220 guests. “I loved my dress and received so many compliments on my wedding day of how beautiful it was.” She adds, “I have told everyone about The Brides Project and recommended that they at least go shop there once while looking for their dress.”
Special thanks to Special Moments Photography for all photos.
First she bought a dress. Then, she volunteered. Now, she manages The Brides Project. Today, we’re very proud to introduce you to our very own Hannah Lowe!
A Move to Michigan
Hannah and Mark began their relationship in Maryland, where Hannah’s professional background was in the banking industry. Then, a job opportunity for Mark brought the couple to Ann Arbor, Michigan. In her new town, Hannah’s search for a wedding dress ended at The Brides Project store. There she not only found her dress, but also decided become a volunteer consultant. As a consultant, she was able to meet and assist others whose purchases would also provide cancer support.
Bride-to-be; Volunteer; and A New Job
After finding her dress and then volunteering for some months, in the fall of 2014, Hannah accepted the job of coordinator for The Brides Project. In this capacity, she manages all volunteer activity and day-to-day operations. She has brought a great amount of diligence; attention to detail; and a warm, effervescent spirit to her new position. In just three months, her leadership has notably included the monumental task of moving the store into a fantastic new space; hosting a successful trunk show; and organizing an ever-growing team of people. Hannah began her new work with incredible competence and grace, all while simultaneously beginning her own married life.
Hannah and her husband Mark were married on December 6th, 2014 in Montego Bay, Jamaica. The joy they brought to each other, together with their families, shone through in this tropical paradise. Hannah, we are so grateful that you found The Brides Project! Your dress suited you perfectly, and that was only the beginning.
– By Monica Miklosovic
Special thanks to Natatlie Franke Photography for all photos.
The Brides’ Project, a volunteer-based bridal salon, has moved to a different facility located at 1677 Plymouth Road, Ann Arbor, in The Courtyard Shops.
TBP was modeled off of a salon in Toronto, owned by Helen Sweet. Monique Sluymers, who is from Toronto, connected to bring the business to Ann Arbor. TBP’s core principle is to maximize money for services for people impacted by cancer. The money goes through the Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor, according to Barb Hiltz, executive director of the Cancer Support Community. Read More
A Long-Distance Beginning
Both employed by the Army, there were only three times Matt and Ally had ever been together in the same physical location. For one year, despite great distance and very tight schedules, the couple corresponded whenever possible. Then Matt proposed, and beyond any doubts, Ally said “Yes!”
One Week To Plan A Wedding
Thank you to mother-of-the-bride, Patrice Brock, for telling us her daughter Ally’s story. Together, they had only one week when Ally was on leave to plan as much of the wedding as possible.
Writing to The Bride’s Project, Patrice said, “You played a very special role in this experience – you made Ally feel like a ‘normal’ bride. You took the time to listen to her story and helped her find the perfect dress. She had to plan her wedding from 2000 miles away, often having to let her sister Julie and I make choices and decisions that most brides take for granted. Ally knew she and Matt would have precious few days together for their December wedding. For a short time on that morning last summer, you gave Ally, and Julie and me, the very special gift of a fairy tale start to a most unusual journey.
“Ally’s story is a true fairy tale – with a twist. She and Matt became friends and fell in love through letters, Skype and phone calls. It was obvious to everyone that they were meant to be together. They had only been in the same place three times when he proposed. You see, Matt is also in the Army. They have been posted on opposite sides of the country throughout their training. The wedding had to happen in December as that was the only time they would both be on leave.
The Wedding Day
“Ally and Matt are both ‘family-people,'” explains Patrice. “So one year after they started ‘dating’ and seven months after she said YES, they had a wonderful, fun-filled, memory-packed wedding with family and friends. The dress from The Bride’s Project was much more than a beautiful part of a beautiful day. Matt’s grandpa and Ally’s grandma lost their battles with cancer years before the wedding. To be able to help others in their fight through the support of your shop was never a question – it had to happen! On their wedding day, Matt carried his grandpa’s dog tags and Ally had a purple iris in her bouquet for her grandma.
“From the moment we found your shop online, we knew we had found a gem. You graciously accommodated her very tight schedule that week and made us feel so welcome. Ally is overjoyed to be donating her dress back so that another very special bride can look radiant on her very special day.”
Four days after the wedding, Ally and Matt were once again on opposite sides of the country. They spent the first six months of married life apart, but now rejoice that in June, they were able to truly start their life together at Fort Bragg, NC.
By Monica Miklosovic
Photos: JK Photography08
By Monica Miklosovic
Photos: Jalisa Mayer
An Iowa Bride
It is stories like this that make us reflect in awe on how one person’s act of trust and generosity can strengthen and impart hope to the community around them, even if they are only visiting! It is with deep gratitude that we are able to share the story of this Iowa bride, who was determined to incorporate a giving spirit into her wedding plans from the very start.
A Summer and a Wedding Dress in Ann Arbor
Two years ago, Shea Jorgenson spent a summer in Ann Arbor, MI and happened to see The Brides Project store one day when she was out shopping for groceries. Shea explains, “I made a mental note and knew that one day I wanted to get my wedding dress there. I live in Iowa and am a 10-hour drive away from Ann Arbor but make the trip once a year with my family to see my brother.”
In town with her family again a few months later, although not engaged yet, Shea asked her mom if she wouldn’t mind looking at dresses at The Brides Project. She remembers, “I tried on about a dozen and had such great help from the staff; it made my dress shopping experience special and unique. I fell in love with a dress and decided to get it, even though I had never even looked at wedding dresses elsewhere.” She admits, “My family was pretty surprised that I had a dress before I was engaged!” However, her confidence was well-founded. One month later, she and her now-husband Michael agreed that a wedding was to be in their future, and were married soon after.
As many brides do, Shea had her dress altered by a seamstress (who designed and added a shoulder strap) after she bought it, making it perfectly her own. In reflecting upon her time at The Brides Project, Shea relays, “I could not have asked for a better experience dress shopping, more beautiful dress, or better cause. I loved it! I plan to donate the dress back on my next trip to Ann Arbor.”
A Happy First Anniversary!
Shea and Michael are currently both medical students at the University of Iowa. With their first anniversary coming up on June 22, we are delighted to celebrate the life they have begun together. Thank you, Shea and Michael, for sharing your story! Your optimism shines through, and we are grateful for your contribution.