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Bride’s Stories

Bride Spotlight: Jessica Malecki

By Arielle Weingast
Photos:  Paul Stoloff

Brides Project Wedding Dress

It all started on October 26, 1999. He was 19, and she was 18; both Jessica and her boyfriend were just out of high school. They were together for more than ten years making plans and building their futures, when  late in the fall of 2011, he proposed!

In April of 2013, they finally set a wedding date of September 28 of that same year, and Jessica launched into full wedding planning mode. Jessica was speaking to her friend about the wedding and her friend mentioned The Brides Project. The more her friend told Jessica about the Project, the more she felt touched by the cause. Jessica lost her grandmother, aunt and her best friend’s mother all to cancer, and has two close friends who are breast cancer survivors. Jessica has seen “all this disease can do” and decided that she would only buy her dress from The Brides Project.

As soon as she made an appointment, Jessica felt the excitement and magic of The Brides Project. Jessica says, “When I showed up I was nervous, overwhelmed, excited, happy and anxious.” Brides Project Consultant Jill helped Jessica search for the perfect dress. She tried on a ton of dresses and narrowed the selection to two. Being very overwhelmed, Jessica decided to take a break and come back another day with her mother.

On her second visit, she found the perfect dress and immediately knew her search was over. She was even more excited that she could buy her veil and slip at The Brides Project as well. Jessica used the preferred alterations specialist, who took her vision and made it better than she ever could have expected. The dress was originally a few sizes too big, but the alterations made it look like it was custom-ordered just for Jessica.

From the moment she made the phone call to make her appointment, all the way to the end of that adventure, Jessica was truly cared for through the whole process. Jessica says, “When you lose a family member to cancer, or you know a cancer survivor, you really, truly understand what a horrible disease it is.” Jessica believes it was hard going through this process knowing those loved ones would not be with her on her wedding day. However, it did put a smile on her face knowing she was helping the organization that will support people facing cancer every day, and that this work could help someone else experience joy (and maybe even a wedding!) in their own family.

Brides Project Wedding Dress

Brides Project Wedding Dress

First-Ever Trunk Show

By Monica Miklosovic
Photos:  Melanie Reyes Photography & AddyB Photography

67 Volunteers; 21 Wedding Dresses Sold; and $8400 for Cancer Support


A Showcase of Gorgeous Gowns

On what seemed like the snowiest day of January (and that’s saying a lot!) the Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor (CSC) was transformed into a gorgeous, bright space for our first-ever Trunk Show.  The CSC is always safe, nurturing, and supportive place where families touched by cancer receive care.  On this day, it served a second purpose.  The Brides Project welcomed over 40 brides through our doors to shop for a dress that goes beyond its outward beauty, and offers a hand to those facing the daunting circumstances surrounding cancer.

Brides, Volunteers Support
Fundraising for Cancer

“We set a goal of raising $5000 at this event,” said Beth Foley, Development Coordinator for The Brides Project.  “Despite the difficult travel conditions that day, we sold 21 gowns and raised over $8400.  That is usually how many are sold in a month!”

Sixty-seven volunteers worked together to receive our new-found brides.  “I’d like to express my most sincere thank you to all the volunteers and interns who helped make this event possible.  Consultants, runners, photographers, makeup artists, marketing team, setup crew, gown transporters… it all came together beautifully and we couldn’t have done it without you! Beth conveyed.

“We were so honored to meet all the brides and families who braved the weather to come.  I hope a good time was had by all, and I hope you know how much your contribution is appreciated by everyone at the Cancer Support Community.”

The dress is just one part of a new beginning.  As 2014 unfolds, we hope to hear back from all the brides we met that day!

trunkshow_01252014_melaniereyes_29Dedicated volunteers collaborate with new brides to find the right dress, and all the finishing touches.

trunkshow_01252014_melaniereyes_27The CSC provided a spacious and inviting environment for trying and buying.

trunkshow_01252014_melaniereyes_94Beth Foley, Development Coordinator for The Brides Project,
and intern Danielle check and double check to ensure all guests’ needs are met throughout the event.

trunkshow_01252014_melaniereyes_67Promising dresses for a hopeful future.




trunkshow_01252014_melaniereyes_132  TBP_19_AddyBPhotography

Bride Spotlight: Christy Cook

By Arielle Weingast

For this week’s Bride Spotlight, we interviewed Christy Cook about her “happily ever after.” Christy found The Brides Project while searching online for bridal shops. She decided she would purchase her dress at The Brides Project in honor of loved ones who have been touched by cancer.


Photo by Regina Starkey, Honeysuckle Hills

Wedding Dress Shopping in Michigan

Christy recalled, “We arrived in Michigan on July 14, 2013 for a family visit from South Carolina and I was so grateful when The Brides Project was able to make an appointment with me that week!”

She and her sister, Trisha, made the drive to beautiful Ann Arbor together.   Despite a few setbacks on the road, when they finally arrived at the store, the two sisters were blown away by the large array of dresses.  They found the store to be warm and inviting, and felt as if they were VIP clients during their one-on-one appointments.  With the assistance of their consultant, they began pulling and trying on dresses immediately.

Six dresses in and feeling discouraged, Christy threw on one last dress and instantly fell in love. “The Brides Project also ha[s] accessories to go with my dress of my dreams, so I was able to get my veil and the under skirting all within my budget,” Christy exclaims! She purchased a Karelina Sposa gown that was perfect for her rustic mountain wedding.


Christy’s first look at her wedding dress in at The Brides Project shop in Ann Arbor.

The Wedding

Christy and her husband got married on September 29, 2013 in the breathtaking mountains of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The wedding involved good food, great company and gorgeous weather all enjoyed while wearing a magnificent dress. “What more could a bride ask for?” Christy asks.

Christy is so appreciative she found The Brides Project, because it made saying yes to the dress of her dreams not only easy, but affordable.

Bride Spotlight: Paige VanSice


We were recently delighted to receive a letter from a Paige, a Michigan bride who was married August 31, 2013.  She said:

“The Bride’s Project of Ann Arbor is truly a project worth supporting! From the helpful staff and volunteers, to the wide variety of styles and sizes at such great prices, I had a one-of-a-kind experience choosing my wedding dress at The Bride’s Project. In addition to their worthy cause, it was their in-house alternations service that particularly impressed me. Knowing they were a small business, and non-profit, I wasn’t sure if they would offer extra services beyond helping choose the dress.  I was pleasantly surprised when my fitting began and there was no middle man—that the same people who helped to see my vision to choose the right dress, were the same people offering alterations if I needed them. I was able to keep my business with The Bride’s Project, and knew my dress wouldn’t leave the store until it was time for me to take it home.

“The dress was perfect (at least I thought so), thanks to the unfaltering work of Jan Lee, my incredibly talented alterations consultant. She customized this dress for me, making it truly my own style and design, knowing I was looking for something special to fit the barn wedding we had planned. I added the black lace bolero (purchased from Angelika Liv’s shop on Etsy), and Jan replaced the dress’s original sequined-banded waistline with a flowing black ribbon I purchased myself. She really made sure every detail was just as I envisioned it, and made our meetings fun and personal. I had a great experience supporting this project, and I thank the entire team for all of the work they are doing. I have certainly been spreading the word!”

We thank you, Paige!  We strive to offer a totally unique and personal experience to every bride we meet.  Our volunteer consultants are incredible indeed, their work being our heart and soul.  We look forward to meeting many more brides this fall!


Bride Spotlight: Courtney Rasor


C and C-21

Courtney married Chad on August 11, 2012. She originally purchased her wedding dress at The Brides Project because she was looking for a more affordable alternative.  From the moment she walked into the salon, she felt as if she were the only bride in the world, compared to the snooty places she had tried before. When Courtney discovered more about the mission of the project, she was so excited to be a part of it, and she promised to herself the day that she bought her dress that she would donate it back to The Brides Project after her big day.

C and C 1

Courtney feels that The Brides Project is not only a blessing to the people for which it creates support, but also to the brides-to-be who visit. Since her family is scattered, she only had one friend who came with her to try on dresses. Without a huge entourage, Courtney felt a little vulnerable during the experience. Yet, over the course of her appointment, Courtney felt that the volunteers at The Brides Project not only acted as consultants, but had become part of her entourage of friends.

C and C-147

Courtney believes in The Brides Project and is so grateful that it has become part of her history!

Bride Spotlight: Cara Coolbaugh Brown


Cara says getting married to her husband Gary was one of the easiest decisions in her life. On the other hand, buying the dress, shoes, make-up, flowers, you name it was a completely different story. She claims she “didn’t have winsome childhood dreams of big white wedding marquees and flowing gowns to guide me.” The good-doer bride also did not have much time, considering she had just 30 days to pick out a dress after having returned from a year of rebuilding communities in Afghanistan.

That’s where The Brides Project enters the scene. A close friend told her about the Project and Cara loved the eco-friendly twist, and was even more excited to find a dress when she heard that the proceeds were donated to the Cancer Support Community. Like love at first site, the first dress she saw in the show room was perfect for Cara. It was as if it was made for her, what she says is a “rare and delightful find.”

Gary and Cara got married on October 27th, in autumnal Virginia amongst blaze orange leaves and a sprinkle of rain!



Brides Spotlight: Katie Faiver Holm


Katie first heard about The Brides Project through one of her friends who is a volunteer there, Michelle Barbaresso. She was aware of this long before she was engaged, so when she did get engaged, she knew exactly where she would get her wedding dress. In fact, The Brides Project was the only store she even visited to try on gowns. The dress Katie ultimately decided on was only the 4th dress she had tried on, and it was a simple Casablanca strapless gown with the fit-and-flare style.


She loved the option of taking the dress home that same day, not to mention that the lower price tag was also an appealing factor. Katie and her husband paid for their wedding, so they wanted to do it affordably. Finally, knowing that the money she spent on the dress went directly to CSC made the whole experience extra special for Katie.


Katie and her husband got married in July of 2012, and it ended up being one of the hottest days of the whole year. It was around 103 or 104 that day (plus humidity!), and they had an outdoor reception at Gandy Dancer. Katie was very thankful she did not choose a ballgown with layers and layers of tulle! Katie’s husband is in the Navy, so he wore his summer white uniform instead of renting a tux, which ended up keeping him a little bit cooler that day as well. They also provided hand fans for all of their guests to help them try to keep cool. Luckily once the sun went down, the temperature was not unbearably hot anymore and we had a perfect night. One of Katie’s favorite moments from her wedding when a train pulled up to the station next door and the events coordinator let Katie and her husband go out and take fun pictures next to it and on the railroad tracks after the train left. They got some awesome photos out of it!


Katie’s husband is stationed in Texas and had we not have had to move to Texas right after the wedding, she would have loved to become a volunteer at TBP and stay involved with the project. However, Katie has recommended TBP to all of her friends in Michigan who have gotten engaged recently. She hopes that their wedding dress search is as easy as hers!


Bridal Spotlight: Meet May Lin Kessenich

May met Tom, her husband, while they were in teaching school in Chicago in 2008. Although Tom had a girlfriend, they became fast friends over their love for beach volleyball, warm weather, eating healthy and their similar sense of humor. They began dating in 2009 and got engaged in 2011.

While working for her brother’s cart in the Mark’s Carts food cart area, May witnessed The Brides Project moving into the space next door. This was the first time she had heard about it. May says she “wondered what was going on because there were so many wedding dresses in such a small space!” She later found out more about the project and really appreciated their purpose and wanted to help support the cause.  Her engagement to Tom allowed her to help. She went immediately to the store with her mom and sister-in-law to shop for dresses. She fell in love with Adele Wechsler’s Zoe dress and bought it the very same day.

The two wed on August 18, 2012 in St. Joseph, MI at The Heritage Center. The guests came to enjoy the weekend on the beach where they all played Frisbee and ate at a big beach potluck the day before the wedding. There was also a roast to the couple, where 10 roasters could say whatever they wanted about them. It was really fun for the couple and the guests.

The actual wedding went perfectly.  Pictures were taken on the beach, fun games were played to see who knew the couple best and winners’ tables got to eat first. May says “it was very entertaining (and funny to see who got answers correct)!” The night was fun and lighthearted and guests were dancing until the venue closed. Afterwards, Tom, May and a group of friends went skinny dipping in Lake Michigan. Talk about an after party.

Tom and May live in Ann Arbor and are expecting their first baby this April.

May Lin and TomMay donated her beautiful wedding dress back to The Brides Project and hopes someone will get to wear it on their special day as well.

Featured Bride: Keri

We are so excited to have Keri as our Featured Bride!

Before her appointment with us, Keri had been looking for her wedding dress for about a month. She had tried on nearly 50 dresses before she found a dress she really loved. Even though her older sister didn’t give her the reaction she was looking for, Keri was pretty confident she had found “the one”.

Keri made an appointment with The Brides Project after meeting with our volunteers at the Whimsical Occasions Bridal Show in Ann Arbor. We’re so thankful she decided to give our bridal salon a chance, especially after all of the dress shopping she had done!

Since Keri had a dress she was confident about, we asked her how she would decide which dress to go with if she found another she loved. She told us that if all things were equal, the cause of The Brides Project and the Cancer Support Community would weigh more heavily in her decision. Keri has been touched by cancer through friends and family and in the few hours we got to spend with her, you could tell how much she believed in our mission.


“It feels amazing – makes me feel incredible to be doing this” – Keri

We’re delighted to say, that not only did Keri find her wedding dress at The Brides Project, she was also the amazing bride to mark our first sale in our temporary location! We think Keri looks stunning in her dress, a gown by the same designer (Maggie Sottero) as the dress she had originally planned to purchase before finding us.

As if there wasn’t enough to love about Keri, she has promised to donate her dress back to The Brides Project after her wedding next March. She hopes there are more brides that will give full circle, and re-donate their dresses to support our cause. We hope so too, Keri (and we can’t thank you enough)!

Thank you, Keri, for believing in The Brides Project. We wish you all the best and hope to see you after your wedding next year!

Featured Bride of the Month – Robbie Bender

Robbie Bender is our first Featured Bride of the Month! Each month we will feature a bride who has purchased their gown from us, or donated their gown to us. 

Robbie Bender was looking for a way to give back through her wedding and she found The Brides Project was the perfect place to do so.  Although she thought about supporting a small business by buying a gown on Etsy, she fell in love with the idea of buying a wedding dress to support a charity.  Although she lives in Chicago she knew that she had to come to Ann Arbor for an appointment at The Brides Project. 

There were many reasons why Robbie was so drawn to The Brides Project. The prices and value are unbeatable – she was able to try on many different types of dresses in her size, all priced very reasonably.  “Getting a good deal at other stores is hard because the sizes of dresses on sale are always so small,” said Robbie.  But the biggest factor for her coming to TBP was the cause.  She lost both of her grandmothers to cancer and has other loved ones with the disease as well.  Her and her fiancé lives have been touched by cancer in so many ways it just felt right buying a dress where the money impacted the lives of others like themselves. 

Here is a little more about the bride to be and her upcoming wedding:

Robbie is 27 years old, living in Mundelein, IL, a northwest suburb of Chicago. She works full-time as an associate pastor and loves her job. She says that “being able to impact the lives of others for the better is amazing, and being able to be there for them during the worst of times is humbling.”

She met her fiance Mac her freshman year of college. They were friends for nearly 8 years before they ever went on a date. It wasn’t long before they both knew they’d be together forever. 

He proposed the weekend before Robbie’s birthday in August of 2011 at her favorite place in the Chicago area, the Chicago Botanic Gardens. He got down on one knee in the waterfall gardens overlooking the Japanese gardens, right after the sunrise. So romantic!

Robbie and Mac are busy planning their wedding and  life together. The wedding is September 22, 2012 in St. Joseph, MI where they had their first official date! They are counting down the months until the big day. Robbie is a generous person at heart,  “We’ve tried to give back in other ways through our wedding as well, and our wedding reception is being held at a museum and cultural center. It is great to know our money is being used to impact others.”

We will be posting photos of Robbie in her wedding dress after her Sept 22nd wedding. We don’t want to spoil her big reveal! (Hint: she looks amazing!)