I'm delighted to introduce you to a wonderful organization here in Toronto called Brides Project. This amazing business is the perfect way to recycle your wedding dress or find the dress of your dreams in a sustainable way. I asked the company's founder, Helen Sweet, a few questions to find out more about what they do:
Jess:. I love the concept of the Brides Project. What was the inspiration for starting this up?
Helen: My inspiration. Well, as you point out, a big part of that was wanting to find a way to make a difference through such a fabulous occasion, and doing something to reduce the excesses and turn them into a contribution instead. I've never been one to keep stuff that I'm not using any more, so I really wanted someone else to enjoy my dress/veil/shoes/crin and all the other goodies I had bought. And, I'm a minister's kid. My Dad always brought me up understanding that it's better to give than to receive, and I saw a wedding as an excellent opportunity to put that credo into action.
Weddings are also about community, and welcoming a couple into that community. As such, it just seems right to give back and be able to contribute to that community that embraces us - whether you consider it a group of friends & family, or the larger geographic community in which we live, work and (hopefully) thrive.
Jess: Tell us about the process- what should a bride to be expect when purchasing through you?
Helen: I think a key difference for brides shopping here is that we really try to educate them about wedding dresses. It's not like buying a pair of jeans at the Gap where they either fit and make your butt look great, or fail at doing so. Wedding dresses almost invariably need to be altered which is new to a lot of people... especially when a lot of clothing has 'stretch'. We take time with every bride understanding how we can help work within her budget, and also helping her understand the fitting process and how the seamstresses we work with play a crucial role in the process. They are the true "garment goddesses", and can alter them up or down several sizes, add that illusion neckline they're after - or sleeves - or any number of tweaks! Our cleaners are also phenomenal, and can render a dress that was very well loved into sparkling new condition - it's really quite breathtaking to see the transformation!
Jess: How can brides help after their wedding?
Helen:well, we're always delighted to find their dress a new home, but we also accept just about anything from the big day - veils, shoes, belts, jewelry and even decor items. We primarily focus on the former items, but we also have a relationship with the school boards and they often use decor stuff in arts classes. Brides can also do us a great service by spreading the word!
Jess: What’s the best part of what you do? What do you enjoy the most out of the Brides Project?
Helen: The best part of what I do at this point ... I don't actually spend much time in the shop anymore, but just LOVE officiating. It's incredibly fulfilling - and such a privilege to work with couples to understand how we can design a ceremony that perfectly fits their personalities, the type of celebration they are having, and focuses on their unique vision of their future as a married pair. No two ceremonies are the same - just as no two couples are the same. I greatly enjoy guiding couples through the process, de-mystifying it, and helping them through the part of the day that can also be a little terrifying for some :) It's definitely icing on the cake when the bride (or brides) walk down the aisle in a dress they found here. Also, being in Toronto means that we have such a variety of individuals to work with - and a plethora of different religious and cultural backgrounds that can be incorporated. I've met such wonderful people through all aspects of The Brides' Project - whether officiating, helping them to find a dress, working with them as volunteers, colleagues (e.g. folks like yourself!), or as one of the extremely deserving beneficiaries that we support. I feel extremely fortunate in that regard. The Brides' Project is indeed a community of like-minded folks, and together we're making a huge difference. Hopefully by mid-summer, one part of that difference will be reaching $1,000,000 raised for cancer charities. Woot!
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You can find Helen and Brides Project online here and follow along with their amazing endeavour on instagram here