After moving from Australia to Ann Arbor, Adelaide Knights has found a new home at The Brides Project
Adelaide Knights knows a thing or two about proposals.
In 2017, the Australian school teacher received one from her boyfriend.
Shortly after they married, he popped another big question. He had received an offer to work at University of Michigan and asked her what she thought about moving to America.
Despite never having previously traveled to the United States, Adelaide embraced the opportunity. In 2019, the couple moved from Sydney to Ann Arbor.
After arriving, Adelaide began volunteering at The Brides Project – a fundraising initiative that sells budget-friendly wedding dresses to benefit the Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor (CSC). CSC’s free services for families affected by cancer include support groups, educational workshops, and financial support. In 2019, TBP sold over 400 dresses and raised over $300,000.
In the process of helping new brides find a good fit, Adelaide found her own. Within six months, she transitioned from volunteer to employee. Then, in August 2020, CSC asked her to become The Brides Project’s new director. Adelaide knew the promotion came with unique challenges – running a salon for the first time, in a new country, during a pandemic – but the optimistic 26-year-old was undeterred. She took the leap and accepted another life-changing proposal.
Current Magazine (CM): When did you first feel at home in Ann Arbor?
Adelaide Knights (AK): The first time I could recommend a local shop to someone and tell them how to get there.
CM: Now that you’ve settled in, do you have favorite places around town?
AK: I’m always amazed at how much goes on here. My favorite places include Kerrytown Market on Saturdays, Washtenaw Dairy for ice cream, the coffee shops downtown, Jerusalem Garden, and Shalimar Restaurant.
CM: How did your own wedding dress selection process go?
AK: I decided really quickly – the 5th or 6th dress I tried on. The dress was wildly different than what I had pictured in my mind. But when I put it on, before I even saw myself in the mirror, it felt right.
CM: What made The Brides Project the right fit for you?
Ak: The opportunity to meet so many people from different backgrounds and walks of life – and seeing the impact we’re making in their lives. Whether it’s seeing a bride, dream dress in hand, beaming with joy, or hearing testimony from one of the 1,200 individuals who receive support from CSC annually, it fills my heart with pride.
CM: Has your past work as a teacher shaped your approach to running TBP?
Ak: I think my training and experience as a teacher has been instrumental to the development of my leadership style. Communicating with colleagues, parents, and students in a professional setting on a daily basis equipped me with the skills necessary to communicate effectively and confidently with brides and their families, our team of fifty volunteers, our donors, and the wider community.
CM: What leads people to donate wedding dresses to The Brides Project?
AK: Thirty percent are new dresses donated by salons. The other seventy percent come from brides – dresses that have only been worn once, in excellent condition. Some donate their dress because they felt beautiful on their wedding day and want another bride to have the chance to feel the same way. Some want to be eco-conscious. When a dress is worn a second time, it means less waste. There is also the tax incentive. You can claim the donated dress’s original cost as a deduction. And we often receive gown donations from people who want to raise funds for CSC. In some cases, that includes individuals who have personally battled cancer or their close friend or relative has done so.
CM: What do brides find so appealing about TBP’s dresses?
AK: The variety, the cost, and the cause. We stock around 1,000 dresses at a time. They start at $99, with most between $200 and $1,000. [By comparison, according to The Knot, the average wedding dress cost $1,600 in 2019]. And our brides know all of our profits benefit the Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor.
CM: How has the pandemic affected TBP and its support of CSC?
AK: We had to close for ten weeks. This was huge because we provide approximately 30% of CSC’s annual operating budget. Once we could safely reopen, we implemented measures to ensure everyone’s safety, and we’ve operated by appointment only. The response has been amazing — a waiting list of brides wanting to schedule appointments, and we’re still on target to meet our 2020 fundraising goal!
CM: Given the leaps you’ve taken and lessons you’ve learned the last few years, what advice would you give other young professionals?
AK: Don’t let fear hold you back. This is a time in your life where you’ve got the chance to explore new directions, forge new connections, and try a different path, so jump at every opportunity and make the most of it!
The Brides Project. 1677 Plymouth Rd., Ann Arbor. 734-506-8271. thebridesproject.org.