Mackenzie sorting through wedding dresses

Secondhand Elegance: A Wedding Dress Found in Giving

A thrift treasure destined to grace over the most important day of Mackenzie Haehl's life.

A seemingly ordinary afternoon visit to St Vincent de Paul’s Scottsdale Hope Chest Thrift Store took an unexpected turn for Mackenzie Haehl. Mackenzie is a long-time volunteer at SVdP and esteemed founding member of SVdP's Rising Leader. Her love for thrifting had often led to finding unique treasures, but none quite like the one she would wear on the most important day of her life.  

Initially, Mackenzie was on a hunt for vintage teapots for a royalty-themed party she was helping to organize. SVdP’s Hope Chest thrift store was at the top of her mind to embark on this hunt. She arrived at the store with a determined mindset, not knowing that her luck was about to shift when she noticed the store’s bridal section. She had just gotten engaged a couple weeks before and thought it wouldn’t hurt to go for a quick browse. She was not expecting to find anything. After all, she always imagined finding her wedding dress with her mother and closest friends by her side.  

Mackenzie's wedding dress
Mackenzie holding her wedding dress that she found at SVdP's Hope Chest Thrift Store.

She walked toward the bridal section where everything was white, pearly, and sparkling. She was in awe of the dresses she was finding on the racks. As she moved each dress through the racks, admiring each gown, she stopped on one that immediately caught her eye. It was a strapless dress; simple but very elegant and sophisticated. The buttons down the back were what really drew her in.  

“I always imagined having buttons off the back of my dress, just like that dress,” said Mackenzie. 

As she pulled the dress off the rack to examine it carefully, she noticed the fabric was also in perfect condition; no rips, no major stains, and best part of all it cost only $50.00. Her eyes brightened with the beauty of this gown, but she felt unsure about whether this dress would fit her. On top of that, she also didn’t have her family members there to help her think this through.  

As she stood by the big mirrors in the bridal section, a sweet stranger, a lady who Mackenzie likes to think of as her “spirit grandmother” came to encourage her. She told her the dress was perfect, it looked her size, and that she should just “go for it.”  

“I did feel like I had a friend in that moment,” Mackenzie said.  

Feeling encouraged by the sweet lady, Mackenzie decided to take the dress home. Upon arriving, she wasted no time trying on the dress, choosing to share that special moment with her mother over a video call, bridging the physical distance between Arizona and Seattle that separated them at that moment. When Mackenzie came out to model her thrift gem for her mom, she looked at herself in the mirror and saw her dream dress in its entirety, a moment brimming with significance and emotion. 

“The dress felt more special and magical to me than any gown I could have purchased from a bridal salon,” Mackenzie said.  

It was everything she was looking for in a dress. It fit her like a glove, and she didn’t need one thing altered on the dress. All she had to do was take her dream gown to the dry cleaner’s and soon she was on her way to becoming a September bride.  

On September 23, 2022, Mackenzie walked down the aisle in the sands of Kauai, Hawaii to marry her best friend during an intimate ceremony with close family members.  

Mackenzie's wedding
Mackenzie holding hands with her husband wearing her thrifted gem. 

“I felt like I was wearing a little piece of my community on the beach in Kauai that day, from an organization that is so incredibly close to my heart,” Mackenzie said. 

Since Mackenzie’s shopping experience at SVdP’s Hope Chest thrift store, she decided to donate her dress back to that same thrift store so another bride can have the joy of wearing it on their special day. She added a photo and a note from her wedding in the garment bag in hopes that the next person will do the same and the tradition continues.  

Mackenzie donating her dress
Mackenzie returning her wedding dress to SVdP's Hope Chest Thrift Store, in hopes that another bride has the joy of wearing it on their special day too. 

She also began encouraging all her girlfriends getting married to visit SVdP’s thrift store as they start their dress search. From a sustainability standpoint, Mackenzie sees this as an opportunity to be eco-friendly and a way to continue the life of a dress that was once used in a celebration as special as hers. 

“I would also say that if people are concerned about not finding the right style, they can just keep coming into the thrift store,” said Mackenzie. “It could just be something fun that you do, and it could surprise you what you end up finding.”  

Most importantly for Mackenzie, it felt great knowing that her dress purchase was also a tangible act of support to her community in need. She knew that every purchase made at any SVdP thrift store was a direct contribution to supporting vital programs that feed, clothe, house and heal the most vulnerable in our community.  

“I love that by re-donating the dress, it has the possibility to help someone again. Both by being worn for a third wedding and being a part of someone else’s love story – but also by the funds coming back to SVdP another time.”   

Mackenzie's note to a future bride
Mackenzie's note to the future bride that buys her dress at SVdP's Thrift Store. 

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Once sold, your donated items will help fund and support our programs that feed, clothe, house and heal!