Goodwill Gown Helps Unveil (If Not Unmask) Happy Future For 2020 Bride

When Leah Ellzey saw the slinky white dress on a clothing rack at her favorite Goodwill store in Brentwood, she thought, “Maybe I could wear it to an event sometime.”

The gown was a steal, but she was watching her money closely. It was early March of 2020, and the COVID-19 pandemic was transforming the world. Leah, a single mom with one son, was no exception: She had just been laid off from her job with a Nashville eye-care provider. 

She bought the dress anyway. It hung in her closet for six months until an event finally came up: her wedding. 

Leah met Michael Carter — an IT manager and single dad with two daughters — in 2018 when they found themselves standing beside each other at an Applebee’s restaurant. They are both naturally shy, and Michael is a foot taller than Leah. So, there were a few awkward moments.

“We were kind of giving each other the side eye before small-talking,” Leah recalls, laughing. “I thought he was very handsome.”

They exchanged phone numbers and became friends. A year later, they began dating. 

In early May of 2020, the couple bought a house together in Antioch. Later that month, they went for Sunday brunch at a restaurant. When they arrived home, their kids were waiting in the driveway, holding a sign that said, “Will you marry me?” 

Michael got down on one knee and held out a ring.

“I knew he was going to propose eventually,” Leah says. “I just didn’t know it would be that quick.”

With Leah still unemployed and the pandemic surging, they decided on a low-key, low-cost wedding. She immediately thought of the white dress in her closet — the one from Goodwill. 

She finally wore it on Sept. 15, 2020, when she and Michael were married at The Chapel in Nashville. 

“I felt so sexy and womanly,” she recalls. “Especially during the pandemic, when you never get dressed up and you’re wearing sweatpants all the time. Wearing that fancy dress made me feel like life was getting back to normal.”

She says having paid so little for her gown, and knowing it had been pre-loved, also made her feel great — especially considering that the average Tennessee bride spends $1,500 on her dress and wears it just once.

Within weeks of her wedding, the newly minted Mrs. Leah Carter found a job with a medical laboratory, helping people get their COVID test results. Soon after, she bought a new car, and the family adopted a puppy. 

“It was a terrible year for many people, but 2020 was the best year of my life,” Leah says. 

She believes other couples can make their wedding dreams come true by maintaining health precautions and sticking to their budgets. Shopping at the upcoming Goodwill Wedding Dress Weekend — where gowns will be priced from $49.99 to $299.99 — would be a great way to start, she says. 

“You don’t have to spend a lot of money to feel good,” she says. “If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that.”


Thrifted-fashion influencer Leah Ellzey Carter, known on Instagram as @ellzeyonadime, participated in a televised bridal fashion show to promote Goodwill’s 2020 Gown Sale — two months before she became engaged. 

  • Laura M
    Posted at 12:05h, 12 March Reply

    I love Ellzeyonadime Follow her on IG. I followed this wedding story last year.

  • Rose Davis
    Posted at 16:06h, 11 March Reply

    How do I donate my dress? It has been cleaned and sealed in dryclean box since my wedding?

    • GoodwillMTN
      Posted at 16:33h, 11 March Reply

      You can donate at any store or donation center belonging to Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee. Here is our location map – https://giveit2goodwill.org/locations. Thank you for your donation, it is helping us change lives.

  • Nannette Wright
    Posted at 10:58h, 03 March Reply

    This is absolutely wonderful! As the NEW Mother-In-Love, I am so very happy. Leah has brought us all great joy. The dress is very beautiful on her and was a perfect fit. Couldn’t have made a better selection.

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