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UNIONS OF GOODWILL: Two Brides Share Their Goodwill Wedding Stories


On her first anniversary, Gabi Settles poured some wine, lit a few candles and slipped into her wedding dress — a slinky, strapless confection she purchased at the Goodwill Gown Sale for $89. 

Then she made a video call to Iraq, where her husband Jacob, an Army medic, was deployed. 

“He loves when I put that dress on,” Gabi says. “He gets giddy when he sees me in it. It was special to see that light in his eye.”

They asked each other “conversation starter” questions about how their relationship had grown. They shared laughs and a few tears before ending the call. For a young couple separated by so many miles, it was about as good as an anniversary can get. 

That was April 7, 2019. On their upcoming second anniversary, Gabi plans to wear the dress again. This time, she hopes Jacob will be home. For now, he remains stateside. They live in Fort Campbell, Ky., with two children. Another baby is on the way.

“My goal is to stay in that dress,” Gabi says, laughing. 

Gabi arrived after the start of the Goodwill Gown Sale in 2018, and she was apprehensive about finding something she liked because there were so many other people shopping. But as soon as she spotted the floor-length gown, with its jeweled bust and lacy train, she knew it was the one. 

The fact that it stood bore its original $1,000 price tag was icing on the cake.

“We’re on a budget, and I’m not one to spend thousands on a dress — though it would be nice to have that kind of money,” she says. “This was the pretty wedding dress I had envisioned all my life. It was really special to get a dress like that, and I will keep it forever.”

There’s no question, Gabi has gotten her money’s worth out of her gown. But she says even if she had only worn it once — like most brides — she could feel good about her purchase. 

“Goodwill is a great place to shop where you can buy really nice things without spending a lot, and that’s really practical for our family and the way we live,” she says.


When Ashley Owens married her high school sweetheart Zane in April of 2011, she called it her “Goodwill Earth Day Weekend Wedding.” The eco-friendly, low-cost celebration lived up to the name, and it looked like something from the pages of a lifestyle magazine. 

Ashley, a lifelong Goodwill shopper, knew she and Zane would be paying for their own ceremony. So she spent the year of her engagement visiting Nashville area Goodwill stores, especially during First Saturday 50% Off sales. 

A by-no-means exhaustive list of the supplies she bought from Goodwill includes: mismatched but color-coordinated designer china — large and small plates; candlesticks and saucers from which she made cupcake stands; napkins, cups, carafes and glassware; an assortment of bird cages she used to hold flowers for centerpieces; and, from a Goodwill Outlet, fabrics for decorating and table linens.

The couple purchased rings at a pawn shop and vintage gowns from a friend who got her start in business by reselling things purchased at Goodwill. Finally, 80 guests assembled in her future mother-in-law’s manicured garden for the outdoor wedding. Music was courtesy of an iPod playlist and speakers purchased at Goodwill.  

Ashley spent a total of $3,000 on her wedding.

“For a wedding like mine, if you bought everything new, I think you would have to add another zero,” Ashley says. “And afterward, I donated everything right back to Goodwill, so it could continue the cycle.”

The cycle of benefit Goodwill creates in the community aligns with Ashley’s life in many ways, she said. For instance, Ashley has two nieces with Down Syndrome, one of whom once worked for a local Goodwill. Through the sale of donated items, Goodwill helps people overcome barriers to employment, such as physical and intellectual disabilities. 

And then there is the fact that Goodwill is a green organization, annually diverting millions of pounds of useful materials from landfills. 

“I had my wedding on Earth Day. I have just always wanted to lessen my carbon footprint as much as I can and re-use and recycle as many things as possible,” she explains. “Plus, I loved how fun and funky everything was. We are a calm and chill kind of couple anyway.”

She adds, “You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get your dream wedding. Everyone is different, and that’s the great thing about Goodwill — you will definitely be able to find your style.”

Photos by Cristina Viscu

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