BLUFFDALE — Fifty new wedding dresses hang in Rebecca Rees’ basement. And she wants to give them all away to single moms who are getting married.
After becoming a single mother about two years ago, Rees purchased the dresses from a former bridal consultant with plans to start a company where groups of women could rent the dresses for girls’ nights in. She says she was inspired by an episode of the popular sitcom “Friends” in which the main characters, single women in their 20s, all rent wedding gowns to watch TV together.
The one-time business student at Brigham Young University said she’s good at coming up with “odd, unique business ideas that usually don’t pan out.”
The wedding dress idea, and others she was working on at the time, didn’t come to fruition, Rees recalled. Soon after giving birth to her daughter, Jane, and coping with her divorce and financial troubles, Rees says she also was becoming friends with other single mothers through in-person and online support groups.
“And I was just hearing story after story. And you know, single moms wasn’t something I was passionate about. My parents stayed married. I didn’t know single moms until I became one. I really didn’t,” Rees remembered.
She came to believe many single mothers simply lacked opportunities.
In Utah, Rees believes girls are often told that they need to get married when they grow up more than they’re told they need to receive education. She said she also sensed that theme in Georgia, where she grew up.
Many of the single moms she knows were widowed, divorced or had escaped abusive relationships, according to Rees, and often didn’t receive support from their children’s fathers. And they were struggling.
“Most of my friends who are single moms, they’re making, if they’re lucky, $11 or $12 an hour if they have a desk job,” she said. Those who choose to work at fast-food restaurants like McDonalds and Wendy’s make more, Rees explained.
She found herself facing similar struggles after her businesses didn’t work out — an experience that was new for her.
“And that was really hard for me,” Rees recalled. She’d sold her first business at age 19 and had been mostly financially independent since then.
“And here I was at like 31, like ‘How am I going to do this?’”
Rees turned to her parents for help. “And it was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. But it was such a good experience for me,” she said. “I didn’t realize the value in receiving, and how much value there is in receiving, you know, the giving and receiving cycle.”
She said the experience also gave her empathy.
“It’s almost like I felt like God had a lesson for me to learn from that. ... I’ve learned there’s a lot of power in it. It’s incredibly powerful to be able to ask for help.”
With help from her parents, Rees studied to be a Realtor and has been trying to help single moms find housing. But she says it has been difficult to break into the business. To provide for her daughter, now 3, she might move on to something more stable.
“I wish I could help single moms out there. I know I’m capable of it, but timing sometimes is off, and that’s OK. But I know that I can help them with this, and even if it’s just making someone happy on what’s hopefully one of the best days of their lives, that’s all I want.”
That’s why Rees is offering the dresses, all in new condition, to single moms who are planning their weddings.
Many of the one-time sample dresses have price tags, she said, and none of them have been worn for weddings. According to those tags, many of the dresses’ original prices ranged from about $700 to more than $1,500.
She has made posts about the dresses on social media, she said, which have gotten dozens of replies but only one person has come to look at them. Rees believes people are confused by the fact they’re being offered for free, and think it might be a scam.
Rees said strangers have emailed her saying, “Why are you giving them away? What’s wrong with you?”
But she says it’s a small way she feels she can help.
“They’ll take a $9 an hour job. I met some moms who work four jobs to make ends meet. It wasn’t to have extra spending money, to make ends meet. ... They deserve for somebody to even recognize them. Because as single moms, we get like literally zero recognition. And it is a hard job.”
Single moms in Utah who are interested in looking at the dresses can contact Rees at 801-341-9345.