When Leah Tolwin wed her husband, Rabbi Alon Tolwin, there was just one thing she wasn’t thrilled about.
“I didn’t love my dress, and no one told me it didn’t look good on me,” she says.
So eight years ago, Tolwin decided to put her education in marketing and sales and social work to the best combined use she could think of to benefit her community and her Jewish ideals.
“I want every bride to feel beautiful,” says Tolwin, who created a nonprofit organization, the Bridal Canopy (under the umbrella of Aish HaTorah), out of her Southfield home to provide as many of those adornments to Jewish brides as possible.
“What I’m really good at is telling brides what looks good on them,” says Tolwin. “We have wedding dresses, chuppah, glasses for the groom to step on, jewelry and veils — almost anything you can think of.”
And most of it has been donated.
“This is where my marketing background comes in,” says Tolwin. In exchange for a small donation, brides who either can’t or don’t want to pay for costly bridal accoutrement yet dream of looking like a princess can borrow from Tolwin, who scoops up bargains and solicits local and national shops and individuals for contributions.
“I have had an incredible response,” she says. The Wedding Shoppe in Royal Oak, for example, regularly donates between $30,000 to $50,000 worth of merchandise each year, and boutiques including Maria’s Bridal in West Bloomfield, Roma Sposa in Birmingham and others have also been eager to help.
Tolwin will work with each bride to help her achieve the gown of her dreams, even if it means mixing and matching a piece of lace from this gown and a sleeve from that gown, plus alterations for a perfect fit.
“We have outfitted 636 brides so far — about 70 a year,” says Tolwin.
While the majority of her clients are “modest” (requiring covered neck, shoulders and arms), she has brides from all sects of Judaism. All she asks in return is a donation to help pay for cleaning and alterations, and that all brides have their shoulders covered under the chuppah. “Everyone has been very accommodating,” she says.
Tolwin always plucks a tiny piece of each gown — a bead or a piece of lace — and adds it to her communal wedding canopy.
“That way,” she says, “everyone who comes through here is a part of every future wedding.”
To schedule an appointment or make a contribution at the Bridal Canopy, call Leah Tolwin at (248) 953-0503.