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Why 'Say Yes to the Dress' host Randy Fenoli doesn't go to his clients' weddings

The designer and his team will be making things perfect for not one, but 52, brides in the new season of the popular wedding show

Randy Fenoli officiates a mass wedding of 52 brides in season 19 of ‘Say Yes to the Dress’. Courtesy Distri
Randy Fenoli officiates a mass wedding of 52 brides in season 19 of ‘Say Yes to the Dress’. Courtesy Distri

Could there be a better way to celebrate love around Valentine’s Day than by taking pleasure in watching someone else’s wedding preparations as they hunt for the perfect dress for their big day?

According to Randy Fenoli, designer and host of TLC’s long-running Say Yes to the Dress, there is – taking pleasure in watching 52 people’s wedding preparations as they hunt for the perfect dress for their big day.

I’d love to get married if I found the right person, but at 55, I don’t know

In its latest season, its 19th, the show has broken from the traditional one-bride-per-episode format. Fenoli and his team have selected a bride from every one of the 50 US states, plus one each from US territory Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia (better known as Washington, DC), to pamper, style and, of course, dress for their wedding.

It will all (spoiler alert) culminate in a mass wedding in the two-hour series finale, with the event officiated by Fenoli, who is a licensed registrar, in New York’s Central Park.

While 52 immaculately presented brides sharing their nuptials may make a great spectacle for wedding lovers, Fenoli says the event had its challenges from an organiser’s perspective. “There were a lot of logistical challenges just getting 52 brides in hair and make-up that they liked,” he says.

“Every bride has a very specific way that she wants to look on her wedding day, and even though we had an amazing hair and make-up team, there were about eight to 10 brides who were not happy with how they looked, and they started crying and were really upset.”

Helecia Williams in her dress, a Maison Signore gown. Courtesy TLC
Helecia Williams in her dress, a Maison Signore gown. Courtesy TLC

Fortunately, Fenoli didn’t only have an amazing hair and make-up team to call on – there was also a pool of surprisingly talented and helpful brides. “It was so magical – the other brides just jumped in and said, ‘I’ll do your hair. I’m a hairdresser. I can get your make-up.’ They just pitched in,” he says. “There was one girl, Katie from Georgia, she did five heads of hair for the brides.”

As argument rages over the partisan state of US politics, Fenoli says he hopes such wedding-inspired unity can serve as a lesson to the public. “It was just so wonderful to see such camaraderie with America right now,” he says.

“Our country is very divided, but to see all of these people coming together like that, it just gave me so much hope that there’s more that unites us than divides us.”

The latest season may have brought the blushing brides together to help each other on their big day, but Fenoli says when it came to the participants’ ideas of their dream dresses, there was little unity.

In its 19th season, the show has broken from the traditional one-bride-per-episode format. Courtesy TLC
In its 19th season, the show has broken from the traditional one-bride-per-episode format. Courtesy TLC

“Every bride is different, from New York City to California to the southern states in America, they are all looking for something different,” he says. “My bride, Lindsey from Arizona, wanted to have a boho kind of dress. Little Alice from New York wanted to look like a regal queen since she felt like ‘I’m representing New York and the Statue of Liberty and it has got to be like the lights of the New York skyline’.

I had Alicia from Texas who wanted to show off her cowboy boots and so she wanted a slit down the front of her dress or on the side of her dress so it would show her boots off. Each bride really wanted to find a dress that represented who she was.

Fenoli admits, however, that sometimes the brides who appear on the show need a little guidance with their wedding dress plans and he seems genuinely humbled that they trust him to provide it.

“After watching me for what, almost 19 seasons, they know I only have one motive,” he says. “I don’t work on commission. I don’t make money off of the sales of the dresses and the salon or whatever. I really just want them to find the perfect dress that makes them look and feel beautiful and I will do everything I can to do that.

“I think they trust me and that’s something that is very humbling because you can’t really ask someone for trust. It has to be earned. They watch me and they say: ‘You know what, he’s telling the truth and he’s going to try to get me the most perfect dress.’”

Having spent more than 30 years in the wedding industry working to make other people’s big days perfect, it’s perhaps a shame that Fenoli remains single.

But he says he would jump at the chance to get married one day. “I’d love to get married if I found the right person, but at 55, I don’t know,” he says. “I don’t know if that’s ever going to happen.”

You couldn’t even describe Fenoli’s situation as something akin to “always the bridesmaid, never the bride”. He says that once he’s done helping his charges to prepare for their weddings, he rarely attends the events themselves despite receiving many invitations to do so.

The  Arizona bride points to her state. Courtesy TLC
The Arizona bride points to her state. Courtesy TLC

This is for purely selfless reasons. “I rarely go just because I don’t want to take away from the bride’s moment, it’s her big day,” he says.

“I want all the attention on her. I’ve shown up at weddings before and everybody wants a picture with me and wants to speak to me and I don’t want to take that moment away from the bride. This is about her and her day. I get enough attention.”

With other people’s weddings off-­limits, we’ll all be rooting for Fenoli to get his own big day sooner or later. He says he already has an idea about what the occasion would look like – and it won’t be on TV. “It would definitely be a destination wedding because I don’t want everybody coming,” he says, which is perhaps surprising for someone who was the instigator of a lavish, mass-wedding ceremony in one of New York’s most famous public spaces.

“I want only the people who are really close to me, that I truly love and are my best friends, to be able to be there,” he says. “I want it to be intimate and personal, in a beautiful setting, and be about us and be able to not just have it on one day, but to have several days spread out when you can have fun with your family and friends and loved ones.

Season 19 of Say Yes to the Dress starts on Sunday at 10pm on TLC

Updated: February 12, 2020 05:11 PM

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