Wedding gown designer and stylist Randy Fenoli,of the reality television
series Say Yes to the Dress and Randy to the Rescue, is the go-to-guy about everything bridal.
The first TLC network series follows events at Kleinfeld Bridal in Manhattan, while the second was a roadshow to cities across the US where a team, led by Fenoli, helps brides-to-be determine the perfect look – dress, hair and make-up – for their wedding day.
Fenoli, aka the “Bridal Gown Whisperer” is the star of both shows, whose flamboyant and lovable personality has endeared him to many around the globe. In Say Yes to the Dress, brides travel from far and wide, usually with their wedding party in tow, to the bridal salon, seeking Fenoli’s expert opinion. The hunt for the perfect dress is usually a tear-filled affair where the party disagrees on things such as the colour or style of the dress.
Countless brides have been reduced to tears or stormed out of the shop during a consultation.
“Unlike other reality shows that only rely on drama, Say Yes to the Dress focuses more on family relationships and personal connections. I think viewers can relate to the show on that personal level because their families may have the same dynamics as the families they see on the show,” says Fenoli.
Now in its 14th season and viewed in 130 countries, the show is one of the longest running reality TV shows.
“So many different people can relate to the show, from little girls who want to be Cinderella, who dream about their wedding dresses in the future, to brides who are in the process of getting married and are looking to see what’s out there. Even grandmothers who maybe never had that shopping experience with their families and maybe fathers who watch the show and and think: ‘Oh, what am I going to do when I have to go shopping with my little girl?’
“I think it has really opened up people’s mind to what happens in a bridal salon and it really speaks to the family unit and just how they interact in a public setting. Also because we don’t script the show, it’s real families going through real things and real people can relate to it… that’s why it has lasted so long,” Fenoli says.
Fenoli, who will be a special guest at Bridal Fair SA at Montecasino in Joburg next month, made his first dress for his motherwhen he was nine.
“My mother came home with a new sewing machine, good scissors and some patterns with the intention to make her own clothes. However, she soon discovered that she could not sew a hem in a terry cloth towel. She left for work the next day, but not before telling me that I was not to touch her sewing machine or good scissors.
“After she left, I looked through the patterns she had brought home and found a McCall’s pattern with That Girl (a TV sitcom that ran on ABC from 1966 to 1971) actor Marlo Thomas. At the time I had a huge crush on Thomas. I set up everything on our dining room table and proceeded to make the dress from the pattern.
“That night, when she came home, she saw the dress hanging in her bedroom.
She wore the dress to work the next day and came home with another pattern. So I guess you could say the passion began with my mother.”
Those dresses were the first of many that he would make, launching his career as a designer. Fenoli says shopping for the perfect dress can be a stressful time for most brides-to-be and one of the reasons is that brides always try to please everyone.
“The bride needs to realise that if she loves the dress and feels beautiful in it, the people who really love her will also love her choice. And if they don’t, then why did she put them on the guest list to begin with? It’s like, if they’re not going to show you the respect and love because you are who you are, then let them sit at home.
“When shopping for your gown, bring people who are supportive and who understand what your style is and the look you are trying to achieve, as trying on a wedding gown puts women in a vulnerable position of being put on a pedestal and being judged, says Fenoli.
“One of the most important, if not the most important, days in a woman’s life is her wedding day.
“To be able to share in this event and help a woman feel confident of her selection of gown and to help her feel beautiful is such a special feeling. I am the luckiest man alive,” he says.
Randy’s tips for finding the perfect bridal gown
THE SEXIER the better: I think the girls are definitely going for sexy dresses of sheer panels, really low backs and see-through. I don’t think they’re really thinking about the ceremony, but more about the reception or the honeymoon.
Diversity: Every bride wants their wedding to be unique, so they are thinking outside the box. I hear this from almost every bride: “I don’t want to look like any other bride before me”. But the truth is that even though looks may be similar, every bride has a quality about her that makes her look unique.
I personally prefer great style over a trendy look. However, each bride is different and some brides want to showcase the latest trends. Looking at some of today’s most talked about weddings such as Kim Kardashian’s head jewellery piece, Kate Middleton’s wedding dress sleeves, LeAnn Rimes’s high-slit dress, there really is not a single direction that bridal wear is trending. And that is the true trend, the desire for every bride to be unique on her wedding day.
Every dress is cut differently and every person is shaped differently. I would not want to generalise and say that a certain style or silhouette looks flattering on everyone. It’s true that more people can wear an A-line silhouette and that a mermaid gown is more difficult to pull off; however, there is more to be considered than simply the silhouette.
You also need to consider the neckline, waistline, and details of the dress. For example, a gown in chiffon or charmeuse will look completely different from the same gown made in taffeta or satin. I usually try to refrain from making blanket statements that may inhibit a bride from trying on a silhouette she may think she can’t wear. You never know how a certain dress or silhouette will look on you until you’ve tried it on.
BEFORE starting to look for a gown every bride should establish four things:
●The story: What type of couple are you and what would you like your wedding to
●The plan: The venue, time of year, etc should all be chosen before looking for a gown.
This can help when trying to determine the level of formality of the gown as well as fabric, colour, etc.
●The budget: Gowns come in every price range. A bride needs to establish how much they want to spend on the gown, as well as the entire wedding. For example, if you come from a large family that gathers around the dinner table every week, then the food may be the most important thing in your budget. Or it may be the music if you love a big party. You may find the perfect gown that is a little over budget. If this happens, you need to know where you can trim from other areas of the wedding in order to get the gown of your dreams.
●The look: A bride should ask herself what type of bride she wants to be. Ask yourself:
“Am I classic, flirty, fun, sophisticated, retro or a combination of classic and edgy?” Then ask yourself, what’s your story, and that of your fiancé’s? Are you nature lovers, are you artists, do you have a special connection to a location? Then decide how you can translate these into your wedding theme. Once you answer these questions, finding your gown will be much easier.
●Say Yes to the Dress is aired on TLC, channel 135 on DStv.
●The Bridal Fair SA 2016 at Montecasino takes place from May 27 to 29.
●Visit http://www.bridalfairsa.co.za for more information.
*This piece was first published in the Cape Argus on April 15 2016.