The most memorable moments from ‘Say Yes to the Dress’
As reported by Andrea Morabito from the New York Post
For generations, New York City brides-to-be trekked to Bay Ridge to shop for wedding gowns at Kleinfeld Bridal. Now, women from all over the world flock to the bridal salon thanks to the TV show “Say Yes to the Dress.”
The TLC reality show this year is celebrating 10 years on the air, with its 15th season having premiered Feb. 25.
When “Say Yes” began, the idea was to go behind the scenes of the world’s largest bridal shop, owned by Ronnie Rothstein and Mara Urshel (who are partners in business and life). The 35,000-square-foot store, which moved to Chelsea in 2005, employs 250 people and sells some 10,000 dresses a year.
Over the years though, “It went from being a behind-the-scenes docuseries to ‘House Hunters’ for wedding dresses,” said Abby Greensfelder, co-CEO of show creators Half Yard Productions. “Say Yes to the Dress” airs in more than 150 countries and territories, and brides come from as far as Africa and Hong Kong to shop at Kleinfeld today. It’s also coined a catchphrase, “Are you saying yes to the dress?” which is used around the world.
The series has changed the experience of shopping for a wedding gown, too. “Before the show, the girl came with her mom, her grandmother and her best friend. [Now] there are large groups of people going to share the experience with a bride,” said Rothstein. “[That] makes it more difficult because there are more opinions. That’s really been one of the effects of the show.”
In celebration of the show’s anniversary, here are 10 of the top “Say Yes” moments.
1. The birth of a catchphrase
The show was originally called “Kleinfeld Unveiled.” The current title “came about when we shot the pilot” in 2007, Rothstein said. “There was a girl who was struggling over two dresses. I said to [her] mother, ‘It’s easier to say yes to the guy than to say yes to the dress.’ The network called us weeks later and said ‘We have the name: 'Say Yes to the Dress.’ We thought it was terrible! Then all of a sudden it caught on.”
2. The DAD-ZILLA
Sometimes it’s not the bride who is the toughest customer. “We’ve had the total over-the-top, overbearing, beefcake Italian [father] who screamed at the woman who was trying to make alterations because his daughter looked horrible [in the dress],” said Greensfelder, referring to a 2007 episode with bride Giustina Rossi and her father, Tony [left]. But once Tony saw his daughter in the perfected gown, he was “reduced to a puddle of tears,” Greensfelder said. “This tough guy just totally lost it and it was so endearing.”
3. Randy’s debut
Kleinfeld’s fashion director Randy Fenoli had worked at the store since 2007 but declined to be on the show — until 2008, when he was guilted into rescuing full-figured bride Michelle LaMarca. Unbeknown to him, she had fallen in love with a silhouette he then told her wasn’t right for her body. He was horrified to see his comments played up for drama in the trailer. “I stayed up all night bawling,” Fenoli said. LaMarca didn’t take his advice — but many viewers thought he was right, and started asking for his input when they shopped.
4. The consultant as bride
The “Say Yes” production crew embeds in the store for three to four months per season, so the two staffs are like family. When Sarah Velasquez — who appears on the show and works in the store as a dress constultant — selected her own gown in 2009, “it was fun and kind of awkward for [her] to be on the other side of the camera,” Greensfelder said. “We had a dramatic moment where people cry and clap.”
5. The spoiled brat
Kleinfeld attracts plenty of brides with unlimited budgets, such as Nicole Burkes in 2009. “[She] flew in on her private jet and said ‘I can have any dress,’” Fenoli recalled.
“She played dress-up for three hours, then went to other salons. She came back and wanted to play again. I told her she had to . . . come back tomorrow. That’s when she finally said yes to the dress."
6. The evil twin
Pity Jennifer Bloom, whose twin, Melanie, kept telling her she looked horrible as she tried on dresses in 2009. “The twin was jealous of this moment that she wasn’t having,” Greensfelder said.
7. The tearjerker bride
Few “Say Yes to the Dress” stories have been as moving as that of Margo Mallory, who came to the salon for a 2012 episode while battling cervical cancer. “She did make it to her wedding, but passed away soon after,” Greensfelder remembered.
8. The celeb cameo
Among the stars who’ve stopped by are Seth Meyers and Kathy Griffin (above left, with her former assistant Tiffany Rinehart). “Kathy’s assistant came [to try a dress], and Kathy surprised her by posing as a mannequin — and completely freaked her out,” Greensfelder said of the 2015 episode. “That was a genuine moment that was Kathy’s idea.”
9. The big spender
Dresses at Kleinfeld range from $2,000 to $32,000 — or more for custom gowns by Pnina Tornai, the store’s exclusive designer. Holding the record for priciest bride is Naulila Diogo (above, in white), the daughter of an Angolan presidential cabinet member who spent close to $200,000 — $55,000 for two custom Pnina gowns, plus seven dresses for her bridal party — in a 2015 episode.
10. The deserving bride
For the new season, Fenoli rolled out the VIP treatment for bride-to-be Kelli Hutchinson, who lost her wedding dress in a flood. “In 15 seasons, this is the most incredible appointment we’ve done,” Fenoli said. “She’s a bride with three kids, their house flooded days after they moved in and she lost her father [last] year.” So the show created a pop-up salon in Louisiana, and gifted her a dress, veil and jewelry.