As a bridal designer and the star of “Say Yes to the Dress,” Randy Fenoli’s 30-year career remains immersed in weddings. And soon the TLC personality will be splashing his knowledge out at sea.
Fenoli is now Princess Cruises’ brand ambassador for love and romance, an ongoing position. That ongoing post is fitting, given he is newly engaged to Mete Kopal. “It only took me 58 years [laughs.] But I will say it was well worth it. I am extremely happy.”
Having worked with “hundreds and hundreds of thousands of brides,” Fenoli said his engagement hasn’t altered his advice to those eager to find love. “Things in your life do come at the right time. We can wish for things, but can’t always determine when we get them,” he said.
On board with Princess Cruises, he will host a bridal fashion-themed cruise in December and will develop a signature wedding package exclusive to The Love Boat, as in the ’70s sitcom by the same name. Twenty-five years after hosting the first at-sea wedding, Princess has continued to help couples tie the knot. Fenoli is helping to develop wedding packages including ones with wedding dress consultations. Knowing that weddings and engagements are family affairs he said, “A lot of my fan base is not just brides, it’s mothers, mothers-in-law and people who just watch the show. We’re going to make sure that we have stuff for them to enjoy as well.”
That combination might sound like an invitation for trouble. “That’s what I love. Certain people will ask me, ‘How do you deal with bridezillas?’ I don’t believe in bridezillas. What I believe is we have a fragile human being…you’re going to make a purchase, and your childhood best friend, your future mother-in-law and everybody wants to help make this decision. They are just so worried that they are not going to find the perfect dress or one that makes them feel beautiful. That’s where I come in because I can wipe away all the stress and anxiety,” he said.
Fenoli has been around bridalwear ever since winning a design content as a student at FIT. Eventually, he landed at Kleinfeld Bridal as the fashion director. The New York City bridal boutique was about to embark on shooting TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress.” At first Fenoli passed on the show opportunity, but eventually he became a scene stealer. Twenty-two seasons and counting, the show is still on TLC.
Designing bridal is his focus, and Fenoli expects to bring some of his designs and an iPad with images of his collection to share with brides during the December cruise. Kleinfeld Bridal executives plan to meet with Fenoli to discuss the prospect of teaming up at sea, according to a company spokesperson. Brides want to know, “‘What type of dress would you put me in?’ But I have to know if she is traditional, sporty, boho, a princess, blinged-out or how she wants to be. After that, we consider body types [to choose silhouettes accordingly,]” he said.
As for his own wedding, that should happen next year, but the date and location haven’t been determined yet. “We have a lot of ideas but we just don’t know exactly which one we will go with yet,” Fenoli said.
Growing up, Fenoli wanted to be “everything from president on down — actor, orthodontist” — but started designing dresses for his mother at the age of nine.
That was the first time he touched a sewing machine or followed the directions of a McCall’s pattern. The following day, his mother requested a skirt. “I was raised on a 163-acre farm in southern Illinois with 100-cattle herd. I was like, ‘Hallelujah, this has gotten me out of the fields, milking those cows and throwing out bales of hay,’” Fenoli said.
In addition to a five-year run in-house at Kleinfeld Bridal and his ongoing design career, Fenoli crafted a script for a TV show that was based on a cruise ship. TLC declined that pitch seven or eight years. ”They declined a lot of my ideas including one with female impersonators eight or nine years ago. They had said, ‘I don’t think our audience is ready for that.’ Of course, now they have Trixie [Mattel], the drag queen, doing renovations on the channel [with ‘The Trixie Motel.’]”
The cruise show is still a possibility. “I have folders and folders of ideas. The good thing is that with Princess we may be able to make some of these come to fruition,” he said.