Say “yes” without stress thanks to these words of wisdom from the TLC star.

This story first appeared in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Columbus Weddings, published in December 2019.

On Jan. 11-12, 2020, Randy Fenoli—fashion designer, author and co-star of TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress and the soon-to-debut Say Yes to the Dress America—will be the celebrity guest at the Columbus Weddings Show. We sat down with him to talk all things dress-shopping with the man who knows the process best.

Responses have been edited for clarity and length.

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What trends can we expect to see on runways and aisles in 2020?
That’s a very challenging question to answer. My gowns are carried in about 70 countries, and trends vary. Even in the U.S., the trends from New York are quite different from what’s happening in Ohio, which is quite different from what’s happening in California.

So with that being said, that kind of is the trend: that everything and anything that any bride is looking for is out there today. A bride can have literally any look she wants.

That’s why in the collection I designed, the gowns are really varied. If you look at my dresses, you’ll see boho, you’ll see traditional, you’ll see princess—you’ll see just about every look that I can cover, because there are so many trends. I think brides today want the gown to reflect their personal style and not so much a bridal trend.

With so much variety in the market, how can a bride best prepare to go gown shopping?
The very first thing, I think the couple really needs to sit down and create a wedding budget. And within that budget, you need to allocate where the money’s going to go, but also leave room to move that money around. I really believe that it’s a smart practice for any couple starting a life together to have their finances in check. Number two, I think it’s really important for the couple to really firm up what they want their wedding to look like and make sure that they are one in keeping with that vision.

It’s interesting that you say gown shopping starts not with the bride but with her and her partner together.
That’s where a lot of people get lost today. They need to bring it back to, what is this about? And it’s about a couple coming together and who that couple is. 

Once all that is decided, what else should a bride do to prepare? Do some research on the salon that you’re going to, to make sure that they carry dresses that are in your budget. You don’t want to go to a couture salon that starts selling gowns at $5,000 if your budget’s $1,500.

What about getting inspiration from Pinterest and magazines?
There’s a positive and a negative to that. A lot of girls come in with pictures from Pinterest that can be put up by anyone from all over the world. It could be an editorial shoot or something that a designer made in school or something a company did as a runway piece, and the gown doesn’t even really exist. Then they come in with this expectation of, “I want this gown,” but that gown isn’t in production.

Or maybe they come in with a picture and that’s it—no designer’s name, no price point. Then we look at the picture and it’s like, “OK, that’s a $15,000 gown, and it was one-of-a-kind, and your budget is $1,500.” It can be challenging if they only rely on the picture and don’t do their homework.

So how can brides better use those inspiration photos?
Let the consultant know the direction you’re going in. That lets the consultant know that you’re looking for a more fitted dress, or you want to be a princess. A lot of brides don’t have the verbal tools to express what they’re looking for because they’re not “into” fashion. They can’t say, “I want a silk satin gown with lace and Swarovski crystals and a trumpet silhouette.” They may not know a trumpet from an A-line from a fit-and-flare from a mermaid. I think here, a picture can sometimes paint a thousand words, as they say.

And what’s your biggest piece of advice for brides?
Raise your left hand in the air and say, “I am beautiful.” Then look at that left hand and look at that ring on that finger—the person who gave you that thinks you’re beautiful, just the way you are. Recognize your own inner beauty and that every bride can look beautiful, no matter what size, shape, age, ethnicity, religion, whatever.

I think brides are so afraid and anxious about whether they’ll find the dress. You’re going to find the dress. I have yet to see a bride walk down the aisle naked. Relax, and choose the dress that makes you feel beautiful. Because when you feel beautiful, it’s not about the dress—it’s about how you’re wearing the dress. You smile brighter, your shoulders go back and you just stand taller. That’s why, on Say Yes to the Dress, my question is always the same: How do you feel? And they start talking about the dress, and I’m like, “No, no, no. How do you feel?” Because if you feel beautiful, then you’re going to wear it differently and you’re going to be gorgeous on your wedding day. That confidence equals beauty.