After 30 years in the bridal industry, Kleinfeld Bridal dress consultant Randy Fenoli has seen it all. Or so he thought.
But nothing prepared the Say Yes to the Dress icon for 2020. "We were in a horrible year for some of these couples," Randy exclusively told E! News ahead of the season 20 premiere on Saturday, July 18. "Some brides have been dreaming of their wedding since they could walk. Planning their wedding, and then suddenly having it ripped down from under you—this big celebration and your future just being put on hold—it was so traumatic for some of these brides and couples."
As luxe Manhattan bridal boutique Kleinfeld pivoted to a partial virtual model during the coronavirus pandemic, Randy consulted with brides-to-be via his dining room in his West Palm Beach, Fla. home.
"I was a little concerned about not being present at the appointment. But I have to tell you, I really felt like was with the bride, and I think it worked out just beautifully and incredibly," Randy gushed. "I was amazed at how connected I felt even if it was just through the Internet."
The return of Say Yes comes at a "perfect time" now that weddings are back in action. "It's time to celebrate and just enjoy our loved ones and hug and just have these lifelong, memory-making moments that were just taken away from us," Randy continued. "I think everyone is just so much more appreciative now and enthusiastic about their wedding than they ever could be. You just realize how important these moments are."
While Randy is unsure if Kleinfeld will maintain the virtual model going forward, the destination boutique remains the go-to source for wedding dresses for brides of all shapes and sizes.
"Here's the thing, after 20 seasons, and me being in bridal 30 years, you think we would run out of things to say and talk about and film, and we don't," Randy teased. "We had such great stories. We had a doctor that was in New York on the frontlines during COVID. I mean, we even had a throuple!"
Randy's on-set assistant Daniela is another bride whom Randy advises on the season.
"She's just so incredible to me," Randy added, joking that he was "very tough" on her when selecting a dress. "She walks out in that first dress and I'm like, 'No, no, no, this will not do,' because I love her so much and care about her so much. It was just so important for me to make sure that she walked out in the right dress. I was just very over-protective of her! It's funny to see."
Randy also was paramount in Kleinfeld expanding their size range; his own eponymous bridal couture brand goes up to a bridal size 30, which as Randy explained, really is like a 34 in ready-to-wear. "I decided when I created my own collection I'm moving the damn size chart," Randy stated. "It's just a number but it's also a psychological thing."
Randy's new collection was cut down from 60 new designs into about 30 due to the pandemic. "It's really been tough," the designer admitted of navigating the fashion world amidst a global crisis. "It's not as glamorous as it sounds, let's just say that."
Through it all, one thing has stayed the same for Randy, though: "Being a consultant is really just much more challenging than you would imagine because you've got to analyze the bride and the entourage and figure out the style and the budget," he revealed. "It's a lot to juggle, being therapist and fashionista and referee, all at the same time, and psychic basically!"
From brides demanding specific dresses ("I clock them on it!") to dealing with "mean entourages," Randy tackles deeper subjects while making every bride feel especially beautiful for her big day.
"I love filming the show and working with brides even more than the day I started," Randy concluded. "I truly do. Now that we're all coming out of our houses [post-quarantine], we get to experience that joy of getting back together with family and loved ones and celebrating a wedding. I'm so excited about this season, and I think it's going to be one of the best. I'm just so blessed and lucky and honored to be able to do what I do every day."
Say Yes to the Dress returns on Saturday, July 17 at 8 p.m. on TLC.