By MAGGIE MENDERSKI
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Colleen Cory, 24, landed the man of her dreams for her wedding day.
As an avid fan of Randy Fenoli, earning a spot on "Randy to the Rescue" on cable TV channel TLC was a fairy tale beginning to the happiest day of Colleen's life. Fenoli travels across the country helping brides select the perfect dress. The stylist took Colleen's dream of a glamorous, classic Hollywood look and turned it into a reality for when she says "I do" to Ronnie Halicke on May 31, 2014.
"It's surreal," she said. "I'm just in awe. The fact that Randy pulled that dress for me, it's a once-in-a-life experience."
The Quincy native, a 2007 graduate of Quincy High School, traveled from her home in Indianapolis to Chicago in April to participate in one of Fenoli's pop-up bridal boutiques. TLC camera crews also came to Quincy during the Dogwood Festival to film the future bride in her hometown as well as meet her fiancé and family. The episode will premiere on TLC at 9 p.m. Friday.
Colleen originally applied for "Say Yes to the Dress" in August 2012. After reviewing her back story, the TLC casting crew asked her to participate in the show's fledgling spin-off "Randy to the Rescue." She eagerly agreed, even though she'd already bought a wedding dress.
"The main reason I applied is to meet Randy," Cory said. "So it was even more of a bonus to be on his show."
Her mother, Molly Cory, and grandmother, Milly Cory, both live in Quincy, and they agreed to split the cost of the second dress. Colleen could use the original formal dress for the ceremony. If Randy found a good match, they would chip in and buy her the second dress for the reception.
"I was just thankful to be able to help her out," Milly said. "I'm very proud of her. It's just passing on the love that our family has for one another."
Fenoli brought more than 200 dresses from different parts of the world to Chicago for the boutique. Using that stash, he helped Colleen select the perfect gown to create an ensemble fit for a star -- specifically Marilyn Monroe.
"I don't want to look like a costume version," she said, "but I want to take elements of her style and use that in the look."
Colleen had grown up surrounded by the actress's memorabilia. Milly's great-uncle had worked for 20th Century Fox at the height of Monroe's career. The uncle sent a collection of signed photographs from stars back to the Midwest, and Colleen grew up admiring the pictures. Even today, the photos still hang on Milly's kitchen wall.
"She always remembered the old photos," Milly said. "The Marilyn Monroe photos were more recent. That's what the Colleen and the kids were fascinated with."
Through those images, the actress taught her a sense of confidence and to embrace her own curves. Colleen hoped Fenoli could help her implement Monroe's sense of style into her big day.
Her mother, grandmother, a cousin and two friends joined her entourage the day of the filming. The team of five watched Colleen try on three different gowns. Eventually, Colleen narrowed it down to one. "I was so thrilled that she would share this with me and to be in on the fun," Milly said. "It's just one of those ah-ha moments that you'll never forget. We'll just laugh and giggle about it forever."
Colleen selected a floor-length halter-cut gown. The dress fit her classic Hollywood theme, her desire to dance at her reception and her $3,500 budget.
"It was perfect for the idea and what she was looking for," Molly said. "She was beautiful. They did a great job with the whole, head to hem."
Now she's eagerly awaits the airing of the episode on Friday as well as the arrival of her "Randy to the Rescue" gown in October. Even with all that excitement ahead, she believes the best moment of the show already came. She vividly remembers her family's reaction when Fenoli revealed her final look.
"My mom and my grandmother both had tears in their eyes, and that's something money can't buy," she said.