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Statesboro woman wins ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ contest for DIL’s wedding
Audrey Yakopin, left, stands with Randy Fenoli, a designer and consultant with Kleinfeld Bridal in Manhattan, where the TLC series “Say Yes to the Dress” is filmed. Liz Patton, right, entered a contest to win a dress, fitting and trip to the set, and gave the prize to Yakopin, her future daughter-in-law.

She said it was a dream come true. Statesboro resident Liz Patton loves the reality show “Say Yes to the Dress,” but she never dreamed she would win the chance to visit the bridal shop where it is filmed — and have a designer wedding dress made.

Patton was already married, but she entered the contest to win her future daughter-in-law a custom-fitted dress and trip to New York.

“Say Yes to the Dress,” which airs on TLC, follows events at Kleinfeld Bridal in Manhattan. Dresses featured on the show range in value from $1,300 to $40,000.

Patton, a regular viewer of the show, wanted to do something special for Audrey Yakopin, the woman who planned to marry Patton’s son Allen, who was a Marine for 13 years. After three tours in Iraq and one tour in Afghanistan, he is now “a Wounded Warrior with a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder),” she said. “He has found someone special who accepts him with all his flaws. Because of Audrey’s kindness and love for him, my son is healing mentally, never will physically, but she understands his seizures and his TBI.”

Patton feels a special bond with Yakopin, she said.

“Seeing the love she has for my son makes me love her all the more. When they decided to get married, I was ecstatic. I knew he would be taken care of and always loved.
“Times and money are hard for them, and they are both proud people and wouldn’t want to take money for them to have a beautiful wedding or her a beautiful dress.”

As a matter of fact, the couple declined her offer to have a dress made at the exclusive Manhattan shop, citing financial reasons.

But Patton wasn’t ready to give up.

“What if I won the dress?” she asked her son.


Bucket list

Patton was determined to have Yakopin’s dress come from Kleinfeld Bridal.

“My husband is terminally ill, so my escape, my happy place, is watching TLC’s ‘Say Yes to the Dress,’” she said. “It puts me in a good mood and makes me forget how hard life can be at times. So my bucket list consisted of going to New York … where they film the show. One of the designers and big part of the show is Randy Fenoli, whom I just adore.”

She wrote Fenoli to ask about an appointment, but then she learned Yakopin and Allen would not be able to afford the dress or the trip, even though Patton planned to help.

However, along with the letter in response to her query from Fenoli’s team, Patton learned he would be giving away a dress via a contest.

“Well, I entered,” she told the Statesboro Herald. “The sweepstakes was through Prizeo and was for a two-night, three-day trip, first-class airfare and hotel included, to New York to Kleinfeld Bridal, a Randy Fenoli wedding dress and a personal fitting by Randy himself. Never did I think I would win. I never win anything.”

When the Aug. 8 drawing date passed, “I figured I didn’t win,” Patton said. “Much to my surprise, on Aug. 12 I got an email from Prizeo stating I won!”

She was ecstatic, she said, “screaming, running around the house, not believing I won.

“I called my son and he laughed, saying, ‘No way!’ So I called Audrey at work and told her. We were all screaming in shock and for joy.”

Yakopin was stunned by the news that her future mother-in-law won the contest.

“I was very surprised she won,” she said in a phone call to the Herald from her home in Wheeling, West Virginia. “She said she entered like 6,000 times. She is a dedicated woman.”

Yakopin said she felt “amazing” when she visited the bridal shop.

“It was incredible! It was awesome and a great experience.”

She is keeping the dress design a secret until their wedding, planned for Sept. 26, 2020, but said “it’s beautiful — nothing I would ever have expected to be able to afford or get on my own.”

Unfortunately, both Patton’s and Yakopin’s schedules prevented them from being able to be taped for the show. Still, they met the designers, Yakopin was fitted for the dress, and they enjoyed the weekend.

“We still got everything as if we were on the show,” Patton said. “It was magical. They were so nice, and the store is beautiful. Smaller than it looks on TV, but the same.”

Yankopin selected her choice from 42 dresses.

“It was a day we will never forget,” Patton said. “The dress should be ready in about six months, and we will go back for the fitting.”

While in New York, they saw a Broadway production of “Phantom of the Opera,” went to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, and dined at the Rare and Fine restaurant.

“While we were there, the prime minister of the Congo came in to eat, so we were surrounded by his bodyguards,” she said. “I had the experience of a lifetime!”


Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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