For many years now, Canadians have been watching the U.S. version of "Say Yes To The Dress." The drama, the tears, the intricate gowns -- all just out of our grasp. Those days are done; "Say Yes To The Dress Canada" premieres on W Network on Wednesday, January 7 with back-to-back episodes at 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. ET/PT.
The series features brides from across Canada as they shop for their dream dress with loved ones at Amanda-Lina's Sposa Boutique in Woodbridge, Ontario, just outside of Toronto. For those not in the know, each episode invites viewers to take a journey with the brides-to-be as they face the exhilaration and emotion of saying "Yes!" before they say "I do!" ... and we thought walking down the aisle was the hardest part.
HuffPost Canada TV visited the set of "SYTTDC" in the fall of 2014 (on location at Amanda-Lina's) and chatted with Joseph Spencer, the bridal stylist for the show, along with some of the staff at the bridal shop. This inaugural season promises to be a doozy, filled with emotional stories and touching scenes. Here are some of the more important tidbits of information about the show for all you "SYTTD" fanatics.
Meet Our Own Version Of Randy: Joseph
Fans of the U.S. version are probably familiar with Randy Fenoli, the bridal stylist at Kleinfeld who helps all the brides-to-be pick their gowns. Canada's own Randy is Joseph Spencer (known mostly as "Joseph" on the show), a man with a ridiculous amount of experience in styling -- he's worked at Holt Renfrew, Maynard's, the former Simpsons stores, and his biggest name, Chanel. A self-proclaimed "style fixer," Joseph is warm, lively, and biting when he needs to be. He's also not a quiet fellow. We were told several times to keep the noise level down while chatting.
After making a joke about mother-in-laws' boob jobs ("The attention is supposed to be on your daughter-in-law!"), he settles down and gets real about his new hosting gig.
"I've never been on TV before, so I'm very excited," said Joseph. "For me, it's not about the gown. It's about you and how you feel in it."
Joseph takes his job very seriously, and considers it a personal mission to pair each woman with as beautiful a gown as he can find. Having worked with legends like Bette Midler, Aretha Franklin and Patti Labelle, it's a guarantee that he'll give that haute-couture experience to all the shopping brides-to-be. Just don't expect him to keep his emotions in check.
"I'm really bad with the tears," he said. "When that bride comes up and she's got the perfect thing on, and everyone's crying, you have to cry! It's feelings, and I'm really bad with that, especially if there's sickness or something in the family. The consultant and I, we can be crying as much as the family."
This Isn't The Same As The U.S. "SYTTD"
While the Canadian version of the show follows the same general format as the U.S. iteration, there are two major differences: one, Canadian weddings tend to branch out more in terms of venues and themes. Joseph claims that there are a lot of barn weddings in this country (not a surprise considering our rural citizenship), and some out-there things go on, like getting married on a Sea-Doo, or going up on a parasail wearing your bridal gown. These are all considerations Joseph has to make when tailoring a gown for a picky bride.
The biggest disparity, says Joseph, is budget. "Americans' budget is usually between $3,000 and $15,000. Some are unlimited -- if they've had the boobs done, and the lips done, and everything done, it doesn't matter. They want the best of the best. Yes, the biggest difference is the dollar. Canadians underestimate what they're going to spend on a gown. They should be aiming for anywhere between $1,500 and $2,400. It's not going to be what you want if you're thinking below $1000."
By the sounds of things, we can expect some penny-pinching Canadians to make an appearance.
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Amanda-Lina's Is Home Base
Amanda-Lina's has been a leader in the wedding gown industry since it launched in 1995. Owners Sam and Rachelle Pollari know the bridal business from top to bottom. Sam grew up watching and eventually joining his mother's successful store Lina's, while Rachelle's talent as a seamstress and knowledge of fashion design added the secret ingredient to their success.
The store carries 15 designers -- among them Badgely-Mischka and Cavalli, the most popular brands at the moment -- and a prospective bride can get a dress for as little as $650, even though gowns can go up to a maximum of $12,000. On average, Canadian women spend between $1000 - $3000.
Each year Sam and Rachelle travel the world, sourcing the most exciting new trends in bridal wear for their customers. They develop relationships with leading designers to ensure they carry the most sought-after styles in a price range to suit every bride. With a team of warm, welcoming and experienced bridal consultants, along with talented seamstresses whose attention to detail is bordering on obsessive, the team at Amanda-Lina's one goal is to ensure every bride who walks through the door finds her perfect dress.
Oh, and the boutique has a bell, which is rung to celebrate each and every "YES!" moment.
Aside from Joseph and the Pollaris, there are other new people to get to know on "SYTTDC." There are at least seven bridal consultants working at Amanda-Lina's, and we'll see some in each episode. Dimitra, Christina, Rania, Erika, Lee, Connie and Marcella work alongside Joseph to find the best possible gown.
Marcella joined the Pollaris when they opened the boutique in 1995, and has remained an integral member of the team ever since. With many decades in the bridal industry under her belt, she still loves to make every bride feel like royalty. For Marcella, "like" is not good enough. She'll always ask the bride-to-be: "Do you love it?"
Sooo Many Gowns
The boutique is literally bursting with gowns. At one point, I nearly fell into a pile of puffy white tulle. There are endless dress racks, with an almost ridiculous variety of selections. It's a wonder that any bride-to-be can choose.
It can be hard, that's for sure, confirms Joseph.
"Even though you may want something else, you might not have the right body for it," he said. "I always leave it up to the bride -- it's her decision. But when I see her in the mirror, when she turns around and she looks at it, she can see for herself. I don't really have to make that decision. What I do best is give them the best I can give them for their body."
In terms of the most popular gowns at the moment, Joseph insists that Canadians need to stop being so cheap at the boutique.
"The most basic gown is your fit and flare," he said. "That's for everyone's body, doesn't matter if you're a 2 or a 22. The fashion end is more off-the-shoulder, drop-sleeves, the sweetheart, the illusion trend is really big now too. Boning and everything is most important. A lot of Canadians think you can get a gown for under $1,000. That's fine, but the only thing is if you put in a little bit more, you can get a way better fit on a gown. "
Of Course, A Bit Of Drama
What would a reality show be without a little drama? The U.S. version features walk-outs, freak-outs and plain ol' meltdowns, so can we expect that on the Canadian iteration? You bet (though maybe not to that extreme).
Most of the problems the staff encounters involve the bride having the wrong dress in mind when she comes to the store.
"You will always get those people who want something in their mind, but it's not available to them, or it's really not suited to them," said Joseph. "You have to hear the ins and outs of everything, and try to explain to them why. What we would do is say, 'OK, fine, let her try on whatever it is she has in mind.' When you actually see her, I get a vision, what I can see on her. It's a magical thing when they see the right gown."
Of course, family can add their own spice to the mix.
"You have mothers who don't agree with the bride. Ever. Ever!," laughs Joseph. "Some people can be very cruel to their siblings. But on the whole, everyone is very loving. Sometimes it's just magical."
"Say Yes To The Dress Canada" premieres on Wednesday, January 7 with back-to-back episodes at 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. ET/PT on The W Network.