- Associated Press - Saturday, January 25, 2020

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) - A Shreveport couple made their dreams come true and said “I do” on the hit wedding series, “Say Yes to the Dress America.”

TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress America” premiered in January and airs at 7 p.m. Saturdays. The series’ cast is made of one couple representing each state, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.

Michaela Smith and Emmanuel Abodoh were selected to represent Louisiana. The bride was thrilled to have an opportunity to show off her Southern Belle charms to audiences across America and find her fairy tale gown.

“I kind of knew what I wanted. I knew I wanted something that was big,” she said. “I wanted a bell-ish dress because I think of myself as a Southern Belle. I wanted something that would make me feel as if I was at home in Louisiana getting married.”

The 10-part series features 52 couples whose brides were invited on an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City to shop for their wedding dresses at Kleinfeld Bridal. The brides were assisted by a consultant during a private shopping event then gifted the dress of their choice.

“When we got to Kleinfeld I couldn’t believe it,” Michaela Abodoh said. “This is what you watch on TV and I’m really in here. It’s so beautiful. So many dresses everywhere… It was a happy feeling. I really didn’t feel overwhelmed, I was just super excited to be in that moment.”

The bride was accompanied by her mother and sister while shopping at the world-renowned wedding salon while her fiance had to wait until the ceremony to see which dress earned a ”yes.”

Over the course of the “Say Yes to the Dress America” season, viewers are taken into the private dress shopping sessions and may witness what happened as the couples navigated New York City. It all leads up to the 52 couples participating in a group wedding officiated by the show’s host/bridal designer, Randy Fenoli, in Central Park, which will be shown on the two-hour season finale, airing 7 p.m. March 14.

Preparing 52 brides to walk down the aisle at one time left the grooms waiting for longer than anticipated, but it was well worth the wait, Emmanuel Abodoh said.

“We run past time and it was hot that day so we’re all in three-piece black suits standing in Central Park waiting for the brides to come,” he said. “I’m here sweating and ready for this to be done but all that went away when we saw them walk into the park. I saw this big ole beautiful dress and I’m like, ‘That has to be my bride right there.’ At that point, it became a lot of excitement and feeling overjoyed and (being) ready to say ‘I do’ and kiss your bride. It was a fun experience.”

The “Say Yes to the Dress America” team who collaborated to make a wedding experience unlike any other included Fenoli, bridal designer Hayley Paige, Cake Boss’s Buddy Valastro, Emmy Award-winning host and style expert Lilliana Vazquez, and fashion industry veteran Joe Zee.

The Abodohs have had a whirlwind wedding season having not one, but two wedding ceremonies in the past several months. Not only were they married for the television program but they had a private wedding for family and friends in Little Elm, Texas - a location selected because of its central destination for guests traveling in for their big day.

However, their love story began years ago.

Michaela Abodoh is a Woodlawn High School graduate with roots in Minden and Shreveport. She met her husband, of the Los Angeles area, while attending pharmacy school in Chicago in 2013. The pair began dating the next year and were engaged on May 10, 2017.

They both are career community pharmacists and live in Shreveport.

While planning the wedding Michaela Abodoh dreamed of being on “Say Yes to the Dress.” She was an avid watcher of the show but figured her chances of making the cut were slim.

She received multiple signs and encouragement from her mother leading her to apply to the TLC program. The couple was celebrating Emmanuel’s birthday in Mexico when they received word that they had been cast for the series’ special season of “Say Yes to the Dress America.” The news added to the excitement of the birthday trip.

“There was lots of screaming on her part,” Emmanuel Abodoh said.

Being selected for the show further strengthened Michaela’s faith and belief in following the signs.

“It was everything that I could’ve dreamt of. I could’ve never imagined it. It was great,” she said. “I would encourage other people to try. You never know what’s for you. Anything that’s for you is always for you. You should make it special. If you feel this is what you want to do, jump out and do it.”

Traveling to New York City from Louisiana is an experience that they are unlikely ever to forget. In addition to gaining a stunning dress and wedding and reception, the couple returned from the television excursion with new friends in tow.

“The experience was great,” Emmanuel Abodoh said. “It was fun talking to some of the guys and meeting people from different parts of the country that I’ve never visited-Idaho, North Dakota, Connecticut, Maine.”

As the Adobohs embark as newlyweds, they have made other long lasting relationships with fellow brides and grooms they met on the show.

“It’s really like we made a community,” Michaela Abodoh said. “All of the girls still talk to each other. We’re all Facebook friends and have our own private group where we talk to each other. We keep in touch and let each other know about each other’s (personal) weddings. Some people visited other brides and grooms at their personal weddings. We’re getting ready to plan a trip with a couple of the couples. (We were) able to create a new family of friends.”

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