Co-owner Mary Beth Ryfun, left, helps Medina Menozzi try on wedding gowns at Koda Bridal in Mt. Lebanon. Ms. Menozza says she plans to be early for the military brides gown giveaway.
By Margaret Smykla
Like those who are willing to wait hours for concert tickets or door-buster sales, Medina Menozzi has a plan.
"I will be there in the wee hours with boxes of pizza and coffee ... waiting for doors to open at 9 a.m.," she said.
On Nov. 11, the Bridgeville woman wants to be the first to attend the Salute to Soldiers Bridal Giveaway to commemorate Veterans Day at Koda Bridal, a Mt. Lebanon shop that specializes in designer gowns in sizes 16 to 30.
About 40 plus-size bridal gowns will be given away on a first-come, first-served basis to qualifying brides-to-be. The gowns are discontinued samples that were likely tried on by customers but never left the store.
The giveaway is being held in honor of Charles Bruder, the late father of shop's co-owner, Mary Beth Ryfun. He served as a lieutenant commander on a U.S. Navy destroyer.
To be eligible to receive a free gown:
• The bride-to-be must be engaged or have had a civil ceremony and be planning a formal wedding in the next two years;
• The future bride or her fiance must have been deployed in the past five years or have an upcoming deployment;
• The prospective bride must bring a military ID or driver's license and a copy of deployment papers showing time and date of deployment.
The event also will include free makeup tips and hair styling, depending on customer volume, and coupons will be available from wedding day vendors.
Discounts also will be offered on alterations, accessories, bridesmaid dresses and dresses for the mother of the bride or groom.
Each shopper may bring one guest. Advance registration is required online or by visiting the shop at 246 Washington Road.
Ms. Menozzi, 26, is engaged to marry Alec Chebatoris, 25, on April 25, 2015, in Pittsburgh. He is a sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserves in the 340th Engineering Company out of New Kensington and he completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2012.
Last week, while taking an early look at the giveaway racks, Ms. Menozzi found her dream gown: a strapless, full-length Mon Cheri gown in slightly off-white silk with beading on the bodice and a sweetheart neckline.
She was sold after she tried on the dress.
"Regular shops only carry samples in small sizes. It can get very disheartening when you see all these beautiful dresses and can't them get past your hips," she said.
Mrs. Ryfun, 35, of Mt. Lebanon, and her friend Karin Mottey realized the need for a plus-size gown store while the two were shopping for a wedding gown for Mrs. Mottey. The only sizes available for her to try on were 4, 6 or 8.
"We wanted to find something for anyone of any size and shape and have a good wedding experience," said Mrs. Mottey, 32, of Beechview. "You always want to try gowns on, but you are in tears in the dressing room because you can't get it on."
There has to be a better way to do this, the women said to one another.
Months later, on Oct. 1, 2010, the women opened Koda Bridal, carriers of designer brands Forever Yours, Aalia Couture, Mary's and David Tutera for Mon Cheri. Mrs. Mottey also works full time as a financial consultant for PNC Bank.
The two hand-select all of the dresses based on what their customers like and on what they believe flatters the plus-size figure.
The price of wedding gowns ranges from $900 to $1,700; mother-of-the-bride/groom dresses from $200 to $600; and bridesmaids dresses from $150 to $300. Other special occasion dresses are also available.
Smaller sizes can be ordered upon request.
"We want every bride to feel beautiful. We want them to come in, try on and leave in happy tears," Ms. Ryfun said.
Ms. Menozzi said the free gown will help make her dream of a formal wedding come true because the couple is paying for all of the expenses.
"It saves me $1,500 to $2,000 ... anywhere we can save money," she said.