While Weehawkenite Stella Aronis and her sister Jackie were perusing the Kleinfeld’s bridal website a few months ago, they came upon an ad in the top left corner asking future brides to sign up for TLC’s reality television show, “Say Yes to the Dress.”
“Come on. Click it,” Jackie told her sister. “You won’t get picked anyway.”
So Aronis clicked it. Buying in to her sister’s understandable cynicism, she proceeded to answer 90 questions with her trademark sarcastic style, taking none of them too seriously. For instance, what’s your bridal style?
“Bridal style? What is that?” Aronis wondered, and so she wrote something to the extent of “Well, I really don’t like my arms. I think everyone expects me to show up in a muumuu.”
“If you open that box up and water shoots in my face, I will kill you.” – Stella Aronis
Four days later, Aronis received a call from a woman named Lisa who claimed she was from TLC who asked her if she wanted to be on the show.
“Jackie, stop it,” Aronis answered. “I’m busy. I have stuff to do.”
The woman on the other line insisted that, first of all, she had no idea who Jackie was, and second, she wanted Aronis to be on the show. She agreed to do it, but was still skeptical.
“Part of me still thought it was Jackie,” Aronis explained. “We’ve played these kinds of jokes on each other all our lives, and I was afraid that when I went to my parents’ house that night with my sister and told them about the show, they’d say, ‘Oh, look at this princess thinking she’s going to be a star!’ ”
Turns out it wasn’t a joke, and on June 15, she and her big Greek family picked out her wedding dress at Kleinfeld Bridal in front of an audience of thousands.
Girl meets boy
Rewind to 2008 to a nightclub called Central in Astoria on a busy Saturday night: Aronis was working and the place was packed. Suddenly a man approached her, and without so much as a hello, he said, “Your picture is hanging in my living room.”
Aronis’ mind immediately flashed with worst case scenario horror scenes reminiscent of Jeffrey Dahmer as she turned on her heels and told the bouncer to keep an eye on the drunk boy.
But the man approached again.
“I can’t believe I’m going to die in Central,” Aronis thought. “Is this a good dying outfit?”
Fortunately, though her outfit was bad for dying, it was in fact good for meeting the man she would marry four years later.
It turned out that Alex Stefanakis’ sister Angela had been in a Greek beauty pageant with Aronis in 2003. A photo of the two women alongside New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg hung in Stefanakis’ living room, which is how he recognized his future bride.
“What are the odds of this happening?” Aronis asked. “Whenever things get hairy, I know we’ll stick it out and fight for this forever, because after that we have no choice.”
The more one learns about Aronis, the more one understands why TLC would have selected her to be on television, because her life reads like a well-crafted and highly entertaining movie script. The story of her proposal is no exception.
One late Wednesday evening, as Aronis was in her pajamas ready to sleep in preparation for work the next day, Stefanakis came home and suggested they go out for a drink.
“I’ve got no makeup on, and I’m not putting on shoes,” she told him. “There’s wine in the fridge, pour yourself a glass, and watch some television.” It was when he glared at her and demanded she get dressed that she began to fear she may be living with a raging alcoholic.
He took Aronis to the Chart House, which was practically empty, and quite fancy for a late-night beverage, she thought. When he got down on one knee, Aronis demanded he get up.
That may seem a bit harsh, perhaps, except for the fact that Stefanakis had mock-proposed to her hundreds of times before, including once in the middle of Times Square. After she proceeded to have a heart attack, he said casually, “Oh, my shoe’s untied.”
That night he took out the ring box. “I swear to god, if you open that box up and water shoots in my face, I will kill you,” she said.
But the box did not shoot water, and she began crying and “being all girly,” she added.
The two plan to marry in November.
For more information on “Say Yes to the Dress,” visit tlc.howstuffworks.com/tv/say-yes-to-the-dress.
Gennarose Pope may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org