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Tactile wedding dress lets blind groom ‘feel’ how his bride ‘looked’

Anthony and Kelly Anne Ferraro, newly married.
Photo: David Gannon Photography

For most brides, the wedding dress is an integral part of their wedding – this couldn’t have been more true for Kelly Anne who wed Anthony this month.

Anthony, a blind athlete, musician, and motivational speaker who is training to compete in judo at the 2024 Paralympics in Paris, travels regularly for competitions and gigs.

Kelly Anne, who works in tech, accompanied him on trips while working remotely. Their love grew as they experienced the world together, through their own perspectives.

“I started noticing when I traveled with her, life started to change in a big way for me,” Anthony told Insider. “I started seeing the world in a way I’ve never seen it. She would take the extra time to stop and slow down and take in every part of a landscape or a structure or something with me, and she would even close her eyes and try to feel it the way I would. And then, I would explain it to her, how I would see it, with my senses. She would fill in all the visual gaps for me and explain it in perfect detail.”

For their I do’s in Maine, USA, Kelly Anne wore a tactile wedding dress so Anthony could ‘feel’ how she looked.

“I always like wearing nicer fabrics and stuff because it feels nicer, and that makes me feel I look good,” he said. “If I’m wearing something that doesn’t have a nice texture of fabric, even if you tell me I look great in it, it doesn’t feel good to me.”

Kelly Anne partnered with Loulette Bridal, a sustainable bridal boutique in Brooklyn, New York, to create a dress with lots of textures.

“She has this whole vision for a tactile wedding dress with nice textures like velvet and silk,” Anthony said. “She didn’t know exactly what she wanted, but she knew it had to be tactile and very different in that sense. And she tried on a bunch of dresses there. She said when she put that one on, she just started crying.”

Kelly Anne kept the special dress a secret from Anthony so that he could be surprised on their wedding day.

“I wasn’t allowed to know anything about it,” he said. “I even went with her to pick it up in Brooklyn, but I wasn’t allowed to go in with her. I had to wait in the car.”

The dress was made of velvet and silk and featured delicate lace flowers and an open back with tassel ties.

“Her back was showing through the back of it, so that’s another texture,” he said. “It just fit her like a glove.”

She also wore a custom-made velvet jacket with fringe — a nod to their first date.

In 2017, Anthony invited Kelly Anne to the premiere of his documentary, “A Shot in the Dark,” as their first date. She wore a velvet dress.

For their wedding, Kelly Anne wore a fringed velvet jacket over her wedding dress as a throwback to the start of their love story.

“I literally couldn’t stop playing with the fringe,” he said. “It was the most amazing feeling, rubbing it back and forth, and rubbing her back with the velvet. It’s so nostalgic and so beautiful. Those textures made me able to visualize Kelly perfectly in my head.”

“I just started tearing up because I see with my hands — with all my other senses, but especially my touch,” Anthony said. “It blew me away.”

“The second she got to me, it was incredible,” he said. “She had a velvet strip around it and all this silk, and this beautiful fringe, and lace — all these materials. And it wasn’t weird textures. It was beautiful, tactile, pleasing, sensory.”

The couple also decorated the tent poles with bubble wrap and flowers so that Anthony wouldn’t hit his head. The day before, when setting up the tables and chairs, Anthony smacked his head twice on what he jokingly called the tent’s “death poles”. Kelly Anne wanted to ensure he could walk around safely on their special day.

“The day of the rehearsal, we go there and she’s like, ‘I have a surprise for you.’ They all went out of their way and wrapped the poles in bubble wrap, and then wrapped them with burlap and put flowers around them to make it look all pretty,” he said. “Everyone thought it was a decoration the day of the wedding, but it was really just to help me not hit my head.”

The couple also gave their guests eye masks to urge them to enjoy the wedding using their other senses.

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