Most daughters dream of one day getting engaged to the love of their life and going wedding dress shopping with their moms. For Tiffany Napoli, devastating circumstances led her to take the reverse path.

Sans fiancé or engagement ring, Napoli and her mother recently went wedding dress shopping.

The sophomore teamed up with TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress to provide a day of wedding dress shopping with her mom, Phyllis Darity, who is fighting stage 4 terminal colon cancer.

Darity was given a prognosis of two to six years with chemotherapy and six months without.

“I wanted us to have this moment, just in case I don’t make it,” Darity said, “so we can have mother-daughter moments.”

To make their moment a reality, Darity reached out to Robin Gibbs, bridal manager at Bridals by Lori, home to Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta.

About six weeks ago, Darity stopped in Atlanta with her mother, on their way to Kentucky, to visit Gibbs in her TV-famous bridal store.

Darity explained to her how important it is to see her daughter in a wedding dress while she still has time.

With Gibbs’ mom also suffering from cancer, she related to Darity and invited her and Napoli to her Atlanta store for a once-in-a-lifetime shopping experience.

“[Gibbs and the staff] were so accommodating. They didn’t put a price tag on anything … whatever dress, whatever style … they let us have our moment,” Darity said.

Napoli spent about two hours with her mother roaming the shop and trying on as many dresses as she could.

The event management major said the experience was not only great because she hopes to work with weddings as part of a career, but she knew she might never have this special moment with her mother again.

Rather than mourn on what might never be, Napoli and Darity spent the day embracing positivity and letting out tears of happiness.

“It’s painful to think about why we’re doing this, but it was something to look forward to and be excited about,” Napoli said. “It was a little funky to think about a wedding that wasn’t really happening, but it was definitely more of a happy day and that’s what we were trying to focus on.”

While Napoli was not featured on the show, she had the chance to observe the filming and see the different dress styles with her mom.

Gowns galore, she landed on a dress she really liked and, after adding a veil and sequins, Napoli and her mom shared a special moment.

“You know how moms get that moment where they cry and then their daughter cries and everything is just right in the world? Me and my mom are totally those types of people,” Napoli said.

Darity said a touching moment of the experience was being able to place the veil on her daughter’s head.

“If I’m not here picking a wedding dress with her, she can think back on the time when I was here,” Darity said. “I just want to make sure we had that moment. You always hear girls say ‘I wish my mom was here.’ As a parent, you want to give them everything.”

With new, everlasting memories being made, Napoli still reflects on how her life was before her mom was diagnosed.

Moving to Orlando and enrolling at UCF nearly a year ago, Napoli thought her college goals would just be keeping a high GPA, joining organizations and starting a new chapter in her life.

After finding out about her mom just weeks before starting college, Napoli was faced with obstacles more important than finding the best dorm furniture or getting her course schedule intact.

“I couldn’t really focus on classes,” Napoli said. “Why do I need to sit here and talk about psychology for an hour and half when my mom is back home throwing up her guts from chemo?”

Being an only child and living in a single-parent household, Napoli said all she has is her mother to be that rock in her life.

After a rough and overwhelming beginning, Napoli and Darity have been keeping an optimistic attitude and an even more positive hope for the future.

“I want her to focus on school and keep a positive attitude. I’m trying my best to keep everything together,” Darity said.

Napoli is currently spending the summer back home with her mom in Tampa and will continue classes in the fall, with a foot in the Tri Delta sorority and Fashion Club at UCF.


Marina Guerges is the Editor-in-Chief at the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter @marinaguerges or email her at

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