Southern Lady of the Year: Lori Allen

Lori (right) and her sidekick, fashion director Monte Durham (left) / Photography by Andy Baxter Photography

More than 1 million people watched each episode last year as Lori and her sidekick, fashion director Monte Durham, bantered and helped brides decide: Bling or no bling? Full skirt or straight? White or ivory? And on Bridesmaids, the witty pair elicited agreement between brides and their attendants on age-old questions of length, color, neckline, and more. The new season combines the two shows and is airing this winter, later than usual, after a terrible spill on a tulle bridal train knocked Lori unconscious and halted production.

While she’s still recovering from two shattered wrists, Lori’s cracked ribs and facial injuries have healed, and her attention is fully on the book, due for release this summer. Written for women beyond their child-bearing years, it broaches a variety of topics, from being a mother-in-law and caring for aging parents to maintaining friendships and achieving goals. “It’s about motivating ourselves, and if we haven’t found our passion, finding our passion, and aging with sass and class,” says Lori, recently honored as Southern Lady magazine’s Southern Lady of the Year.

Photography by Andy Baxter Photography

Woven throughout her book are Lori’s experiences as a daughter, wife, mother, and businesswoman. Bridals by Lori, the 25,000-square-foot mecca of Southern wedding salons, has such a worldwide reputation that even a Russian princess has shopped there. Because of its size and popularity, the TLC network contacted Lori in 2008 about expanding their already popular Say Yes to the Dress show based in New York.

Early in her career, Lori envisioned making shopping for a wedding dress a special experience rather than just a day at the mall. As Bridals by Lori expanded in the 1990s, she saw that people were willing to travel to a destination salon. “It’s not something you buy off the internet. This is a something—a touch, a feel, and a connection with a dress.