Southern Lady of the Year: Lori Allen

Photography by Andy Baxter Photography

Building her business has taken time, persistence, and patience. She tells entrepreneurs just starting out, “Don’t think that you’re going to open the doors and have nine million people.” She believes in being hands on and still assists patrons, a trait she says has contributed to success. “I’m out there. I’m mingling. I listen to what brides say.”

As a child, Lori played dress up in her mother’s bridal gown, often adding her own touches. “They [her family] would get up on Saturday morning and I would have the bridal gown on—with fake flowers—watching cartoons,” she says.

Her aunt June Cottingham also influenced Lori’s career choice. She owned June’s Brides, a wedding business in Birmingham. “She worked really hard. I saw her love of bridal, and she was an inspiration for me in all this,” says Lori, who has always followed fashion trends. But it was her dad who convinced her to major in business at Columbia College, a decision she doesn’t regret. “If you want to go into business you need a business degree, not a fashion degree.”

What makes shopping for a bridal gown so special? “I think this dress shopping experience is not about the dress, even though we show dresses. It’s about the people who you bring that are important to your life agreeing on this next step that you are taking.”

That’s where it gets interesting, especially on TV. There isn’t much Lori, Monte, and their crew haven’t seen—from families fighting on camera to touching moments like a bride in a wheelchair recovering from a car accident and hoping to walk down the aisle with her father and her physical therapist by her side.