Airing Fridays on TLC, “Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta” is the Down South version of the hit wedding gown franchise, set at Bridals by Lori in the suburbs of the Georgia city.
When brides need a little extra help, in comes fashion director Monte Ray Durham. The 50-something West Virginia native has worked as a personal shopper, salon owner, stylist and wedding planner.
Now commuting from Alexandria, Va., Durham adds to the show’s distinctly Southern flair. That doesn’t necessarily include the sexier, more revealing styles seen on the original version of the series, set in Kleinfeld’s Bridal in New York.
“A girl in the South would not wear that,” he tells Zap2it. “It’s not that it’s vulgar; it’s disrespectful — disrespectful to your family. And it’s disrespectful to the commitment of the ceremony, whether it be in a church or on a lawn. You ain’t just going out there showing your underwear, young lady. That ain’t happening.
“We in the South are attuned to fashion, but we do mind our Ps & Qs.”
As for those brides who want a dress they can get down in, Durham says, “I tell all girls, at some point. ‘The objective of this gown is to get you married. This is your wedding gown. It’s not your booty-dance dress; it’s not your pole-dancing dress.
“It truly is your wedding dress. Do you feel like a bride? Do you feel like you’re getting married? Because, that’s its first mission.’
“I say to girls, ‘You’re going to stand up in front of God, your family and your friends. You’re going to say, “I’m going to spend the rest of my life with you.” That’s an incredible thing to say to another human being. And the fact that you’ve found somebody you want to say that to – remarkable.’
“So let’s play homage to that a little bit.”
Birthplace: West Virginia
TV cred: Durham worked on the wedding for friend Lori Allen, owner of Bridals by Lori, that was featured on WE: Women’s Entertainment’s “Platinum Weddings.” TLC took a look and decided that Allen, the Atlanta store and Durham were perfect for the “Say Yes to the Dress” spinoff.
Style cred: Durham worked as a personal shopper at Woodworth & Lothrop, studied hair and makeup at London’s College of Fashion, and then went to work at the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa in Tysons Corner, Va., and got involved in working on weddings.
What you didn’t know: He’s an amateur Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis historian.
Favorite book: “My most favorite book was the Sotheby’s auction book on Jackie Kennedy’s personal belongings, because you got a peek into her apartment, a private domain that nobody got to see unless you were personally invited. Today, in a world of social media, I wonder how she would handle herself, but people seemed to respect her privacy.”
Favorite music: “At home, I usually have classical baroque on. Believe it or not, I’m Episcopalian, so I listen to classical baroque, which is very reminiscent of that church music. And on Sundays, I always turn it to bluegrass country so I can listen to bluegrass gospel music.”
Favorite movie: “I’ve got two. Can I list two? ‘The Women.’ It actually is filmed as being inside of Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door salon. It’s all women; there’s no men. Gossiping, divorcing, marrying, cheating. Joan Crawford’s in it, so it’s good. And of course, ‘Gone With the Wind.’ I think it is truly a tale of what could be any woman’s life, regardless of the date and time — and always wanting to have a pretty dress.”