The new TLC show “Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta” held a rollicking party Thursday night at 200 Peachtree, the new catering space in the old Macy’s downtown.
The gathering, whose cost is split among TLC, Brides Atlanta, and Bridals By Lori, celebrated the show’s debut tonight at 9:30 p.m. It drew more than 900 people, a range of friends and family, customers and vendors. There was a separate room so folks could watch the show, which aired every 30 minutes.
The first episode’s emotional highlight came when one of the brides said she knew her recently deceased grandfather would have loved the dress she picked.
Photographer Christy Rhea of Digital Memories by Christy from Newnan wiped away tears from her face moments after one screening ended. “I cried when she mentioned her grandmother,” she said. “But I cry over anything.”
A group of women overheard her say that and one said, “We’ve all been crying too!”
I caught Anthony Williams, the recent “Project Runway’ contestant right before he left. Ironically, the new season of “Project Runway” was on at the time. Here he is with cake designer and “Runway” fan Anna Harkness, of Sweet Sensations.
And models Bonnie Adams (wearing Waters & Waters) and Kasey Geoghagan (Lazaro) don wedding dresses for the occasion albeit neither are married.
The show taped more than 90 couples, of which only about 24 will make it on air, Allen said in an interview last week. About a dozen weddings will be shown, too. “They traveled everywhere,” Allen said. “The Bahamas. Charleston. Savannah.”
Allen opened Bridals by Lori in a 1,000-square foot space in 1980. She moved to a 3,500 square foot space, then 7,500 square feet. A decade ago, she moved to her current spot, with 25,000 square feet off Hammond Drive and Roswell Road. Her staff talks to 10,000 brides a year (though not all of them ultimately purchase dresses from Bridals by Lori.)
“I really have a passion for what I do,” Allen said. “I don’t think a lot of people after 30 years can say they love what they do. I really do. I really enjoy waiting on brides trying to help them find the dress of their dreams.”
She has a knack for grappling with the stresses of the brides. “Call me Dr. Allen,” she joked. “There’s crying in here every day. Sometimes it’s stress. Sometimes it’s happy tears when they find the right dress. There are boxes of tissue everywhere. We have a big budget for that.”
The show captures that moment when a bride finds that dress.
Her store is high end but has more than 1,000 dresses to choose from. People frequently spend $5,000 to $15,000 for the dress and accessories. Most come in with a budget. About half break that budget, she said.
Her show is different than the original “Say Yes to the Dress” since it has a Southern feel. This means, she said, tradition is much more important. Family members carry a lot of sway, especially moms and grandmothers. You’ll see that in tonight’s episode in spades.
“A lot of brides have been dreaming about this since they were five,” Allen said. “They bought wedding books when they were 15. That’s a girl in the South.” They come in educated about what they want. “99 percent of the time I’ll have what they want or close to it,” she noted. “Else, we can do a custom job.”
North South Productions spent three weeks re-fitting her store to accommodate the cameras. One major difference: hundreds of extra lights. They also commandeered a room for interviews. But otherwise, Allen said the impact on her and her staff was minimal. This is not a show which requires frequent “retakes” like “The Hills” or “Real Housewives of Atlanta.” It’s much more cinema verite.
If a customer does not want to be filmed, the camera folks can easily avoid them in such a big store. But most people were fine with it, she said.