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To me, Lea-Ann Belter Bridal has always been synonymous with classic, Southern charm, and we sure have featured some lovely Southern Lea-Ann Belter brides here. So imagine my surprise when I finally noticed Lea-Ann is based in Toronto! She could have fooled me, and I know any of her gowns would be perfectly at home at your Southern ceremony.

Today I have a fun treat for you! Lea-Ann herself has answered some of our questions about the origins of her business and her advice to brides! It turns out she and I have the same current favorite from her collection (Patrice: seriously stunning) as well as an affinity for red lipstick. We hope you enjoy learning more in today’s Designer Spotlight!

Tell us about the beginnings of Lea-Ann Belter Bridal—why did you want to start a bridal line, and how did you get started? I always knew my future lay in a creative direction — my sketchpad and pencil were almost never far! Textiles and glass have always fascinated me, so I focused on that love as well as fashion through college. Afterward, I trained with a couturier here in Toronto with whom I further developed my eye for impeccable execution and quality. Around that time, my brother became engaged, and his fiancée asked me to create her wedding gown! In doing so, I found it was the perfect expression of my love of fashion, gorgeous fabric, affinity for timeless style, and talent for meticulous execution. Before I knew it, I had opened my first Toronto bridal boutique and was offering the Lea-Ann Belter Bridal Collection to brides in Canada and the USA through a network of retailers. Over twenty-five years later, I’m grateful to be able to continue doing what I love.
Tell us about what y’all offer to brides and gals. I fervently believe that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. When I began designing bridal gowns, I wanted the dresses to celebrate that beauty, rather than overwhelm or obscure. It was equally important to me that my dresses were created in a true couture tradition — made by hand of the finest silks and laces I could find. I’m very proud to say that those things all continue to ring true. As a result, Lea-Ann Belter Bridal gowns offer wedding dresses that complement every body type and personality, as well as strike a true balance of contemporary and timeless style.

What sets Lea-Ann Belter apart from other bridal gown brands? We truly make every gown by hand. Each individual gown is cut, sewn, finished, and pressed all within my Toronto atelier. No dress leaves without a thorough looking-over! That couture approach enables us to create bespoke gowns for our brides. Additionally, we don’t have a finite size chart. Lea-Ann Belter gowns are available in all sizes and are completely customizable.
What is your single best tip for a bride about to start shopping for her wedding gown? Keep an open mind. You may think you want to wear a mermaid gown or that you love lots of beading or lace, but if after trying a few that seem to fit the bill you don’t get butterflies, try something new. That V-neck ball gown with the lace at the hem may be the one! Similarly, don’t let perception drive your choice. What others wear, want you to wear, or say is in fashion are completely secondary to pleasing yourself.

What is your current favorite wedding dress in your collection? An impossible question! I really do love them all. However, I do have daily favorites. At this moment, I am loving Patrice, a gown from my Summer in Provence collection. So many beautiful fabrics and textures make up this dress! Also, she reminds me of a particularly delightful afternoon I spent wandering a charming town in Provence while on holiday.
Do you have a favorite Lea-Ann Belter Bridal memory? Oh my…so many great memories! One of my more recent memories is the move to our current location on Broadview in Toronto. I purchased the building in which my flagship boutique and atelier are now housed, and doing so has always been a great dream of mine. Though moving is pretty dreadful, our first full day was such a proud, happy one for me!

What is the single greatest lesson you’ve learned in business? There are definitely many lessons to be learned when you open and run a business. However, one thing that has proved its worth time and time again is integrity. When you do the right thing and stay true to who you (and your brand) are, it’s a very powerful thing. Hand in hand with this is learning to delegate! It is hard in the beginning to justify enlisting help for various things such as accounting, graphic design, or copy writing when you can do them yourself. However, in order to focus on your strengths (design and production, in my case), you can’t also be running around doing taxes, managing the office, writing dress descriptions, and creating advertising images.
Name three items every gal should have in her closet. A pair of fierce boots that make her feel like a warrior, a timeless pencil skirt, and the perfect red lipstick.

Thank you so much, Lea-Ann!

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This post is brought to you by Lea-Ann Belter Bridal – thanks for your support of the brands that make Southern Weddings possible!

Written with love by Catherine
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    Belles, we have a treat for you today!!

    Early last year, our friends at Southern-staple Lauren James told us a VERY exciting secret: they were working on a one-stop bridesmaid shop for their signature LJ dresses!

    We pretty much started jumping up and down, as nothing could make more sense: Lauren’s dresses are PERFECT for Southern gals, and they’re already being used in weddings around the world! Now, the geniuses at LJ have simply streamlined the shopping and ordering process for your entire bridal party, making it easier to deck your belles in bows on your wedding day. Here’s how:

    Head to the “Made for You” section of the Lauren James site to create an account and set up your own bridal suite. This will be your custom landing page, where you’ll enter information about your wedding and each bridal party member.

    Choose from a wide range of options to assign each bridesmaid a color, fabric (100% cotton or seersucker), and dress style choice. You can give each gal several styles to choose from, or assign one option to everyone. Bridesmaids can order a dress with added length too!

    Once you’ve made all of your selections, the system will send an email to each bridal party member welcoming her to the bridal suite and showing her the style options you’ve chosen with links to shop on the website. From there, each gal can order her outfit of choice directly from Lauren James.

    As the bride, you’ll be able to see who has ordered what, and when, eliminating so many headaches and the hassle of chasing down your girls! Hallelujah!!

    All dresses are made to order in the United States and take up to ten weeks for delivery.

    Genius, right?! You already know Lauren James dresses are the epitome of “wear it again after the wedding,” and now, they’ve made the whole process simple and fun for everyone involved. We could not be more excited to see more LJ bows show up in our real wedding features from here on out!

    To check out the Bridal Suite for yourself and scope out the dresses featured in these photos (the Morgan, Emerson, and Livingston), head to the Lauren James site!

    Photography: Bamber Photography | Venue: Leslie-Alford-Mims House | Hair and makeup: Teighla Norris | Flowers: Amanda Day Rose | Cake: Ashley Cakes

    This post is sponsored by Lauren James. Thanks for your support of the brands who make Southern Weddings possible!

    emily Written with love by Emily
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      Many of us spend our early years toddling around tailgates, cheering in the stands of our favorite Southern college stadiums, and exploring the campus grounds where our parents fell in love. With all this in mind, we thought there was no better choice for our tenth anniversary fashion editorial than one inspired by iconic universities across Dixie. When it comes time to get married, we’re determined to honor what’s most important to us, and in the South, that often includes our beloved alma maters — be it in the flowers in our bouquets, our accessories, or our beloved gowns!

      We had more than one lively conversation around the office as we narrowed down our list of schools and chatted about the attributes embodied by each. While we wish we could have represented all of the great institutions across the South, I’m betting you’ll fall in love with at least one gown here, whether or not your college is represented! (Psst: you’re allowed to covet your rival school’s gown — we won’t tell!)

      We’re so grateful to Blue Ribbon Vendors Anagram Photo for these beautiful images and Teighla Norris for our gals’ hair and makeup. Anna, Graham, and Teighla were such great sports (in addition to being amazing vendors) as we drug them all around Chapel Hill to find the perfect spots for our spirited shoot!

      Haven’t picked up your copy of our newest issue? You can do so in our shop and at stores across the South!

      The University of Alabama: Her first words were “Roll Tide” and her daddy’s old houndstooth fedora was her favorite piece in the dress-up box. Our Alabama bride’s love of magnolias and monograms (which will play a big role in her upcoming big day) was inherited from her mama, and she makes time in her weekly schedule to grab chicken salad sandwiches with her nana and chat about plans for the upcoming home game at Bryant–Denny.

      Emily is wearing Style 9655 by Alvina Valenta. Bouquet by Fairview Farm & Flowers.

      Texas A&M: Living anywhere but deep in the heart of Texas has never crossed our A&M’s bride’s mind. Her cowboy boots outnumber her heels, fitting well with her laid-back style and deep Aggie pride. From Yell Practice on Friday night through an A&M victory on Saturday afternoon, she doesn’t miss any of the football festivities. Her love for her team is only trumped by her love for her favorite Cadet, and she can’t wait to introduce all her non-Texas family to “Howdy,” the official greeting of A&M, at their rehearsal dinner.

      Jessica is wearing “Rose” by Jaclyn Jordan. Bouquet by Wildflowers.

      Clemson: When she’s not cheering on her Tigers in Memorial Stadium, our Clemson bride tries to spend free fall weekends back home on her family farm. As a little girl, she spent summers frolicking in the tall grass and picking vegetables from the family garden and every fall begging her daddy to make bonfires after each Clemson victory. Her family means the world to her and she can’t imagine getting married anywhere else.

      Toogie is wearing “Jolie” by Astrid and Mercedes. Bouquet by Jennifer Wood, The Barn of Chapel Hill at Wild Flora Farm.

      The University of Kentucky: She bleeds Kentucky blue and, from December to March, doesn’t miss a Saturday in Rupp. In her free time our UK bride can be found saddling up her family’s pony, Twirl Girl, for long Sunday afternoon rides in the rolling green hills of her favorite place on earth. If she gets her way, she’ll tuck roses into her bouquet and say her vows next to her family’s barn on the first warm Saturday in the spring.

      Sam is wearing “Londyn” by Hayley Paige from Twirl Lexington. Bouquet by Flowers by Janie.

      Louisiana State University: Purple and gold have been her favorite colors since before she can remember and our LSU bride celebrates her birthday each summer with a big bash in her parents’ backyard. Although she can’t imagine living anywhere but NOLA, she considers Tiger Stadium her home away from home, and helps her mama host the best tailgates in Baton Rouge before every home game. As for her wedding day? She’s planning the most delicious crawfish boil east of the Mississippi.

      Lauren is wearing “Karina” by Rebecca Shoneveld. Bouquet by Narbail Floral Design.

      The University of Mississippi: She’s always smack dab in the middle of the fun and festivities in the Grove during home football game Saturdays. Even though our Ole Miss bride misses her sideline spot cheering for the Rebs, she can still rally the crowds with her spirit and energy from the stands and has big plans for rocking a fantastic topknot and rebel-approved red lip when she says “I do” to her favorite wide receiver-turned-fiancé.

      Carter is wearing “Aster Mae” by Heidi Elnora. Bouquet by Flowers by Cherry.

      The University of Tennessee: Tailgating by the Tennessee River wearing Tennessee Orange is how our UT bride wishes she could spend every single weekend from September to December. Since the home schedule only blocks out seven Saturdays, she spends her open weekends dragging friends hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains (her picnic packing skills rival the best tailgate spreads). She’d always rather be outdoors and plans to tie the knot at one of her favorite lookout spots with a few close family and friends.

      Teighla is wearing “Sullivan” by Sarah Seven. Bouquet by Florafino’s Flower Market.

      The University of Georgia: While she loves spending her fall Saturdays tailgating in Athens and has proudly adopted the most adorable bulldog in the world, our UGA bride relishes the chance to pop back to Atlanta for a night out on the town with her high school girlfriends. Her idea of a perfect evening starts with gourmet fried chicken from JCT’s Kitchen (which she plans to serve at her reception) and ends at her favorite rooftop bar in Midtown. You can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl.

      Bindhu is wearing Style 843 by Martina Liana. Bouquet by Kast Events.

      The University of North Carolina: Be it fall in Kenan Stadium or any winter evening inside the Dean Dome, our Carolina bride never not rooting on her Tar Heels. As a third generation alum, she can hold her own when chatting about the chances of another national title, all while rocking her pearls and dreaming up what she’s bringing to the next neighborhood potluck. Chances are good that she’ll dance the night away with her groom to the classic James Taylor tune “Carolina in My Mind.”

      Taylor is wearing “Bennett” by Anne Barge Blue Willow and Jack Rogers x Draper James sandals. Bouquet by Julie D’Agostino Designs.

      The grounds of the UVA campus still take her breath away, especially when our University of Virginia bride walks past the spot where she met her future husband, back when they were first years. While studying for law school takes up most of her time, she won’t miss a chance to cheer on her Wahoos on Saturdays or explore the numerous Charlottesville vineyards on Sunday afternoons. She can’t wait to marry her first love when the leaves change in mid-October.

      Grace is wearing “Brooke” by Sareh Nouri. Bouquet by Fiore Fine Flowers.

      I’d love to hear which spirited school look is your favorite and whether we did a good job capturing your beloved alma mater!

      Anagram Photo and Teighla Norris are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory. Astrid and Mercedes and Heidi Elnora are wonderful Southern Weddings sponsors.

      kristin Written with love by Kristin
      3 Comments
      1. avatar Stephanie Shaul reply

        The fashion feature is always a favorite of mine, and I love this school-spirited twist!! Y’all did an amazing job of capturing the personalities of each university in every aspect: the stunning bouquets, the unique gowns, and even each bride! And as a proud UNC alum, you know I have to love this feature so much. It’s also so fun to see so many of my favorite spots around campus captured so exquisitely here! Amazing feature + incredible vendor team.

      2. avatar Janna Toruno reply

        Texas A&M may have beaten us this year, but I adore that dress and boots together! I’ve already purchased my wedding boots and haven’t even gone dress shopping yet!

      3. avatar Anna Garcia reply

        I was a 4th generation Carolina bride, got married at the Carolina Inn! And definitely wore my Jack Rogers to the reception where we danced the night away to James Taylor and other campus favorites :)

      Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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