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It’s safe to say that when it comes to hospitality, Southerners have a knack for taking things up a notch! One of my very favorite memories from Bridal Market last year was when Alabama-based designer Heidi Elnora invited Kristin and I to see her new collection. Instead of seating us at a runway show, she had us over at the AirBNB she and her team were staying in for the week, offered us PB&J sandwiches and M&Ms, and let us spend as much time as we wanted admiring each and every gown. After days of running around the city in our highest heels, it was such a breath of fresh air to experience such gracious Southern hospitality! This is one of SO many reasons we were thrilled to learn about Heidi’s latest and greatest project: the heidi elnora Atelier, located right in the heart of Birmingham. She poured her heart into turning this downtown warehouse into the ultimate destination for brides, and I’m completely confident that any gal would feel comfortable and confident while dress shopping at the gorgeous space she created!

Tell us about the beginnings of the heidi elnora Atelier—why did you want to open the atelier, and how did you get started?
Heidi:
Ever since I started heidi elnora 10 years ago, I have dreamed of owning my own building. It was one of the many items on my bucket list. Last summer, after my reality show aired on TLC, I decided to start looking for a permanent place to set up shop. Lo and behold, there she was, an empty brick box that was built in 1891 on the most perfect cobblestone street, Morris Avenue, in downtown Birmingham, Alabama. I immediately contacted my husband and my real estate agent, and within a few days, we were under contract!

Tell us about the renovation process! How did you find the space and transform it to fit your vision?
Heidi:
I basically bought an 8,000 sq. ft. empty box (no plumbing, electrical or HVAC), but to me, it was the perfect canvas to begin creating my atelier. I basically became a general contractor for seven months, making sure that every wall, plug, paint color, and detail was perfection. I would literally be at the building every morning to discuss the daily plans with my builder, and every night, I was on Pinterest and Houzz, pulling ideas and additional details together. The majority of the goods used in the building were sourced locally from wood mills, iron workers, local artisans, and even a rock quarry from Alabama for a specific local marble for the mini bar in the bridal suites. (Yep, we have a mini bar in the bridal suites–you never know when you need to celebrate with rosé!)

Just for fun, here are a few before pictures!

Tell us about what y’all offer to brides and gals.
Heidi:
We offer everything, from our 70+ wedding gowns from our three collections (heidi elnora, Build-a-Bride, and Hello Darling), to creating a couture gown from scratch (brides fly in from all over the country for this), to buying your bridal lingerie (For Love and Lemons), wedding shoes (Harriet Wilde and Badgley Mischka), veils, accessories, garters, rehearsal dinner dresses, and bridesmaid and hostess gifts. The heidi elnora Atelier can dress you from head to toe and everywhere in between!

What sets the heidi elnora Atelier experience apart from other bridal salons?
Heidi:
What sets the heidi elnora Atelier apart from other bridal salons is that I took the BEST pieces and practices from all the stores that I sell to or have visited and incorporated them into the atelier, creating the ULTIMATE bridal experience. I call the atelier the “Barbie dream bridal boutique” because it is just that–it’s EVERYTHING!

What is your single best tip for a bride about to start shopping for her wedding gown?
Heidi:
Stay true to who you are. Do not allow friends, family, or a bridal stylist to persuade you into wearing something that doesn’t make your heart smile. You have to LOVE your dress…almost as much as you love your fiancé :)

Do you have a favorite memory of the heidi elnora Atelier?
Heidi:
It’s probably people’s expressions when they see it for the first time. It’s truly lovely–all 8,000 sq. ft. of it.

What is your current favorite wedding dress in the store? If you were to get married tomorrow, what dress would you wear?
Heidi:
I would probably have to go with one of the dresses from my Hello Darling line. They are more relaxed in terms of fitm and very lightweight. They are light-hearted and full of whimsy, and that is where I am now being a mother of two little boys.

What is your favorite memory from your own wedding day?
Heidi:
Seeing my sweet fiancé/now-husband, Jeff, at the end of the aisle, and knowing that I was getting to spend the rest of my life with him.

What is the single greatest lesson you’ve learned in business?
Heidi:
That God has got this. All of my worrying does nothing to move things faster, or make things happen more efficiently.

Name three items every gal should have in her closet.
Heidi:
A great pair of comfy black jeans with the knees cut out, a chandelier, and an organized shoe closet with lots of year-round boots.

Thank you so much, Heidi! Be sure to follow along with her and her gorgeous atelier here:

Website | Atelier website | Facebook | Twitter | Heidi’s Instagram | heidi elnora Atelier Instagram

This post is brought to you by heidi elnora Atelier–thanks for your support of the brands that make Southern Weddings possible!

lisa Written with love by Lisa
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    I’ve always thought there was something so magical about winter weddings–the rich colors, the crispness in the air that makes the bride and groom cuddle a little closer during their portraits, and the coziness of the guests enjoying a meal together at the reception. With Christmas just a few short days away, we are delighted to share Allison and Blake’s Memphis wedding, which epitomizes each of these qualities so beautifully! After a memorable first look, this sweet couple was married by Blake’s father in the church Allison grew up attending–the sweetest blending of their families and histories.

    We’re so glad the talented Annabella Charles was on hand to capture this lovely day, and then share it with us!

    Tell us about finding your wedding dress. I knew I wanted to get my wedding dress at Ivory and White in Birmingham before Blake and I were even dating. It is the most gorgeous wedding boutique in town, and my best friend had recently gotten her dress there. I knew I wanted something all lace, but was not sure of the fit I was looking for. The dress I chose was the first one I tried on. The sweet girls at the shop knew what would work for me and they nailed it on the first try. I fell in love with my Liancarlo gown and felt so beautiful in it!

    We did a first look because of the time that the sun sets this time of year. We wanted outdoor pictures, but with our evening ceremony, there was no way we could have gotten pictures outside afterwards. Blake and I loved seeing each other before the ceremony and having a moment to ourselves to really soak in the day together before it got crazy. It also took away some of our nerves and made it easier to really be present and take in every moment throughout the rest of the day.

    Our favorite detail of the wedding was: We loved having so many of our close friends as a part of the wedding. There are so many important people in our lives and we loved being able to incorporate everyone. It is unforgettable to have people you love surrounding you on a day like this!

    What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? Our ceremony was held at First Evangelical Church, which is where I grew up going to church with my family. It is the kind of church you drive up to each Sunday and just imagine getting married there. I love its beautiful white columns and red brick, and the way the sun sets over it as evening approaches. The reception was held at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens because of their gorgeous grounds. We wanted to an outdoor feel for the reception, but knew that it would be chilly on a late November night. The Dixon was perfect, thanks to its indoor pavilion and outdoor terrace that we tented.

    Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. We fell in love with a version of “All Creatures of Our God and King” by the Chetta Strings, but we couldn’t find the sheet music anywhere. Blake went out on a limb and tried to contact the group, and he found out that it was an old family strings ensemble that doesn’t play together anymore. However, one of the daughters who wrote the original music (and could no longer find it) was kind enough to recompose it for our string quartet. Walking down the aisle with my dad and towards Blake with this song playing was such a vivid moment–this song will always be our “wedding song.” We also had some friends lead the congregation in singing my favorite hymn, “Come Thou Fount,” during the ceremony.

    We used magnolia leaves as a garland on the entryway at the reception and as a runner on the head table. Magnolia trees are my favorite, and Steel Magnolias is my all-time favorite movie–my mom, maid of honor, and I made sure to watch it the week of the wedding! We also used Blake’s family’s traditional bride and groom cake topper on our cake table. This has been in their family weddings since the 60s’s! Memphis is a soulful, Southern city, so we had a band that represented that in the music they played. They were a blast, and ended the night with a bang, playing “Rolling on the River.” They had everyone singing and dancing along. There was no better way to end the night!

    Describe your wedding cake or dessert. The wedding cake was a simple, four-tiered cake with creamy white buttercream frosting whipped on in a free-flowing, natural design. Our baker called the look “wave after wave.” The groom’s cakes were a variety of bundt cakes. We chose a seasonal pumpkin spice flavor, along with classic favorites, including red velvet and white chocolate raspberry. They were a definite crowd pleaser!

    How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Blake and I are both from Memphis, went to the same high school, and then both went to Samford for college. However, since we are five years apart, we didn’t meet until about two years ago in Birmingham, Alabama, when we were both in grad school. The first time I saw him was at a Super Bowl party with a bunch of church friends. We met and talked a little that night, and not long after that, Blake asked me out. We instantly hit it off and he totally spoiled me at the best Birmingham restaurants and lots of time outside, hiking, running and biking together. We were long distance for eight months when I moved to Dallas for work, and became professionals at letter writing and Facetime.
    Tell us all about the proposal! Blake sneakily asked my dad to fly me home for Easter to have “family time,” all the while plotting his big surprise. The day before Easter, Blake took me to my favorite park, where I had grown up running cross country, so we could throw a frisbee and hang out. As we were walking toward a familiar running trail, I noticed a dock decked out in flowers. I remarked, “Blake, look at that!” and by his expression, I realized that it was for me. He proposed on the dock, I excitedly said yes (!!), he took me to Paulette’s for supper, and then, he led me to a big surprise party at his parents’ house, where all my best friends and family were waiting for us! It was the perfect day, full of beautiful surprises.
    When did y’all get married? November 22, 2014
    How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 300
    Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? No, we did not write our own vows. Blake’s dad was a pastor in Memphis and he actually married us, which was incredibly special. We used his traditional vows. Blake and I both loved saying those words to each other and committing ourselves in the covenant of marriage.
    What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? Colossians 1:15-23 and Ephesians 5:22-33 were read during the ceremony by two of our good friends. These verses mean a lot to us concerning marriage and what that is supposed to look like.
    Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! I borrowed my mom’s garter she had worn in her wedding. My maid of honor gave me a vintage handkerchief with blue flowers embroidered on it, which I carried around my bouquet, and an antique gold pearl pin that I wore pinned inside my dress My something new was my dress, earrings, and shoes.
    What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Enjoy as much of the planning process as you can! It goes by too fast and you want to look back and remember the excitement and fun you had planning, not being overcome with stress. Also, when people offer to help, let them! It will be a blessing to both you and them. You will be surprised by the number of people who would love to help in any way for your special day.
    What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? We are loving living married like in Dallas!

    Photographer: Annabella Charles / Ceremony Venue: First Evangelical Church / Reception Venue: The Dixon Gallery and Gardens / Wedding Cake: Whole Foods / Bundt Cakes: Nothing Bundt Cakes / Caterer: Humdinger’s / Band: The Dantones / Paper Products: Marydeaton Heldman / Bride’s Gown: Liancarlo / Bridal Salon: Ivory and White

    lisa Written with love by Lisa
    9 Comments
    1. avatar Annabella Charles reply

      xoxox Thank you for the beautiful post

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      Where did you find those flower girl dresses! They are beautiful!

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    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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