Say to Alexandria Resident Monte Durham BY MARY ANN BARTON
When TV viewers tune in to watch “Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta” on TLC, a show that features brides (and their entourages) seeking the perfect wedding dress, they likely think the slender Southern gentleman with the wry comments and snappy chemistry is an Atlanta resident. A West Virginia native, Monte Durham, 62, has made his home in the Alexandria area for many years (he’s a runner and a cyclist so be on the lookout for him when you’re out and about). We recently spoke with Durham as he was preparing to chair the American Horticultural Society’s 25th anniversary gala this fall at its headquarters at River Farm on the banks of the Potomac River between the City of Alexandria and Mount Vernon.
alexandrialivingmagazine.com • November / December 2018
Monte Durham poses for a photo with a replica of Jackie Kennedy’s wedding gown
You’re the honorary chair of the AHS gala this year. Are you a gardener yourself?
I grew up in West Virginia on a farm. We grew up gardening vegetables and food, not necessarily flowers. Here at home, at the house, we do garden. I have an affection for dahlias. That’s what I tend to take care of. River Farm is a great place for weddings. Can you tell our readers how you became an authority on brides?
I started out my career as a personal shopper at Woodward & Lothrop. I worked mainly out of the Landmark store. Women would come in and say two things to me: They had a hard time finding a good tailor or they had a hard time doing the hair the way they wanted. I thought, ‘I can’t sew but I probably can learn to do hair.’ I went back to school, Graham Webb International in Arlington and took an advanced course in London and finished my degree there. I came back and landed a job at Elizabeth Arden at Fairfax Square. Not all hairdressers like dealing with brides. They don’t teach you to do up-dos. Up-dos are something I could do without a problem. All a sudden word’s out: Priscilla of Boston started sending all their brides to me. Then I started helping customers with bridal gowns, make-up and accessories. Then, Washingtonian wrote