Bridal portrait sessions are a Southern tradition where the bride takes portraits (typically 1-2 months before the wedding) in her full wedding day attire – hair, makeup, jewelry, veil, bouquet, and of course, the dress. Generally a large portrait from the session is displayed at the reception near the wedding cake. In many cases the large photo is given as a gift to the Mother of the Bride after the wedding, with smaller photos being given to the Groom and the Father of the Bride, as well.
Not only is a bridal session one of the few times that a woman gets to get primped and polished and take gorgeous portraits of herself, but it’s also a great trial run for the wedding day look. The majority of brides who shoot with me end up changing something about their wedding day look after the bridal session. Maybe they realized the dress was too big, or the shoes gave her blisters, or the eye makeup was too intense, or the hair kept falling in her eyes and annoying her, or the hydrangeas in the bouquet wilted and browned in the sun. Each time, the bride was able to make adjustments BEFORE the wedding day. After all, most brides do a trial run of hair and makeup anyway – at least put that beauty to good use!
Once you’ve decided to do your bridal session, there are a few things that will help to ease the process and make the experience smoother and less stressful for everyone involved.
DO accept that your dress will get dirty. Not rolling-in-the-mud, rips-up-the-side dirty, but yes, the hem will get a little dusty. Even with dropcloths, tarps, and towels to try and protect it, it’s inevitable that the hem will get a bit dingey. Accept this, embrace it, and add time in your schedule for a dress cleaning before the wedding.
DON’T do your hair, makeup, or flowers yourself (unless you also plan to do that for your wedding day). Half of the point of a bridal session is to test out your wedding day look, so make sure that the same people who will be doing your wedding day hair, makeup, and flowers will also be a part of your bridal session.
DO bring a sister, bridesmaid, or friend to help you during your session. Every regal woman needs a lady in waiting to fluff their train, fetch them water, and help them up and down stairs, and you my dear are no different!
DON’T bring your mother. This is a controversial one, I know. Moms are the most wonderful people in the world, but most of them are also biologically incapable of attending a bridal session without fussing and fretting and driving you absolutely loony worrying about each and every tiny thread of fabric on that dress and strand of hair on your head. I’ve seen countless moms and daughters get into arguments during their bridal session because the moms were overly opinionated, and that stress and irritation came through on the bride’s face in the photos. If you desperately want your mom there, then by all means bring her – but it’s not something I generally recommend.
DO eat a good, solid meal before your session, and bring some cold water bottles and a bag of healthy snacks such as fruit or granola bars. This is especially important. You probably won’t be hungry on the day of your session, but it is VERY important that you eat a good, big meal and bring water and snacks regardless. Modeling is hard work, doubly hard when you’re doing it in a heavy, thick dress outside in the sun. Fainting during sessions is common, so avoid that by taking care of yourself on the day of.
DON’T try to “tough it out” if something feels wrong during a session. If you feel like your veil is off, or you start to feel lightheaded, or the poses just aren’t “you,” please please please SAY SOMETHING. This is YOUR session, and you make the rules. Communicate with me, let me know how you’re feeling and what you want, because the most important thing to me is making sure that you enjoy the experience as well as the end result.
DO bring props, if that’s your thing. Some girls like to include their pets in their session, or perhaps an item that is special to their fiancé, or some beautiful vintage headpiece or parasol, or a few fun pairs of shoes. If you want to mix it up a little bit, go for it!
DON’T obsess over the location. A good location can be helpful, but it’s not the be-all-end-all of how your photos will turn out. In most sessions, you can’t even tell where the location was from looking at the images. I recommend considering the feeling and atmosphere you want – soft, romantic, traditional, urban, outdoorsy, rustic, sophisticated, etc – and choosing a location based on that. If you’re not sure what to do, come talk to me and we’ll find the perfect setting together.
DO consider your bridal session when purchasing your dress and having alterations done. Most dresses take 6-8 months to come in once purchased, and then require another 1-2 months for alterations. Ideally your dress should be finished and ready to go no later than two months before your wedding, which will give you time to do your bridal session (and reschedule it, if bad weather pops up), get the dress cleaned, and have any final alterations done.
DON’T shoot during the extreme weather months – Extreme heat or cold can really put a damper on your session and make you miserable. If possible, aim for Spring, early Summer, or Autumn for your bridal portraits. Also, wind and rain can make it nearly impossible to shoot, so be prepared to be flexible and reschedule if necessary.
If you have questions about your bridal session or want to get one scheduled, please contact me!