Bridal Portraits: Everything You Were Afraid to Ask

Bridal Portraits or the Bridal Session is a wonderful Southern tradition that we absolutely can’t get enough of. We love them! And since 50% of us here at Buie Photography are amateur historians, here is a little background:

How it became a thing:

Before photography was invented, we used paintings to help us remember/commemorate special events. But creating a personal portrait was a long and mostly boring process – unless you were the artist – so it was expensive. As such, that option was really only available to the wealthy. And even if you were wealthy it was still something that only happened a couple of times in your life. Since weddings are kind of a big deal, it’s easy to see why bridal portraits were one of the few times the wealthy would spring for the expense.

Eventually this tradition made it’s way across the Atlantic and took root among wealthy Americans. But time marches on! As technology advanced photography became a thing and eventually replaced the traditional portraiture process. By the 1940s it was still fairly expensive, so many families would opt to have a bridal portrait taken rather than photograph the entire wedding. Now, wedding day photography has become the norm, but the bridal portrait session has still remained popular – particularly in the American South. So, basically, by booking a bridal portrait session you are continuing a tradition that was formerly only available to royalty and the societal elite. Yay, you!

When should I schedule my bridal portraits?

The timing of your bridal portraits will revolve almost entirely around your final fitting. Once you find THE DRESS it will need to be altered. Sometimes more than once in order to get the fit just right. You definitely want to know that your dress fits the way it should before you have your portraits made.

It is also a good idea to leave plenty of time before your wedding to allow for weather delays, random reschedules, and ordering canvases for your reception. Oh yeah, a major component of the bridal portrait is ordering prints or canvases to display at your wedding reception. They are also awesome to hang in your new home after the ceremony.

We generally schedule our bridal sessions 4-6 weeks before your wedding day.

Where does my bridal session take place?

You have two basic options: At your wedding venue, or somewhere else.

Most wedding venues will allow you to take your bridal portraits there free of charge if you have booked them for your ceremony or reception. Using the same location can also help your prints and canvases tie-in to your reception. Also, venues usually have dedicated rooms where you can get ready.

However, the wedding venue isn’t always the way to go. Particularly if you have a location with strong emotional or sentimental value in mind. Using a different venue, though there may be fees, can be fun and there are tons of beautiful public places we can go. However, any public location will need to be explored to decide exactly how you will get ready for your shoot.

What should I bring with me? (Part 1)

The two most important things are, in no certain order:

  1.  Everything you plan to wear on your wedding day.
  2.  Friends!*

*”Friends” may be considered to be, but is not limited to: your mother, mother-in-law, step-mother, sister, sister-in-law, step-sister, maid-of-honor, bridesmaids, any family member or friend you’ve ever had, pets.

For #1 remember that the whole idea is to have portraits of you looking exactly like you will look on your wedding day. If you are planning on wearing it, bring it. It’s better safe than sorry, and you can always decide against wearing something later. So, any jewelry, garters, veils, etc you will want to have with you. This includes bouquets too. If you are going the fresh flower route it doesn’t have to be the exact same one – many brides have a faux flower bouquet that looks similar for their bridal portraits.

For #2 it is always a good idea to bring friends to help you get in and out of your dress, adjust your train and veil, etc. And friends make everything more fun anyway!

What else should I bring to my bridal portraits? (Part 2)

  • water
  • bug spray (depending on the time of year)
  • tissues/towel
  • comfy shoes

First, it’s important to stay hydrated. Especially if you are wearing a lot of layers. Trust us, it can get a lot hotter in your dress than you might think. So drink up!

And no one wants to get eaten alive by mosquitos during any kind of photo session, but it really seems so much worse at your bridal session. We can edit out any bumps or red spots, but that won’t stop the itching later.

It’s also always a good idea to have tissues or something to help you blot away any moisture. Whether it is sweat or tears – this can be an emotional thing – you definitely don’t want your makeup to run.

Last, but not least, comfy shoes. We will show case your shoes at your bridal session, but they won’t be visible in every single shot. So, feel free to get comfy. Your feet will thank you later.

Who else should I schedule for my bridal portraits?

Your bridal session isn’t just a way for you to get some amazing photos of you in your wedding dress. It is also a great way to practice for your wedding day. For example, you are definitely going to want to know ahead of time how you are going to look in your wedding day makeup. And this is the time to figure that out. It’s an excellent idea to go ahead and book your makeup artist and hair stylist for your bridal portraits so you can be 100% sure of the look you are going to rock when you say “I do.”

You’ll also want to check with your venue – if you go that route – to make sure they are available on that day.

What do I need to do after my session?

When you get home from your shoot, take notes! Write down everything that you think could have looked better and everything that you loved. Think about how everything flowed. Was getting ready a breeze or was it a struggle? Did you like they way your hair looked in the veil? Was your eyeliner on point? Make a list and then decide how you might like to do things differently on your wedding day.

Next, you will want to get your dress cleaned. We take extra steps to help make sure that your dress doesn’t get dirty during your session, but no matter what you will want to have it cleaned.

And don’t forget to order your canvas! We like to allow 3 weeks for your canvas to come in, just to make sure that we have plenty of time. Again, better safe than sorry.

Bonus tips!

Get plenty of sleep the night before your session! Ain’t nobody got no time for no bags under their eyes!

Let us know ahead of time if you have any special requests. Think: shots you just HAVE TO HAVE – like sunsets or items of sentimental value. Or pets!

Follow your normal beauty routine! This is a big one. If you don’t normally get a spray tan, we HIGHLY recommend you don’t try one out three days before your bridal portraits. The same goes for new hair styles. In fact, we recommend not having your hair cut for at least two weeks prior to your session.

Make a playlist of fun tunes that will help keep you in the moment so you can enjoy every minute!

And lastly, during your shoot, remember to relax and be yourself! This is an amazing time in your life and you should never forget to take the time to enjoy it. Treat yourself!

We hope that helps! Now, let’s get out there and rock those bridal portraits!

If you actually like the history portion of our post, you can learn even more about the history of bridal sessions over at Southern Weddings.

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