Most of our brides choose to have bridal portraits taken before their actual wedding day. It is a southern tradition that people either take very seriously or disregard as a past tradition that is obsolete. In fact, many of our Midwestern, Northern, and West Coast brides have no idea what a bridal portrait is! Other than leaving you with some amazing photos, a big bonus to doing the bridal portrait session is that it gives you a trial run for your wedding day look. So, whether you have daydreamed of your bridal portrait for years, or are new to the concept, all brides preparing for a portrait session should keep a few things in mind:
Pay attention to the details
Think of a bridal portrait as a dress rehearsal for when you walk down the aisle. You are able to test your gown’s fit, the way your hair will look with a veil or hairpiece, how comfortable your shoes are, and how your makeup looks. Seeing all this come together helps you know what to expect the day of the wedding, and also gives you the opportunity to make changes to anything you felt wasn’t quite right.
(Photo by Riverland Studios)
Show your personality
Some brides want their bridal portrait style to be slightly different than their wedding day look. For example, you could leave your hair down and wear a bold lipstick color for the portrait, then wear your hair up with natural makeup and pearl jewelry for your wedding day. You could also use your portrait session to play with bold accessories that you love, but don’t necessarily want to wear on your wedding day. When it comes to how formal or casual you want your portrait to be, there are no rules. This is your chance to play with different looks in front of the camera, so have fun!
Angela tried out several hair accessories during her portrait shoot, plus added fun accents such as her pink shoes and white gloves. (Juliet Elizabeth Photography)
Don’t make drastic changes
Please don’t let the anticipation of the photo session lead you to make any impulsive and drastic changes! You are beautiful as you are, and while we all may amp-up our beauty routine in preparation for the big day, you still want your natural beauty to shine through. With that in mind, don’t make any drastic hair color or style changes. This is not the time to risk making a decision you will regret later. Also, no last minute spray tanning!!! We see this all the time. Trust us, you don’t want to look too orange and it can rub off onto your gown! If you must spray tan, do so at least 2 days prior to your shoot.
Linda is so beautiful, and her makeup is just soft enough to not overpower her lovely feautures. (Marni Rothschild Pictures)
Deonca’s chic chignon accentuates her natural beauty. A fussy up-do would take away from the style details in her gown. (Sara Parker Photography)
We receive many questions about preparing for the bridal portrait. Here are some common ones:
When should I schedule my bridal portraits?
Bridal portraits should be scheduled 4-6 weeks before the wedding. This gives your photographer enough time to edit your images and get prints ordered for you. You may also need time to have your prints matted and framed if you wish to display the images at your reception. This also gives a small buffer before the wedding date in case any last minute alterations were to be needed.
What do I take to my portrait session?
- Your dress of course! We press your gown so it will look amazing for the photos (side note: we include one full gown pressing in the purchase of your gown. There is a fee for a second pressing if you choose to have a re-press done before the actual wedding day). We often recommend transporting your gown in the back of a SUV or long vehicle in order to minimize any wrinkling of your gown. If you choose to do this, be sure to lay your seats down and spread a sheet out. The gown will lie on top of the sheet to keep it as clean as possible.
- Accessories. Take your shoes, the correct undergarments (Spanx perhaps?), and the jewelry you plan to wear. Having a bouquet is optional, but it does give you a chance to see how it will look with your gown to be sure you like it. Holding a bouquet also gives your hands a place to go during some of the shots!
- A white sheet. If you are nervous about getting your gown dirty, bring a white or off-white sheet to place underneath your skirt. Standing on the sheet can help to prevent getting dirt on the dress indoors or outdoors (some floors are secretly dirty). Remember, we are NOT responsible for the stains/twigs/dirt that is on the gown after the session. We do our best to brush off dirt but we do not recommend having the gown cleaned before the wedding day. Adding water or solvents often leave water rings and actually make the stains worse!
- Assistance. Bring your mom, a sister or a bridesmaid along with you to help carry your things, assist with the dress and help make you smile!
Where do I take my portraits?
Discuss locations with your photographer, but ultimately decide on a location that suits your vision. Weather can also dictate where the shoot will take place. In other words, have a backup plan! Ask yourself: Am I looking for traditional portraits, something edgy, or maybe something vintage? Consider reserving time at your location of choice so random people don’t pop up in the background. Some brides like to have the portrait where the actual wedding will be held, while some like to go somewhere different! This is your chance to have a variety of photos of you wearing your gown at different locations. For example, if you are having a beach wedding but want traditional photos taken as well, you could go to your family church for the bridal portrait. The possibilities are endless! Especially since we live in one of the most beautiful cities in the country! Any of the Charleston plantations would be a great choice. The Battery, one of our fabulous beaches, or any one of the historical homes downtown would all be great locations. Mt. Pleasant also has many places that have gorgeous views of the harbor and the Ravenel Bridge.
Christy’s photo highlights the marina behind The Historic Rice Mill. (Richard Bell Photography)
Megan’s photo in Mt. Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park has the Ravenel Bridge in the background. (Photo by A Charleston Wedding)
Amy’s photo was taken at a family home in downtown Charleston. (A Bryan Photo)
While it can be a lot to pull together, if you do decide to have a bridal portrait session, remember to have fun with it! Above all else, your happiness and excitement for the big day will shine through.