As a photographer, bridal sessions are a favorite part of my job. Weddings are always fun, but bridal sessions are even more so. They come with the same fun parts but with a less stressed, more relaxed atmosphere and all the time we need to take those gorgeous, glamorous shots.
Even apart from my business, I encourage brides to have a bridal session just so they can have lovely portraits as a way to remember their perfect wedding dress and the way it felt to wear it. Not only do they have these treasured keepsakes, but they come without having to deal with the rush and nerves that is inherent in every wedding day.
But before we get into all that, let’s start with a question many of you may have. What Exactly Is a Bridal Session?
A bridal session is photography session usually done several weeks before the wedding. The bride dresses just as she will on her wedding day, from the fully fitted dress down to all the important details like the hair, makeup, jewelry and shoes.
Your Bridal Portraits can be shot in any Valley location, from local parks, country clubs, historical buildings and parks, outdoor public spaces or shopping areas to unique places, like abandoned buildings or on a local hiking trail, to places that have a special meaning to the couple, like where you met, where you had your first date, or the place the groom proposed. Some of my favorite locations are the Scottsdale Center for the Arts, the Mesa Art Center, Mill Avenue, downtown locales such as near Symphony Hall and the Science Museum, Kierland, DC Ranch Marketplace, Old-town Scottsdale, even Scottsdale’s Railroad Park, you name it. It just should be some place convenient to where you’ll be getting ready, and someplace with a lot of variety and beautiful places to shoot.
The best time to schedule them is in the late afternoon or evening, if possible, since that is typically when the light is at it’s most beautiful… but as long as there’s plenty of open shade and interesting textures, we can work within your schedule.
A “Couples” Bridal Shoot: A unique twist on an old tradition.
More and more often, some couples are opting to include the groom in on the “Bridal” photos. This type of photo session is similar to an engagement session, but the bride and groom would be in their wedding day attire, rather than more casual clothing typically worn to engagement sessions. It’s a way to do your “first look” photo session completely separate from the harried pace of your wedding day, in a relaxed and casual environment… just focusing on the two of you as a couple. It’s a great way to get as many creative and artistic photos you want, that you possibly wouldn’t be able to capture on your wedding day due to time constraints and tight wedding-day schedules.
How will the images from your bridal shoot be used?
On the day of the wedding a large photo from the session is often chosen to be on display at the reception, generally placed near the cake, the guest book table, or the bar. When the day is over, it is traditionally presented to the mother of the bride. If you have several family members you’d like to gift photos to, have enlargements made of several and use them throughout your reception venue, then gift them to loved ones after the event.
Photos from the Bridal Session (or alternatively from the Engagement Session) can also go into creating your guest book for your guests to sign at the wedding.
Bridal session photos blend perfectly with your wedding day photos in your wedding album, particularly if you opt for a “Couple’s Bridal Session”.
Traditionally a Southern custom, bridal sessions are becoming more popular across the country, for pretty clear reasons.
My Three Favorite Practical Reasons to Have a Bridal Session Before Your Wedding
1. Relieve Stress on Your Wedding Day
A wedding is such a wonderful, beautiful thing, it is a shame that it comes with so much worry and stress. Hours of thought, talking and, many times, tears are put into planning a wedding. It is very important that the whole process is an enjoyable and happy experience for the newlyweds. Every little thing that can be done to relieve the stress that automatically builds up is a huge blessing, especially on the day of the wedding.
Bridal sessions cut down on the time needed for photographs on your wedding day. Shots of the couple and group pictures can be the main focus, and everyone can get back to the visiting and partying a little sooner.
Not only that, but they make the photographer’s job simpler, giving more time to capture really perfect photos of the wedding party and the venue. They don’t have to worry about being sure to get the detail shots of the gown, because it has already been taken care of. Bridal sessions allow the bride to save a little more time and a lot of peace of mind on the special day.
2. Have a More Relaxed Time During the Photo Shoot
On the day of her wedding, a bride is full to overflowing with hundreds of intense emotions. On top of the love, joy, excitement, nerves and adrenaline, most women will probably feel a tiny bit, if not quite a deal, of pressure to get back to her guests and keep on top of the days schedule.
If you are feeling rushed, tired or preoccupied when your wedding photos are being shot, those emotions and pressures may show through in your pictures. A bridal session relieves the intensity of wedding day photographs.
3. Do a Trial Run of Your Whole Wedding Look
Most brides try out their makeup and hair ahead of time. Why not test the whole outfit?
Until a bride tries it, she never knows how it is going to feel to wear the gorgeous gown and those killer heels for a few hours. There are always little things that she didn’t expect, like the veil’s propensity for slipping to the side, the way the earrings get tangled in her updo, even the comfort and fit of her undergarments.
Most brides decide to change a couple of details after their bridal session. Do the makeup a little differently, wear some other shoes or bring second pair to wear to the reception, leave the bracelets behind. The bridal session gives her an opportunity to try out the look without the bothersome details that would otherwise have to be dealt with at the wedding. The bride won’t be annoyed by small things, but be able to enjoy her day to the fullest, thanks to the bridal session.
TIPS FOR GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR BRIDAL SESSION
1. Schedule A Bridal Session Well in Advance
As soon as possible, contact your photographer and set up a date for your bridal shoot. For one thing, you want to be sure that there will be an opening for you between the final fitting of the wedding gown and the day of the wedding. Give yourself plenty of room before the wedding, so that in case of bad weather or another emergency, you’ll be able to reschedule and still have time for the bridal session photos to be edited, printed and framed or mounted.
2. Try to Duplicate Your “Look” for the Wedding Day
Be sure to do everything in the exact way you plan for it to be on the wedding day. Since one aspect of a bridal session is that it is sort of a trial run, you need to know that when it comes to your dress, hair and makeup, the way things are turning out now are how they’ll turn out at the wedding.
Unless you plan to do your own hair and makeup for the ceremony, don’t do them yourself for your bridal session. Now is the time to do a run-through with your hairdresser and makeup artist. Not only do you need to know how it will work on your wedding day, you want to look your best for the bridal session, since these photos will be treasured for decades along with your wedding portraits.
3. Bring a Friend Along
If they’re available, have your maid of honor come with you. If not another bridesmaid or a good friend will do. She can help you get in and out of your gown, adjust your train, help hold up your dress while walking around to protect it from getting dirty, fix a stray hair, carry your bag, help you relax and make you laugh, as well as give you someone to travel with. The photographer has a job, and so do you, so she can really help you to relax and enjoy the moment.
4. Bring Along Something to Eat and Drink
You may not think you’ll need it, but be sure to bring lots of water and healthy snacks for you to keep your energy up while you are modeling and posing.
5. Sadly, It May Not a Good Idea to Bring Your Mom
It may seem like a very important occasion that you wish to share with your mother, but having her there will bring you a lot of stress. Your mom may be different, but in most cases, mothers tend to be too concerned about everything and end up making the bridal shoot more tense and confused than it should be.
One of the facts you are going to have to face is that your dress is going to get a little dirty. Nothing drastic, and we’ll do everything we can to carry it off the gown when walking around, but small dirt smudges on the hem, an occasional streak of dust here or there on the skirt, maybe an accidental makeup stain from touching your face…
The fact is that moms have a really hard time handling this, LOL. You’ll have a much more relaxed bridal session if you decide to do something else special with your mom at a different time, and you get the added bonus of being able to surprise her with the photos. This isn’t saying she can’t come if it is truly important to you, but it isn’t a good idea in general.
6. Be Very Communicative About What You Want
Photographers can’t read minds, as nice as that would be. You probably have ideas about a few certain things that you want in your bridal session. Maybe it’s something like wanting a closeup of your grandma’s broach that you’ll be wearing on your bodice, or to have your dog in some of the shots, or a particular shot you’ve seen in a bridal magazine that you want to try and recreate. Whatever you have in mind, be sure to share it with the photographer. Make sure you are on the same page so that you are happy with the session.
If you are uncomfortable in any way, or suddenly get a great idea midway through the shoot, speak up. If you think your veil should be adjusted or you should change position a little, do it. Your intuition is probably right and if you fix it, you’ll be happier with the results.
My Final Thoughts On Bridal Sessions
It’s my strong belief that every bride deserves a bridal session. There are countless ways that it makes each wedding better, from less stress to a trial run of the full bridal gown. Not only for the practical reasons, but a bridal session is a blessing to brides by the simple, downright fun it is for the bride to be a model, the center of attention for the whole photo shoot, to be pampered and honored in preparation for her big day.
The photographs from your bridal session will be unique, precious treasures, beautiful ways to remember for the rest of your life the way you felt during this exciting time.
My incredibly talented and amazingly gorgeous cousin Julie married the man of her dreams, Jared (who happens to be just as amazing as she is, BTW!) in a beautiful and emotional phoenix wedding ceremony recently.
I was privileged to be able to do some candid Arizona wedding photography shots of the ceremony for the happy couple.
I couldn’t be happier for them, and trust me, there isn’t a nicer, more perfect-for-each-other couple I know. They’re each such great people, and being together just makes each one even better. It truly is a match made in heaven.
Best wishes for the future, Julie and Jared. You deserve all the happiness this world has to offer you.
I’m soooooo happy for both of you.
Oh, and my girls say “thanks for the dancin’!!! They had the “BEST DAY EVER”!!! And Julie, just be prepared, they are now CONVINCED you’re a real princess.
Thanks again for letting me be your Scottsdale Wedding Photographer. I had such a great time!!!