What is a Bridal Session and Why Should I Have One?

May 1, 2023

Kelsey Justice


They say you only get to wear your wedding dress once, and I’ve always thought that that was such a shame. You spend so long dreaming about your perfect dress, even longer searching for just the right one, and then you have to wait for what seems like forever to finally wear it. All of that to only debut it for one day, and then store it away? Enter, the bridal session. As a Southern photographer, I’m more than familiar with the tradition, but recently brides from all over the country have started to pick up on the practice. There are a million and one reasons why I’m all about a bridal session, but here I’m going to condense them down into one quick explainer that will tell you everything you need to know about bridal sessions and have you ready to book yours ASAP.

What is a Bridal Session?

A bridal session is a solo photoshoot for brides during which they don their entire wedding day look, from their dress and shoes to their hair, makeup, and accessories. A bridal session (also called bridal portraits) typically takes place 1-2 months before the wedding at a location of the bride’s choice. Sometimes brides choose to take their portraits at a spot that’s significant to their relationship or at one that holds meaning to them as an individual. This may be in their parents’ backyard or in the park where they had their first date with their soon-to-be spouse. Many brides choose to have their bridal session at their venue for consistency.

Why Should I Have a Bridal Session?

Like everything with your big day, choosing whether or not you want to do bridal portraits should be entirely up to you. I’m never a fan of doing something just for the sake of tradition or to make someone else happy, but in my experience, brides have always left their bridal sessions feeling beautiful, empowered, and more ready than ever to get married. Here are some of the benefits of bridal sessions.

A bridal session is a special time just for the bride. There’s a lot that gets wrapped into planning a wedding. You’re fielding opinions from friends, family, soon-to-be-family, and sometimes perfect strangers. It’s easy to get lost in the noise of other people’s ideas about your big day and start to feel stressed or unsure about your choices. A bridal portrait is a chance to recenter and remember exactly what’s important—that you’re about to get married to the love of your life.

For many brides, seeing themselves in their full wedding-day getup for the first time makes everything feel real and gets them in the right headspace for the big day. As a professional hype woman and photographer, my favorite thing about a bridal session is seeing my brides glow and begin to see themselves the way I do—as confident, beautiful women about to take on one of life’s biggest adventures.        

You’ll get a run-through of your wedding day look. Sometimes it takes seeing it all together to know exactly what you do and don’t like. Many brides choose to schedule their hair and makeup trial on the same day as their bridal portraits, so they can see their wedding-day look in its entirety. This is a great opportunity to see how that emerald eyeshadow or sleek hairstyle you’ve had pinned to your Pinterest board will show up in pictures. Maybe it looks exactly how you were hoping, or maybe you decide it’s not for you and you opt for something else on the big day. Either way, you’ll leave your bridal session feeling fully confident in your wedding day look. Another pro tip: If you’re still deciding on accessories (veil or no veil, chandelier earrings or demure studs), bring both options to your bridal photoshoot and try a few different looks. By the end of the session, you’ll have a clear winner.

Bridal portraits give you more time to get comfortable in front of the camera. It’s not rocket science, but posing for photos can definitely take some getting used to. A bridal session provides a stress-free environment where you can practice being natural in front of the camera, so on your big day, your love and happiness are the only things captured.   

You’ll get all the photos you’ve been dreaming about—even the out-of-the-box ones. As a wedding photographer, I know better than anyone how hectic wedding days can become. Even the best-laid plans and strictest schedules are subject to unexpected hiccups or slowdowns. Knowing you’ve already taken beautiful bridal portraits can be a huge relief and gives you one less thing to add to your already long list of photos to get before the reception. Additionally, with the extra time, you can get creative with your vision. Do you want to sneak your beloved fur baby into a few shots? Go ahead! Are you itching to get a little edgy with your bridal look? I’m all about a motorcycle and custom embroidered leather jacket. Bring it on.

What Should I Bring to My Bridal Session?

Of course, the most important thing to bring to your bridal session is your dress, but here’s a quick checklist of what else to have on hand.

  • Dress
  • Veil or other hair accessories
  • Jewelry
  • Undergarments
  • Shoes
  • Touchup makeup
  • Hairspray and bobby pins
  • Engagement ring
  • Bridal bouquet (Your florist can help create a replica of the one you’ll carry on your wedding day.)
  • Any other props, pups, or mementos you’d like to capture!

What Do I Do with My Bridal Portraits?

Many brides will choose to have their favorite bridal portrait displayed somewhere at their reception or ceremony on their big day. You can also print them to give as gifts to your parents or spouse. Want a fool-proof way to make your mom cry happy tears? Get your favorite bridal portraits made into a book and gift it to her on Mother’s Day. Bonus points if you can find some of her old bridal portraits and include them alongside yours.

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