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What even is a bridal session?

Mar 21, 2023


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Don’t you take pictures of just the bride on the wedding day? I get asked this sometimes whenever people see the option of adding on a bridal session to their wedding package. The answer is YES, of course! I without a doubt will take a few portraits of the bride alone on the wedding day, along with countless other photos of her with her groom. So what the heck is a separate bridal session?! And why do people do it?!

If you’ve had these questions, you’re in the right place!

Bridal sessions are a southern tradition. If you’re reading this in the south, you may be wondering why I’m wasting time even writing this. Doesn’t everyone know what a bridal session is?! Definitely not! Bridal sessions are not heard of in many other parts of the country, or world. I’ve seen photographers from other areas in Facebook groups comment, “Wow, you get to do a whole session with the bride before the wedding? That’s awesome!!” They then follow up that comment with confusion on why.

The “bridal session” originated in Europe among royalty and the upperclass. The bride’s family would commission a painting of the bride that she would go sit for before the wedding day (usually before, but sometimes after the wedding day as well). These paintings were then displayed in the family’s home as a celebration and for future generations to enjoy. It’s uncertain how this European tradition made its way to the American south, but alas, it did, and we love it.

Today’s bridal session isn’t much different—it’s a session of just the bride, decked out in her full bridal attire. (Many brides will have their hair and makeup done for the session by the same person doing it for their wedding as a trial run—a huge perk to doing a bridal session.) They will also typically order flowers from their florist to include in the session. They are done mostly outdoors, but some are done in studios or churches. Some brides like to have them done at the venue they will be getting married at, while others use the opportunity to do portraits in a different location that’s beautiful (often pretty outdoor garden locations).

Most of the time, a print of the bride from this session will be enlarged and displayed at the wedding reception (after the ceremony has taken place). These photos stay hidden from most people, and definitely the groom, until after the ceremony. And after the wedding day is over, mom of the bride usually displays the print in her home, much like the early tradition.

Besides just being so much fun—bridal sessions do have some great perks. I’ve seen it all, and I can tell you, these sessions are usually 100% worth it, for reasons you may not even be thinking about! If you’re considering doing a bridal session, be sure to check out the post all about that here.

My passion is in documenting the lives of our families well (mine and yours), and teaching you how to do it too. Follow along as I share photography tips, inspiration, and beautiful portraits.

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