With the start of Spring wedding season about two months out, I’ve been getting a ton of requests for bridal sessions! I love that bridal sessions are a great opportunity to see how your wedding day look will come together and have a full “dress rehearsal” before the big day! Last year, 11 of our 30 #eurekabrides opted to have a bridal session and you’ll see their gorgeous portraits within this post! Here are some tips to keep in mind when planning for your bridal session to make sure it’s the best it can be!
First things first, let’s think about where your bridal session should happen. My professional recommendation is to make sure your bridal session location goes with your wedding day photos. The locations should look cohesive so you can use your bridal portraits in your wedding album. That’s just my personal preference if you’re putting them in the wedding album, but feel free to go wherever you think is pretty! I absolutely LOVE being introduced to new, beautiful places!
When picking a location, you should also know that most places that offer a space to use for portraits will charge a fee of some sort. Even most city parks (Berry Springs Park in Georgetown, Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin, and Mayfield Park in Austin) now charge a fee for photo sessions. It costs money to pay for the water that nourishes the plants and keeps the grass green, pay for the mortgage or property taxes of any piece of property, pay to have an employee open and close the venue the day of the shoot, and to keep the electricity on in the bridal suite for you to put your dress on. So many things that the venue/location needs to run aren’t free to them, so I would expect to pay anywhere between $150 and $500 for a great location for your bridal session in Austin, Texas.
There are some budget friendly options, but you’ll have to ask around. One great suggestion is your own wedding venue! Most wedding venues already include a portrait session time (like bridals or engagements) in their wedding package, so you may have already paid for one through your venue. Some newer wedding venues are really craving portraits of brides on their property, so may let you shoot there for free in exchange for use of your portraits on their website and social media platforms. There are some small public gardens (like The Sunken Garden in Georgetown) and historical sites (like the Capitol) that are open to the public free of charge, but you run the risk of having photo-bombers in your bridal portraits. You may also have a friend or family member with a super beautiful garden, vineyard, or mansion that may let you use their space for the afternoon. You could also check with your network of people to see if anyone you know has connections to a place you love and could get you access for free or cheap – but you have to ask!
Some of my favorite places for bridal session locations around Austin are:
Commodore Perry Estate
If you’re willing to drive, The Missions in San Antonio are GORGEOUS!!!
Probably any Vineyard (like The Vineyard at Florence or Spicewood Vineyards)
Once you’ve decided on where we’ll be taking your bridal portraits, you need to start coordinating with all the vendors needed for the best date for your bridal session. Since most of your wedding vendors work on weekends, when most weddings happen, you’ll likely need to schedule your bridal session on a Monday-Thursday. This is because your vendors are likely already booked with a wedding on the weekend (Friday-Sunday). Also, you’ll probably want to schedule your session around 6-8 weeks before the big day. This is to ensure your wedding photographer has enough time to cull and edit your photos (I guarantee all photos back in 4 weeks or less) and you have enough time to pick your favorite(s) and have it framed before the big day.
You’ll need to schedule your session sometime after your veil (if you’re wearing one) has arrived and after alterations are complete, so don’t push them back too far. (Although, some brides have picked up their dress for the bridal session and dropped it back off at alterations for more adjustments – that is one of the perks of having the session – so you can see what needs to be changed before it drives you crazy the entire wedding day.) Other vendors you’ll need to keep in the loop and get on their schedules are your hair and make-up artist and your florist. Yes, you should definitely definitely definitely use your wedding day beauty team for your bridal session! It’s a trial run with them so you can make any adjustments you want before that look is permanently in your wedding photos for the rest of forever and it makes things much smoother on the wedding day. Some make-up artists include trial runs for their brides and I highly encourage you to take advantage of it (or add it on) for your bridal session (and engagements, but that’s another post). Some florists offer to do mock-ups of bridal bouquets. This will give you an idea of the color and flowers the florist is planning to use. I do recommend you have a bouquet during your portraits. It gives you something to do with your hands for some of the poses and it helps tie your wedding colors into your bridal portraits.
Natural light portraits are my favorite!! They make my heart giddy and is probably what attracted you to my work! We’ll probably shoot around sunset. This is when the light is golden and absolutely THE BEST for portraits!! Look at what day you’re having your bridal session and know we’ll probably start around 1.5 hours before sunset. If your location has a set time we can be on property, we can tweak this, but only slightly. You don’t want to be outside at high noon, as that will leave dark circles under your eyes (the light is coming from above your head leaving the shadow on your eye socket) and it will be even warmer at that time of day (Texas is hot!). I’ll help you with timing, so this is really just to give you an idea of when the session will happen. :D
3. What to bring
There are lots of things to bring to make sure you have a great bridal session! These come to mind immediately:
- A positive, ego-boosting, encouraging friend who can help you carry your dress/make you laugh. Also, make sure your friend is in flats or tennis shoes if you want those veil in the wind shots!!
- your wedding veil or hair accessories (Cathedral veils are my favorite!!! Flower crowns are a very close second!!)
- a mock bouquet from your wedding florist (I love the organic looking ones with a “just picked” feel!)
- a crochet hook if your dress has lots of buttons
- your wedding day jewelry (or fun pieces, if you want)
- bobby pins
- blotting paper (Texas is hot!)
- lipstick for retouching
- water, water, and more water (it’s hot in Texas and those wedding dresses can be heavy – you’ll want to be hydrated!)
- flats to walk from location to location
- your wedding shoes
- props you want (vintage chairs, balloons, flower crowns)
- accessories that add pops of your wedding colors (like a cardigan)
- your engagement ring (have you even taken it off?!?) :D
4. Random things to remember before the session:
Eat something before your session. We don’t want a hangry bride who looks grumpy in her photos (I can’t be the only one who gets hangry, right?!?). We also don’t want a bride who passes out because they haven’t eaten in a while. Even if you can’t find time for a light meal, make sure you pack some sort of bar or trail mix. After your session, you and your confidence boosting friend can go have dinner and a girls’ night! You’ll already be looking glammed up (since you have your hair and make-up professionally done), so you might as well declare it a girls’ night! Invite your #bridetribe for a night on the town afterwards!
Be on time and schedule in more time than you think you’ll need to finish hair and make-up, fight traffic to get to your session, and put on your dress. You never know when things may get behind or traffic is worse than usual. Most brides don’t anticipate putting on the dress to take as long as it usually does. It will take you longer to get wedding ready than it does to get yourself work ready. There are more layers to fluff and, typically, way more buttons! Planning ahead and expecting things to take longer will give you a better chance of starting on time. Since I only use natural light for bridal sessions, it’s important to start on time. If we start late, I can’t extend the session, as the sun will still set when it’s supposed to and we won’t have any light to photograph in. I don’t want that for you!
Avoid tanning, including spray tans and tanning lotions. Sometimes, spray tans can leave you orange. Sometimes, tanning leads to sunburns and I promise you: you do not want to wear a wedding dress while you’re sunburned! You probably also won’t appreciate looking like a tomato in your bridal portraits. There is only so much I can help you with regarding skin tones in post processing. My shooting style is meant to look like the day as you remember it. If you’re actually red with sunburn during your bridal portraits, you will see that in the images. If you’re actually orange because of a bad spray tan or streaky with tanning lotion during your bridal portraits, you will see that in the images. Your natural skin tone will photograph most beautifully!
Take it off (your bra)! When you sit to have your hair and make-up done, remove your bra and wear a button or zip-up top. Bras can leave strap lines that don’t disappear quickly. This is especially important if your dress is strapless. Those red lines/indentions in your skin will show up on camera. To avoid having those in your bridal portraits, remember to take off your bra early in the afternoon or wear the same bra you’ll be wearing with your wedding dress. This is definitely one of those things you don’t usually think about unless you’ve been to a few bridal sessions before! Since this is likely your first ever bridal session, I got you on this one! It’s random, but so helpful! The button-up or zip-up top is so you don’t have to pull your shirt over your perfectly-done hair and make-up.
Get your nails done! Your nails, of course, will show up in the ring shots and the bouquet shots. Hands are one of the main ways to change up posing options during bridal sessions, so they will be seen in your bridal portraits. As a girl who doesn’t usually have her nails done except for special occasions, your bridal session definitely counts as a special occasion! Here’s permission to get your nails and toes done!
Chat with your beauty team before the session about what products they’ll be using. Colored hairsprays will run when you sweat (have I mentioned Texas is hot and wedding dresses are heavy??) If that happens, we’ll have to stop, wash it off, and attempt to reapply your make-up (which will all cut into your shoot time and limit the number of images you get back). Knowing that, you will want to opt for clear hairspray. Also, say yes to fake eyelashes – they make your eyes pop and photograph like a dream! Say yes to airbrush make-up, as it stays on better when you sweat.
Embrace the fact that your dress will get a little dirty on the bottom. Dirt is everywhere and is pretty much unavoidable. I’m so so so very lucky to work with brides who know that they’ll really only wear the dress once and don’t worry too much about their dress touching the ground. They also know that, really, only the underneath part of the dress will show the dirt (as it is what touches the ground, not the top) and no one sees that part anyway. If you’re super worried about your dress touching the ground, you may want to opt for a location that is indoors with lots of natural light. There will be dirt inside, too, of course, but less than there will be outside. I don’t love using sheets during bridal sessions. Having a bride stand on a sheet used to be the number one way to protect the dress, but I’ve found that it either pokes out and is a nasty contrast to the dress itself (if it’s windy, that dress is not staying put on top of the sheet no matter how much you try and you will see the sheet, which likely doesn’t match the color of your dress exactly) OR you tuck it in under the dress to where you can’t see it and the exact same part of the dress that would be touching the ground is . . . still touching the ground. Feeling the need to stay put over a sheet also makes your photos look more static/stiff and less natural. Treat your bridal session like a test drive in your wedding dress: you’ll have the chance to walk around and twirl in your wedding dress! Those fun, joyful shots aren’t possible if you’re worried about getting a bit of dirt on the underneath of your dress.
Discuss with the friend you bring who is allowed to take photos. I include this for two reasons. Sometimes, photos snapped can get sent instantly to people you may have wanted to have a private moment with on your wedding day. If you want to have a first look with your dad on your wedding day, you probably don’t want him to already have a picture of his baby girl all-dolled up in her wedding attire. You won’t be there to see his reaction to it if it’s texted to his phone during your bridal session. Some brides don’t even want their bridesmaids to see the dress until the big day. Before you arrive, discuss with everyone at your session who is allowed to take photos of you in your wedding dress and/or share them. If your phone automatically shares photos with your iCloud devices, you may want to ban cell phones from your session altogether, as you don’t know who may be holding your iPad at home (and can see those photos).
(Yes, this one is absolutely worth repeating twice.) Discuss with the friend you bring who is allowed to take photos. I include this for two reasons. Your friend’s cell phone photo of you from a secondary vantage point will look VERY different from where I’m photographing at. I’ll photograph you from the most flattering angle, so the angle of your friend’s cell phone may not show you at your absolute best. If they second guess my posing, based on their wrong angle, you’ll lose all confidence in how you look in your wedding dress – the one dress that you’re supposed to feel the most beautiful in! Your friend should really be focused on checking you out with joy and double checking to make sure your dress is properly fluffed or that the veil is sitting correctly. I’ll worry about the posing and making sure you look gorgeous! If you see that phone photo (taken from a less than ideal angle) before you see my photos of you, you may assume the same thing: that your wedding dress is not the dress for you and start to second guess it. There’s no need for that! Your dress is beautiful and you have every reason to be confident in it! So, don’t trust anyone else’s photos of you aside from the ones I deliver to you. If you don’t even want to venture down that confidence-stealing road, you may want to ban cell phones from your session altogether.
5. Most importantly, have FUN!
This day is all about making sure you love your wedding day look and feeling beautiful in the prettiest dress you’ve ever worn! Have a good time, smile a lot, laugh even more, and feel confident in your own skin! If you have fun, you’re guaranteed to absolutely LOVE your bridal portraits!
I hope you found these tips for how to have an awesome bridal session helpful! If you have anything you’d like to add, I’d love to hear from you! Leave your best tips or advice for brides planning a bridal session in the Texas Hill Country in the comments below!
– Mylah Renae