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I’m Dakota, a Wilmington, NC-based photographer helping engaged couples feel comfortable in front of the camera and creative businesses grow with purposeful brand imagery.

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How To Prepare For Your Bridal Portraits

February 26, 2024

As a girl growing up in the South, I remember going over to my friends’ houses and seeing their mother’s bridal portraits hanging in their homes. I loved seeing their moms as brides, and it was always really interesting to see the generational differences between portraits. 

Bridal portraits are a very Southern tradition. Traditionally, the portrait is for the bride’s family as a portrait of their daughter or for the bride herself to display in her own home.

Aside from the bridal portraits end home, bridal portraits are used as a display at the wedding reception, for guests to see your full bridal look (after you’ve walked down the aisle, of course!). 

As you’re mapping out all of the to do’s for wedding preparation, here are some things to keep in mind for preparing for your bridal portraits.

Scheduling Bridal Portraits

Bridal portraits are usually scheduled around 1.5-2 months prior to the wedding day. They can be scheduled earlier if needed, but you have to make sure that alterations are complete and that you are close to your final wedding day look. 

We can also schedule to avoid undesirable weather. (I totally understand that being in a dress in the thick of August heat wouldn’t be your first choice!) 

Just make sure that you have enough time to 1) have the photos edited and selected for print, 2) enough time for the print to be delivered, and 3) enough time to get it framed, and of course, wiggle room in case there needs to be rescheduling. 

However, we don’t really reschedule bridal portraits for weather (unless it’s really bad and can be predicted multiple days out – think hurricane) because there are so many vendors involved (flowers, makeup, hair, photographer, etc.), but I have rescheduled for skin issues or accidents. 

Vendors Needed For Bridal Portraits 

The Bridal Dress Shop

When getting your dress, make sure that the bridal dress shop knows that alterations need to be completed in time for your bridal portraits, NOT just the wedding day.

Depending on the time you have between your dress purchase and your session, this could affect what dress you can get or how soon they need to order it, alter it, etc. 

Hair and Makeup

For hair and makeup, bridal portraits are a really good opportunity for your trials or previews, so you can see how they photograph. Often, brides make small adjustments to their look after seeing their photos, even if it’s just going with a darker lipstick color or making their hair a little looser. 

This is also when you can see how your hair and makeup will respond to the elements (aka little wispies by your face are pretty, but they blow in the wind, get sweaty, and the curl falls out.) 

This is really good as a trial run because bridal portraits are usually shorter and slower than other portrait sessions, so we can fix small things like wispies for the photos while still giving you the chance to make a better plan for your wedding day. 

A note: Hair and makeup are usually done at a separate location than your photos, so make sure you consider how you will travel and your travel time. (You may have to take the day off. Beauty takes time!)


Most brides will order a small bouquet that is similar to their wedding day bouquet for their bridal portraits. You can also view this as a trial run for your florist. Depending on your flowers, this will need to be ordered in advance in case they have to order things they don’t have in stock. 

If you want to go with someone else other than your day-of florist, you can always call a local florist to have them create a bouquet with your wedding colors. 


For locations, the most popular option is to use the venue booked for your wedding day. Most venues will give some sort of deal to couples who want to use the property for their portraits (which can be a money saver).

If you want to use your bridal portraits as an opportunity to get a different look from your wedding day since you’ll get solos the day of, you can reach out to other venues that you love.

We have a lot of brides who love to use Airlie Gardens for their manicured, low country landscaping since their venues don’t have that lush garden look.

It is best to book a venue for bridal portraits rather than going to a public location because it will limit the amount of people in the background and they will typically have a space for you to get ready.

If it is a larger location, having transportation like a golf cart available is useful to help maximize time and efficiency. 

Booking a venue will take planning ahead and coordinating all of your needed vendors to make sure everyone is where they need to be, when they need to be. 

The Day Of 

When it comes to the actual shoot day, I would recommend having someone with you, if not multiple people. This is an opportunity to bond with your mom or invite a special person in your life to be involved. It’s like adult dress-up!

They help with things like getting you into your dress, carrying your flowers and train, and helping make adjustments during photos, so your photographer isn’t having to constantly go back and forth. 

When it comes to the dress, don’t worry about it getting dirty. Sometimes, people bring sheets or shower curtains to stand on, and we almost always end up not using them. In order for them to truly work, they have to extend beyond the edge of the dress… which means you will see it in the photos. 

It’s better to just choose locations with concrete, stone, or grass and laying the dress directly on top, so only the underside is exposed to the ground. 

If you’re really concerned about the dress getting dirty and not wanting to pay for a cleaning and steam (highly recommend a steam before the wedding day!), then I would consider choosing a venue with an indoor option (just make sure it has good light and neutral tones!). 

This time is separate from your wedding day, so it is also a time to include things that you want to showcase but don’t necessarily want to bring on the day-of like your grandma’s fur or your dogs. 

The Print 

Most brides go with either a 16×20 or a 20×24. You can find a frame that compliments your wedding decor (don’t forget the easel!) or take it to get professionally framed. If you are framing yourself, I would recommend buying your frame first, then ordering your print to make sure that it will fit. 

If you’re reading this and feeling a little overwhelmed, it may be because bridal portraits just aren’t worth it to you — and that’s okay! 

I have the conversation a lot about whether or not brides should do them, and my answer is usually if they’re something you’ve always wanted (or your mom has always wanted) then they will be worth it. 

If you aren’t crazy about the idea and feel like it is overkill, then skip the bridal portraits and just make sure to get a few extra solo shots on the actual wedding day. 

While we love the opportunity to have a dress rehearsal, we only want to do it if it’s a fun experience that makes sense for your budget and you!


I’m Dakota, a Wilmington, NC-based photographer Helping engaged couples feel comfortable in front of the camera and creative businesses grow with purposeful brand imagery.

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