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If you want to get the most bang for your bridal buck, here’s an idea that’s both fun and practical. Weeks before your wedding, schedule a hair and makeup trial to be sure that your day-of look is just as you envision it. Then, moments after you leave your stylist’s chair, slip into your dress, veil and accessories, and capture your relaxed beauty in a professional bridal portrait.
We’re not talking about an engagement photograph with your fiancé. The idea of a formal bridal portrait, which is especially popular in the South, is intended to be a little “me time” for the bride to show off her hair, makeup and wedding gown in the best light, well before the ceremony. It’s also a special, unhurried time to include your mother, grandmother, aunts and other people who would not have the opportunity to attend your bachelorette party and other events.
“The best part about bridal portraits is getting to do a test run for the big day,” says Brielle Maffett, who grew up in Pompton Plains and was married in Virginia. “The hair and makeup trial wasn’t enough by itself. Bridal portraits allowed me to also see the fit of my dress and placement of my hair accessories, taken by my actual wedding photographer. This was so valuable because it also gave me some alone time with my photographer. We really clicked, and that is so important on your wedding day.”
Brielle’s Virginia-based photographer, Allison Kuhn, was delighted to capture the bride’s couture style weeks before the event at nearby Tuckahoe Plantation in Richmond.
“Bridal portraits are a very Southern tradition. Instead of having a photographer follow you around on your wedding day, wedding portraits used to be taken in a studio prior to the wedding day,” Kuhn says. “Today, formal portraits allow the bride to get comfortable with being photographed and being the center of attention. Not everyone naturally gravitates toward the spotlight. In some cases, the idea of a wedding—getting all dressed up and having eyes on you — can make even the most confident bride self conscious.”
Brielle agrees that after dedicating so much time, effort and money to her wedding-day look, it was difficult to envision how her dress, hair, makeup and accessories would appear once she put them all together. It’s also a more relaxed time to experiment with creative angles and flattering poses in front of multiple indoor and outdoor backdrops.
Wedding photographer Marie Papp of Hoboken views the formal portrait experience as an opportunity to capture an engaged woman’s beauty at her wedding location or even a different venue that is near and dear to the bride. “Some couples can’t decide on a single location for their engagement or wedding festivities. But during a bridal portrait session, the bride could be photographed somewhere that doesn’t necessarily fit into the wedding-day logistics,” Papp says.
“The big advantage of doing a bridal portrait early is that, on the wedding day, so many people are pulling at you,” Papp adds. “Scheduling a photo session early gives the bride time to breathe. And, unless she’s a professional model, she’s not used to the pace. Later, based on her portrait images, she might decide to wear her hair a different way or to forego the smokey-eye look.”
Today, more than ever, brides and their wedding photographers agree that by eliminating all the guesswork in advance, any woman is likely to be more relaxed and confident on her big day. “My favorite part of the entire process is the excitement and anticipation that comes when brides stop imagining what they are going to look like on their wedding day, and start focusing on what their groom is going to think when he sees them for the first time,” Kuhn says.