By Crystal Neilson-Hall

As a child, I loved looking at my mother’s bridal portraits. If you’re not familiar with the concept of bridal portraits, that’s ok!   It’s a more Southern tradition in which the bride will get all dolled up in her wedding gown prior to the actual wedding day and have a portrait session of just her, the dress and often a bouquet.   These become heirlooms for family and are sometimes displayed at the wedding reception.   Of course, they’re kept secret until the wedding day!

Now that I”™m a photographer and get to create those portraits for other people, I love imagining that one day some little girl will stare at the portraits I have taken, think about how beautiful her mom looks and dream about her own wedding. There is, however, a stark difference between the way my mother’s portraits look and the way they look today.

In my mother’s bridals she is posed stiffly in a studio in front of a brown (yes, brown!) backdrop. In fact, the whole image had a brown cast that seems so present with all things related to the 70s and 80s, and every picture featured a very heavy vignette. Don’t get me wrong, I treasure these images, and my mom looks absolutely beautiful in them, but this just is not how bridal portraits are done now.

Bridal portraits today are inspired by fashion magazines. The brides are glamorous and the photographs are artistic. The portraits are almost always done on location, most likely at the venue where the wedding will take place. Instead of stiff poses, we see creative, flattering, relaxed, and sometimes more dramatic poses. Even bridals done in studios have changed. The lighting is more striking, poses are more high fashion and you won’t find those heavy vignettes or brown tones!

We recommend scheduling your bridal portrait session two to four months before the wedding day.   That way you have plenty of time to choose your dress and have it altered (if necessary), then get it cleaned after the portrait session if need be.   This means that you should choose your photographer about nine months to a year in advance so there’s plenty of time to schedule properly.

Neilson-Hall Photography
Neilson-Hall Photography

RW Tip: Be sure to use the wedding planning checklist to help you stay on top scheduling your wedding to dos!

Bridal portraits are meant to become heirlooms. It’s a fantastic way to get beautiful images of you in your wedding dress in a relaxed, stress-free environment, something that is just not always possible to do on the day of the wedding.   One day you may have a little girl or boy who cherishes these photographs as much as I have with my own mother’s.

Crystal Neilson-Hall of Neilson-Hall Photography is an experienced wedding and portrait photographer. For more information, please visit

Featured image: Author’s mother’s bridal portrait, 1983