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In the South: Bridal Portraits

Source: A Glass Perspective Photograph
So, gonna try a new series here, related to things related to the south. Today's topic: bridal portraits. 

I'm helping my niece plan her wedding, so I've got wedding on the brain right now. Here's a little about the southern tradition of a bridal portrait. 

In the south, one of the most important items to do on your list is to get your bridal portrait done. Because it will be prominently displayed at the reception in an elaborate gold frame on an easel for everyone to pass when they walk in.

If you've never been to a southern wedding, you've missed all of the whispers that occur upon passing that portrait...

"Oh, she is gorgeous in that dress."
"Are those real?"
"That picture doesn't do that dress justice."
"Good Lord look at the lace."
"Why in the world would you want to lay in the grass in your wedding dress?"

So how did this tradition start?

"Originating in Europe, bridal portraits (or “bridals”) were historically oil paintings of royalty in their bridal regalia and were traditionally commissioned by the bride’s family to commemorate such a special occasion. It’s unclear how this tradition made its way below the Mason Dixon, but before World War II, it was rare to have a photographer at your wedding, so bridal portraits were taken in the photographer’s studio before or after the couple’s wedding. Not long ago, bridals were a rite of passage for Southern debutantes and a family keepsake that was displayed on an easel near the guest book and then hung in the bride’s parents home for years to come."

Oh it's a big deal - definitely something you don't want to get wrong.You have to order your dress in time for the portrait session, and your hair, makeup and flowers must all be perfect as well. It's actually a great dry-run of the real wedding day. I hated the flowers my florist did for me for my portrait day and had the chance to re-consult her for the actual wedding day to get them right.

More than likely, this picture will hang in your parent's home, for all of their friends and family to see. If you want to buy one for yourself, that happens too, but your parents typically have one in their home.My grandmother has portraits of my mom, her sister and her sister-in-law all in a row in her living room. My portrait hangs in my mom's family room.

My photographer totally screwed up my bridal portrait. I spend days getting ready for my portrait sitting. He had a brand new camera that he evidently didn't know how to work yet. He took two hours of photos, but screwed them up when he transferred them to his computer. I had four total to choose from. I was not happy, but at least there was one I really liked.

So, is it an "only in the south" sort of thing? Did you do a bridal portrait? Do you consider this an odd tradition?


  1. Well, I'm not technically in the South, but most of my friends have portraits done. I chose not to though. I'm just didn't see myself having a photo of only me in our home. So, I decided to spend the money on an additional engagement session and first anniversary photos.

  2. It's fairly common here in Texas as well, and it's definitely one of the first traditions this Yankee adopted. Like you said, it's a great dry run of a bride's wedding getup, as well as a nice keepsake. My family doesn't really get wedding stuff, let alone bridal portraits, so I'm the proud owner of my own photo.

  3. I love bridal portraits and I can't wait to have mine done!
    Yes ma'am!

  4. I'm from NJ but lived most of my life in NC and got married here. I did not do a bridal portrait. We got an engagement session done instead since a bridal portrait is included in pretty much every photographers package. I certainly didn't miss having it and somehow I can't see one hanging at my moms house. But yes, most all weddings I've been to in the south have one. The NJ weddings have an engagement portrait out of the couple. We did have a small photo of us from the engagement session out at our wedding.

  5. Oh yes, my portrait is over the piano in my parents' living room. It's been there almost 30 years!

  6. My bridal portrait has been hanging over the piano in my parents living room for 30 years! I'm not photogenic but it is a good picture.

  7. I live in the midwest and a lot of girls do bridal photos, but I did not. I was super cheap and only paid $150 for my photographer (which included 50 photos...some of which were horrendous).

    I got what I paid for. REGRET!!!

  8. I love the bridal portrait tradition. Here in NC we do it and I LOVE mine. I had ours above the stairs in our old house but now it's waiting for a new home. Getting my portrait made was such a fun day - I got my trial run, I felt like a bride for more than 1 day and I got pictures at a different location.

    I will say my dress got FILTHY and needed to be spot cleaned, so that was something I hadn't even thought of happening!

  9. I love the wedding dress/grass comment. haha so funny.
    and yes, i had one. and yes, it is in my parent's home prominently displayed :)

  10. What a great idea for a series! I was born and raised in the south, but am realizing I'm only 1/4 southern. Which is why when I try to embrace some of the traditions most of my family rolls their eyes. I did have a portrait and it now hangs in our bedroom.

  11. Oh yes, this is a Southern thing for sure! Being a wedding planner here in Canada, but being born and raised in South Carolina, I can say that this is a tradition that I am very used to but no longer get to see. I WISH my brides here would get into this habit, as I think it is a great idea!

  12. Definitely a southern thing. I've never heard about this until now. I've been to several southern weddings and didn't even notice a portrait, probably because I didn't know the tradition. I do not think it's odd, but I'm not a fan of photos and portraits as wall decor. Same goes for the painted portraits of children...another seemingly southern tradition..hung over the fireplace most likely.

  13. this post makes me smile as i see the reflection of my own bridal portrait, hanging behind me, in the computer screen. my family is from new york. i moved to virginia when i was 10 and went to college at UVA. every single one of my friends who married before me had a bridal portrait. so, i wanted one too. my mother was so dumbfounded, confused. why on earth would you want something like that, i remember her saying. almost 8 years later, my bridal portrait holds a prominent place on her family room wall. ha!

  14. I'm from good ol' South Dakota and I have never heard of this idea before! How interesting! I think it's a beautiful idea. Up here we mostly use engagement photos at the guest book. Glad I found your blog! :)


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