The bridal suite is an often overlooked room at a venue that I believe deserves a fresh perspective. Not only is this the room I start my work in, but it’s the place where many of your first wedding day memories happen. From getting your makeup done to getting in the dress, this room will set the tone for your day. As a photographer, I feel I can help you prepare this setting for beautiful memories and photos, and remove stress in the process.
I’ve been a wedding photographer for over three years now. I’ve learned that there are three essentials to every photo-friendly bridal suite. Natural light, clutter-free space, and privacy. In this post, I’m going to cover each element and share why these things not only contribute to beautiful getting ready photos but also a stress-free morning ahead of your ceremony.
I am a natural light photographer. This means I need natural, properly filtered light in order to achieve the look and feel of my style of work. But most people are not trained to recognize good, clean, natural light as opposed to muddy or artificial light sources. And you don’t need to be. I’m going to break down the elements that typically give the clean light I need to create glowy bridal suite images. I put this first in the list because this is by far the most important element for creating light and airy bridal suite images.
All I need is at least one large window or door to the outside to cast clean, even light on my bride for her getting ready photos. In the examples throughout this blog post, my bride was getting ready in a hotel room with one large floor-to-ceiling window dressed in sheer drapery. This was enough to throw evenly dispersed light to get full-length portraits when she put on her dress, shoes, etc.
But let’s suppose your bridal suite only has one window half-way up the wall. We can make this work for tighter portraits of you putting on your jewelry and perfume, so don’t fret! But for full-length portraits, I’ll move you to another room or to a private patio/balcony outdoors with uninhibited natural light. The taller the window/door, the better! Even if there is only one.
Believe it or not, light comes from more than just the primary light source. Light bounces off of surfaces as well. Don’t believe me? Take a white sheet of paper, stand in front of a window and hold your hand up with your palm turned toward your face. Now move that sheet of paper up toward your palm… do you see the white light that casts onto your hand on the shadowy part? That’s called a reflection of light, and it is one of the magical secrets natural photographers use to create clean, white, bright images.
I sometimes bring a large circular reflector with me, but honestly, some of the best reflectors are the items and elements that are already natural to the setting! Things like light colored walls and brighter-toned furniture bounce light off of them to create an airier room aesthetic. Outside, I look for light-colored pavement to bounce light back up in my bride’s face to create good, even light.
So when you’re touring your venue, check out the colors in your bridal suite. Just remember: White means bright and dark sucks out light. Also note that the more colorful the element, the more chance that color will bounce onto your skin and dress. If we end up in a bridal suite with bright colors, I will probably move you elsewhere for your portraits, to avoid weird color casts. It is very hard to edit those out!
I can’t tell you how many times a bridesmaid or mother of the bride has given me a funny look for this. But when I walk in a bridal suite, I usually turn off all the lights. I know, it seems counterintuitive. But hear me out. Light bulbs do not secrete the same kind of light that windows and sunlight do. The color is different, usually bluer or more yellow. The rays are also directionally thrown in more of a radius, causing weird, uneven bursts of light that my camera is picking up. Just trust me, you want the lights off. Even if it feels dark, I’m creating an environment that will make for beautifully glowing photos!
The second essential for a beautiful and less stress-inducing bridal suite is a clean, tidy space. Our minds are constantly picking up little details in a room. The more clutter present, the more stressed we become. Removing little bits of clutter is an easy way to remove unnecessary stress. If you and your bridesmaids plan on getting ready at the venue, try to keep your belongings organized or contained to one corner of the room. Or better yet, find a room that fits the rest of the essentials listed here, and keep that room closed off, only to be used for photos!
Bonus result: keeping a clean bridal suite means an easier clean out when the day is over. This makes for happy venue coordinators AND bride tribes, because nothing goes missing or gets left behind. Win-win!
Your bridal suite should already provide this, but privacy is more than just a room with a door. In my experience, guests and groomsmen arrive early in the day, which means that adjacent hallways, nearby bathrooms, and surrounding windows could provide unintended sneak peeks at the bride in her dress. The more removed your bridal suite is from the flow of traffic in a venue, the better. This should be a given, but smaller venues are tougher to coordinate private getting ready spaces.
These tips should mostly help the bride still searching for her ideal venue, but if you already chose a venue with a less than ideal bridal suite, maybe consider getting ready elsewhere! I’m a bride this year too, and I will be getting ready at my parents’ house because they have a gorgeous master bedroom with plenty of natural light and my venue has only dark, dimly lit rooms available. There are always options, especially if you think outside the box.
If you need help brainstorming or assessing the light in your bridal suite, feel free to get in touch with me! Happy wedding planning!
For more wedding planning tips and bride-centric education, see my other popular blog posts below:
*The photos in this post were taken by me while second shooting for Julia Summers Photography*
The flowers will fade and guests will forget what your dress looked like... but you'll remember every emotion-filled moment for a lifetime when you choose our team to create effortless, intimate and artful wedding photos.