Formal Photos on the Wedding Day, Everything You Need to Know
Formal photographs on the wedding day can be messy and unorganized. Uncle Bill already took off to the bar, your third cousin is just itching to give you a hug and chat you up for a solid 20 minutes, and your grandparents are patiently sitting in their seats waiting for what’s next. I have seen formal photos structured in many ways over the years, and have finally solidified my own method that works great! The actual timing of the formal photographs is up to you and your preferences, and I will talk about the different options below. By the end of this article, you will understand how to execute and plan the formal photo portion of your wedding day so that it runs smooth and efficiently.
When Do Formal Photos Take Place?
Typically, formal photos are taken shortly or immediately following the wedding ceremony. However, it is becoming popular to take a portion of the formal photos prior to the ceremony. These photos are often bridal party and or bride and groom photos, and sometimes immediate family.
Pre-Ceremony Wedding Photos
Pre-ceremony photos breaks the photo taking into two chunks. This is great for allowing smiles to refresh, and to ensure the day feels less about photos and more about being together. It also allows you the option to enjoy your own cocktail hour, as this is typically when the bridal party and newlyweds are taking their photos. Pre-ceremony photos usually happen like this; the bride and groom share a private first look, then photos are taken of just the two of them for 20-30 minutes. After that, the bridal party joins in and an additional 20-30 minutes are spent. At this point, immediate family can join in if scheduled in the same location.
Post-Ceremony Wedding Photos
Post-ceremony wedding photos are taken at 99% of the weddings I shoot at. This is the time when all of your guests are together in one place and time. It’s a great opportunity to take family, extended family, and large group photos. There are 3 different timing options for post-ceremony formal photos that I see regularly:
- Immediately. Right away after the ceremony is finished, the officiant or emcee announces to the guests that formal photos will begin. That person will then ask guests to draw their attention over to the wedding photographer.
- After a 15-30 minute delay. After the ceremony is finished, a 15-30 minute break is taken before starting wedding photos. This allows guests to congratulate the newlyweds, and have a refreshing beverage. The risk with this option is that Uncle Bill might have taken off to the bar for good, never to return for photos!
- During a receiving line. While guests are greeting the bride and groom, the photographer will be nearby to capture the group photo after the hugs and hello’s. This is an organic method, and is typically followed up by structured formal photos to ensure all desired groupings are captured.
Golden Hour Wedding Photos
Golden hour photos are taken during the most beautiful light of the day; just before sunset. The bride and groom take a moment away from their busy day to not only take freaking fabulous photos, but to have a moment alone with each other. Taking 15-20 minutes here is something you won’t regret! Ask your photographer when and where the best placement for this is.
How Long Do Formal Photos Take?
Photographing formal photos takes between 30-120 minutes. This number varies greatly on a few factors. How many guests will you have? How many formal photo requests do you wish? Most commonly, formal photographs include immediate family members, grandparents, cousins, aunties and uncles. Any extended family member requests are usually done in large groupings, rather than individual couples shots with the bride and groom.
For guest lists of 40 or less, 30 minutes is plenty of time. Guest lists between 40 and 100, 45 minutes is a good amount of time. And guestlists of 100+, a solid 60 minutes for family is needed. Bridal party photos take 20-30 minutes, and bride and groom photos take 20-30 minutes. If you are looking for very few formal photos despite having a large guest list, then 30 minutes is adequate.
How to Execute Flawless Formal Photos
Your family hasn’t gotten together in this grouping in, well, maybe never! Your family is looking absolutely fantastic and you would love to have photos of this rare togetherness! But, you also want to get this portion of the wedding day done quickly in order to get to dinner and the party. Making a plan with your photographer will get you there.
- Write a formal photo request list out. Try your best to arrange them from large to small, and one side of the family and then the other. List both their name and relationship to you when possible.
- Large Group Shot With Everybody!
- Bride’s Side
- Bride + Groom + Bride’s Extended Family
- Bride + Groom + Bride’s Immediate Family (dad Jack, mom Sarah, sister Sue, brother Drake, grandma Ether, grandpa Joe)
- Bride Only + Bride’s Immediate Family
- Bride + Groom + Bride’s Grandparents (grandma Ether, grandpa Joe)
- Bride Only + Bride’s Grandparents Bride’s Grandparents (grandma Ether, grandpa Joe)
- Bride + Groom + Bride’s Parents (dad Jack, mom Sarah)
- Bride + Groom + Bride’s Siblings (sister Sue, brother Drake)
- Groom’s Side
- Repeat above structure
- Bride and Groom’s Sides Together
- Bride + Groom + Bride’s Parents + Grooms Parents
- Bride + Groom + Bride’s Siblings +Groom’s Siblings
- Special Requests
- Bride + Work Friends
- Groom + College Buddies
- Work with your photographer to tweak the formal photo list to be efficient, and ensure any elderly family members are among the first.
- Appoint your photographer an insider, somebody who knows your family well and can find the missing persons.
- Set a time for formal photos and list it within the wedding day timeline so your guests know what to expect.
- Have your emcee or officiant announce when and where formal photos will take place. Even if taking a break after the ceremony, announcing that a large group photo will take place is key in preventing missing Uncle Bobs.