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Formal Wedding Portraits

Capturing unforgettable formal wedding portraits is an essential part of commemorating your special day. These timeless images not only serve as treasured memories but can also become cherished family heirlooms for generations to come. In this guide, we’ll explore the various aspects of formal wedding portraits, from traditional individual shots to studio-style sessions, and discuss the importance of scheduling, locations, and communication with your photographer. By following these tips and recommendations, you’ll be well on your way to creating stunning portraits that capture the essence of your love story.

What Are Formal Wedding Portraits?

Traditionally, formal wedding portraits capture the bride and groom individually before the ceremony, utilizing available lighting and backgrounds where they are getting ready. Another option is to have formal bridal portraits, taken days or months before the ceremony, in a studio-style setting.


Scheduling these sessions weeks or even months ahead of the wedding offers many advantages compared to photographing formal portraits on the same day as the ceremony. One of the primary benefits is the opportunity to fully focus on the photography session without the pressure and time constraints of the wedding day.


A formal bridal portrait session before the wedding also gives you the opportunity to practice in front of the camera. Although practice in front of the camera isn’t particularly helpful for photojournalism, it is very useful for knowing how to pose for family portraits and the couple’s portraits that will be taken at your wedding.

Why Take Formal Wedding Portraits?

Formal bridal portraits of the bride and groom, both individually and together, are essential milestone portraits to have captured, as they serve as treasured visual reminders of your special day. These cherished images will not only help you recall the moment you committed your lives to one another as your memories fade, but they may also become cherished family heirlooms, for your children and grandchildren.

When To Take Formal Wedding Portraits

formal wedding portraits

Planning your wedding can be an exciting and busy time, with many important decisions to make. One key aspect to consider is when to take your formal wedding portraits. By organizing your schedule, you’ll ensure enough time to create the best wedding portraits possible.

For the bride and groom, individual studio portraits can be arranged a couple of weeks or even months in advance of the big day. This option provides flexibility and reduces stress, allowing you to focus on other wedding preparations.


On the other hand, couples’ formal portraits are typically taken between the ceremony and reception. This timing not only creates a seamless transition in your album but also allows the groom to experience the magic of seeing the bride for the first time at the ceremony. The emotional reaction captured in these images is truly priceless.


To further streamline your wedding day, refer to my wedding day schedule guide. This helpful resource offers valuable tips for planning your formal wedding portraits if you want to do them the day of your wedding. Adhering to these suggestions will help you plan the necessary time to get the best photos possible from your wedding. By taking the time to plan and prepare, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your special day, knowing that you’ve budgeted enough time to get the photos you want.

Where To Take Formal Wedding Portraits

Planning your wedding day can be both exciting and overwhelming. One of the essential aspects to consider is what background you’ll want for your formal wedding portraits. There are several options for you to choose from when deciding on the perfect setting and timing for these photos.

Traditionally, formal wedding portraits are taken individually of the bride and groom before the ceremony, as they get ready for their big day. This often takes place at their home or the location they are staying at prior to the ceremony. Utilizing available lighting and backgrounds, these portraits capture the anticipation and excitement leading up to the nuptials.

At Your home

Another option is to have studio style wedding portraits taken at your home in advance of your wedding. The groom usually steps away while the bride is photographed to maintain the element of surprise. Later, the groom returns for his individual portrait. For more information, check out our post about studio style portraits on location.


At or near the reception location

If the bride prefers not to be seen in her dress before the ceremony, formal couple portraits are usually best captured after the ceremony during cocktail hour or the reception. This way, the first time the groom will see his bride in her dress will be at the ceremony, adding to the emotional impact of the moment.

At or near the ceremony location

For couples who don’t mind seeing each other in their wedding attire before the ceremony, first look and traditional photos of the couple before the ceremony are a good option. The advantage to doing your couples portraits at this time is that you’ll have more time with your guests later as you won’t need to step out for portraits during your party. Alternatively you can also do your couples formal portraits in a studio setting or even at a breathtaking location on a separate day, creating a unique and stunning backdrop for your photos.

black and white studio Wedding Portrait
formal wedding portraits
Formal wedding Portrait
Formal wedding portraits

Formal Wedding Portrait Tips For Success

  • Maintain element of surprise: Keep the bride and groom separate before the portrait session. This not only preserves the surprise but also prevents the groom from seeing the bride in her dress before the big moment.
  • Optimal outdoor portrait timing: Schedule outdoor couple’s portraits within an hour before sunset or after sunrise. This period, often referred to as the golden hour, provides the best lighting conditions, creating a romantic ambiance for your portraits.
  • Clear communication with photographer: Discuss your vision, ideas, and preferences with the photographer in detail. Be sure to include any specific shots you’d like so that they understand your expectations and can work towards delivering the desired results.
  • High-quality clothing and accessories matter: Invest in quality attire and put together stylish outfits that compliment your wedding’s color theme. A well-coordinated ensemble can greatly enhance the overall appearance of your formal wedding portraits, making them even more memorable.

Wine Country Romance: Formal Wedding Portraits in Sonoma, Napa, and Marin County

Formal wedding photographer
Portrait photographer Jason Guy

In summary, the significance of formal wedding portraits cannot be overstated, as they provide cherished memories and can become beloved family heirlooms for future generations. By paying close attention to the scheduling, location, and effective communication with your photographer, you’ll be on the right path to creating captivating portraits that encapsulate the essence of your love story.

As a professional wedding photographer, I understand the importance of capturing your special moments. If you’re planning a wedding in Sonoma, Napa, or Marin County, California, I would be honored to help capture your memories. You can get in touch with me here and I’d be happy to discuss your wedding photography needs and help make your wedding day truly unforgettable.

Jason Guy

I am a portrait photographer based out of Sonoma, California. I create portraits for people of all ages with the goal of making images that are timeless. Portraits you will look back on decades from now, and still love them just as much then as you do today. While flattering lighting and pose are important, capturing how others see you is what I ultimately strive for.

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