Although my wedding portfolio emphasizes unposed moments, nearly all weddings also include some posed portraits, usually called the formal wedding photos, or “formals”. I encourage clients to schedule some time for these photos for family historical purposes. Formals usually include the bride and groom, their parents, immediate families and wedding party.
The Key Formals
The portraits can be divided into two parts:
- Couple portraits — 15 minutes to 30 minutes (or more) — varies a lot depending on the couple, the location, and how much you want to walk around.
- Couple + family & wedding party portraits — 25 minutes to 60 minutes (varies a lot, depending on number of portraits, size of wedding party, size of families, etc.). For these, a good rule of thumb is 3 minutes per portrait. A typical list might look like this:
- couple + bride’s parents
- couple + bride’s family, including any grandparents & in-laws
- couple + all parents
- couple + groom’s parents
- couple + groom’s family, including any grandparents & in-laws
- bride + bridesmaids
- couple + wedding party (bridesmaids & groomsmen)
- groom + groomsmen
If you do the eight listed above, that would be (8 portraits @ 3 minutes each =) 24 minutes for the family & wedding party portion, plus the time for the couple portraits.
Each wedding is different. Some have big families and big wedding parties, while some have small families and no wedding party. It’s a good idea to make a list like the above, and estimate 3 minutes per portrait on the list. If you plan to do more than the eight key formals above, I recommend that you assign one or two people to help gather people for the portraits. Give them your portrait list so they know who to gather.
When deciding whether a portrait should be on your list, think about whether it will have a natural destination somewhere. Will it be framed and displayed by itself? Will it be in your wedding album? I don’t recommend making a list that includes many combinations of the same people. These get repetitive for everyone involved, especially the wedding couple! If time is short, it’s best to go with fewer portraits, while including more people in each. For example, while it may be nice to have a portrait of the bride separately with each parent and the groom separately with each parent, the key portrait (the one likely to get framed or be in the album) is the couple with all parents, or the couple with each set of parents.
Note that many weddings run behind schedule, so it’s a good idea to pad the schedule with a little extra time, just in case that happens.
Here are some examples of the key formals at one wedding:
Other Possible Formals and How They Affect the Schedule
If you would like more formals, be sure to schedule more time. A list of five formals may take just 15 minutes to complete, while a list of 30 formals may realistically take 90 minutes. If you have more time, here are just some of the many possible variations:
Examples of Wedding Formals from Various Weddings
The above examples are all from one wedding. Let’s look at some examples of formals from other weddings:
Of course, formals sometimes have fun “in-between” moments:
Wedding Formals Indoors
The above examples are all outdoors and in daylight. Outdoors is generally preferable, but wedding formals can also be done indoors. Sometimes the weather is a factor, or the sunset is early, or indoors is just more practical. Here are some examples of indoor wedding formals:
Wedding Formals in Black and White
Wedding formals are usually in color but can also be in black and white:
Wedding Portraits Without Looking at the Camera
Wedding formals are generally of people looking toward the camera, but posed photos sometimes have the subjects looking at each other:
Or looking away: