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Wedding Wednesday: Formal Portraits and When to Schedule Them

For Radian Couples, Radian Photography, Wedding Wednesday

December 20, 2017

Your wedding day will be one where your family and closest friends and — bonus — they’re going to be all dressed up! So, of course, this is a time when you (or, at least, your parents) will want beautiful formal portraits with family and your wedding party. While we love the candid, natural photos that we get to capture during other parts of the day, even we have photos of our family on our wedding day hanging on our walls at home, so we know the importance of these photos to our couples.

The question is, when should you schedule these portraits into your day? There are two main options here: before and after your ceremony. The answer may be different for you depending on your overall timeline and — if you’ve read some of our other posts, you may have guessed it — the time of year you get married. Below, we’ve broken down reasons why you might choose either option and pros and cons of both.

wedding formal portraits

wedding formal portraits

Who should be included in our portraits?

Before we break down when to schedule your portraits, we wanted to provide you with a sample of who should be in them. Obviously this is flexible and you can add more groupings (or remove some) if you want, but always remember that you can pull us for photos during your reception (so leave your great aunt once removed and third cousin out for these formal pohtos — we can always take a photo of you with them after you’ve had a chance to eat!). Generally, we schedule around 30 minutes of time for portraits with family and the wedding party. We prefer limiting these portraits to immediate family and wedding party only so that you don’t get too tired of standing and smiling and can start celebrating with your guests:

  1. Spouse 1 + Spouse 2 + Spouse 1’s parents
  2. Spouse 1 + Spouse 2 + Spouse 1’s immediate family
  3. Spouse 1 + Spouse 2 + Spouse 2’s parents
  4. Spouse 1 + Spouse 2 + Spouse 2’s immediate family
  5. Spouse 1 + Spouse 2 + both immediate families
  6. Spouse 1 + Spouse 1’s attendants (+individuals)
  7. Spouse 2 + Spouse 2’s attendants (+individuals)
  8. Spouse 1 + Spouse 2 + full wedding party

wedding formal portraits

wedding formal portraits

wedding formal portraits

Option #1: Schedule your portraits for before your ceremony

Reasons why you might choose this option:

  • Your wedding will be right before sunset (potentially during the colder months when the sun will set sooner) so there won’t be enough light afterwards.
  • The forecast is showing rain later in the evening and you prefer to take your photos outside. This is obviously a more spur-of-the-moment decision that will need to be made, but it’s one reason you might want to take your portraits before the ceremony.
  • Because of the way the light moves throughout the day, the area where you want your photos to be taken will not have appropriate lighting. We can help you figure this out!
  • Your reception is fairly short and you want to spend as much time as possible with your guests.

Pros to having your portraits done before the ceremony:

  • After the ceremony, you can jump straight into the cocktail hour and spending time with your guests.
  • If we have the chance for a beautiful sunset, you won’t be tired out from formal portraits with family and can schedule in some time for portraits with your new spouse!

Cons to having your portraits done before the ceremony:

  • This is a big one, and the number one reason we don’t love doing formal portraits before your ceremony: you have been planning your wedding for months (and in some cases, even over a year) and we have noticed a tension and anxiety that often builds in the family of lovebirds right before you say your “I do”s. And then, just after the first kiss, it’s like everyone breathes one big collective sigh and relaxes. For this reason, we tend to like doing portraits after your ceremony if possible because everyone usually feels like they have some weight off of their shoulders.
  • It can cramp your getting ready time and leave you feeling rushed right before your ceremony if you haven’t built ample time into your schedule. Again, wrangling people before the ceremony can sometimes be difficult as bridesmaids put last minute touches on their hair and makeup and moms and dads run around making sure everything is perfect. If there isn’t plenty of time in your schedule before the ceremony, squeezing in family portraits might not work out well.
  • Unless there are hidden places at your venue, you might have to take the photos inside since guests will be arriving.

wedding formal portraits

wedding formal portraits

Option #2: Schedule your portraits for after your ceremony

Reasons why you might choose this option:

  • Your wedding is during the warmer summer months when there will be plenty hours of light after your ceremony.
  • Because of the way the light moves throughout the day, the area where you want your photos to be taken will have perfect lighting for your portraits. We can help you figure this out!
  • You know you will have plenty of time at your reception to spend time with your guests and are okay with taking a few minutes after your ceremony for portraits!

Pros to having your portraits done after the ceremony:

  • As long as the people you want in your portraits know to hang around after your ceremony, it’s easy to grab them for these photos — no people wrangling necessary!
  • As we mentioned above, after your ceremony people generally are in a much better mood and, with drinks in hand, you might actually enjoy family portraits as you hang out with your loved ones and take in the fact that you’re now married!

Cons to having your portraits done after the ceremony:

  • You may have to miss part or all of your cocktail hour, depending on how many groupings you want. Usually, your planner or caterer will be able to bring you some snacks and drinks, though, so you won’t be hungry!
  • If you have many groupings to photograph, spending even more time to get the golden hour portraits that you won’t want to miss might not be high on your priority list. We wouldn’t want you to skip out on these because you’re tired from your portraits!
  • If an unplanned rain shower starts right after the ceremony, or pushes your ceremony back, it might be impossible to take formal photos outside.

Whatever you choose for your portraits is perfectly fine with us! We just can’t wait to capture these memories for you and your families — past, present and future!

wedding formal portraits

wedding formal portraits

Choose your own adventure! 

  1. Read reasons why you might want to skip a first look here!
  2. Want more wedding-related advice? Check these posts out!
  3. Want to see us in your inbox twice a month with more wedding-related advice? Click here! 

formal wedding portraits

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