What is a Formal Session? | Our Top Tips

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Photo & Text by Niki Baldwin Photography


What is a formal session

Formal Sessions (also known as Bridals) is a separate occasion from your wedding day that you get dressed in your wedding attire for photos.  These sessions can be done before or after your wedding day and it can be any combination of: Bridal, Groom, First Look, and Couple Together.


In the past, especially with film, only a handful of photos were taken of the couple in their wedding attire. Because of limited images available with film, formals usually were only taken on the wedding day. When digital cameras became available and more commonly used, brides started doing a Bridal Session before their wedding day.

This still kept with tradition of having the groom see her for the first time walking down the isle but gave additional pictures to display during the reception of the bride in her wedding dress.

During the late 2000s-early 2010s, both the bride and groom started to do the bridal session together. And in the last few years, it has evolved more with going to epic locations, documenting the first time the couple see each other, having it be done after the wedding day and to be more of an experience for the couple being documented by both a photographer and videographer.

Weddings are definitely becoming more personalized and a huge part of that are the professional photos and video.

Benefit of a formal session

The benefit of a formal session is that you get additional wedding pictures with breathtaking locations as your background. It relieves the stress of missing your must have shots on your wedding day, helps you enjoy your day and to have more time partying with your guests!

If you choose to to have your session beforehand, you can have these photos as part of your decorations during your reception and for a slide show. It’s also a great trial run for your hair, makeup, and flowers! And if you chose to have these photos after your wedding, you’re less worried about your dress and suit getting dirty and needing to be perfect for your wedding day.

I have seen this time and time again when couples decide to all of their formals on just their wedding day, they are tired by the time we get to their formals. After being up for hours, getting ready, making sure everything is ready, getting married, doing group photos with family and friends for the past 45-60mins, the idea of another hour of pictures sounds exhausting and the couple decides to only take a few and then regrets not having more photos of just the two of them.

Here is a testimony from a couple about choosing to have their formals the day after they got married:

"The best decision we made for our wedding was to take private, formal photos of just us the day after the wedding. This allowed us to pick the perfect outdoor spot for the occasion and take as much time as we needed to get the perfect shots. I will forever value the intimate time my new husband and I got to focus on capturing the love we have for each other. These are photos I will cherish for a lifetime. And, as a bonus, we got extra time to spend with our loved ones and guests at the actual wedding making for a perfect wedding weekend.”    -  Erika

niki baldwin photography southern utah wedding zion brides elopements26a

There is no right or wrong way when it comes to your wedding. It’s your special day and we want to make it as memorable and stress free as possible for you. I highly recommend consulting with your photographer and videographer about their process and what they can do to make your day be the best day ever!

Location: Guardsman’s Pass, Park City
Couple: Erika & Michael @e.cunning16 @mikhaileinreinhof
Photographer: Niki Baldwin Photography @nikibaldwinphotography
Dress: Mary’s Bridal @marysbridalslc
Tie: Azazie @azazieofficial
Makeup: Jessica De Armas Guzman @gorjessmeup
 Hair: Shara Loves Hair @sharaloveshair
 Flowers: Millennial Falls @millennial_falls

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