We all get it, Family Formals time on wedding day is the worst! But you know what, it really shouldn’t be. Your family is the reason you are who you are, and they are there to support you, right? I personally believe it’s one of the most important parts of the day!
One of the reasons family formals get such a bad rap is because it can easily be overlooked when planning. It’s not hard, but if it’s not planned out, WITH EVERYONE, then that’s where problems arise.
Why is this time so important? A wedding day is usually one of the very few times most of, if not all of, you family is together. And, not to be a Debbie Downer but, it could be the last. Stephen’s sister’s wedding was the last time they had a family portrait with both of their grandfather’s. They both passed away within a few months of each other and her wedding was the last time we saw them both. We are truly grateful to have these portraits with them!
The thing we find the most with family formals is that most of the time families don’t realize when or where they are suppose to be involved on wedding day.
Ten minutes of planning would have prevented this. Not only with us as photographers, but also with the families.
It’s important to remember that the family formals are a crucial part of your wedding day gallery. It’s one of the only times where all of your family and friends will be in one place, and dressed up! With some careful planning and consideration, it is most definitely possible to get some really nice portraits in the least amount of time possible! Keep reading to learn how!
As your photographer, I will ask you for your list of family formals in advance. My first piece of advice is to try and keep that list fairly abbreviated – 10-12 groupings at most. Remember, with each grouping we will have to call out names, arrange the group so each person looks their best, and take multiple shots to make sure we have a good image with everyone smiling at the camera! The time can add up quickly, especially with larger groups. This is why it’s important to keep your formals list concise to keep everything moving smoothly.
I also recommend that the bride and groom be included in every photo taken with family and friends. This will help avoid too much repetition. While you may want pictures of just you with your parents, etc., these are better taken while getting ready before the ceremony or at the reception so we can maximize the time we have for family formals!
It is very important that we decide in advance where you’d like your family formals taken so that your family can be made aware. Traditionally these pictures are taken at the ceremony site, but if there’s another place you would like to do them, that’s fine too! The main thing is knowing ahead of time where you need to tell everyone to be. Which leads us to the next one…
I am always a firm believer in over-communication…and this includes when it comes to how to plan your family formals! Prepare your family and friends by sending the list of formals, the location AND THE TIME to the people who will be in them. A quick email costs you nothing and also ensures that everyone has a copy in their hand. And if you really want to make sure things go smoothly, call or text them to let them know you sent the email – no one goes anywhere without their phone!
Along with that, kindly let your family and guests know that you have worked with your photographer and have the shot list ready, and if they have any requests, to do those during the reception. This will help prevent your dear, sweet Aunt Suzie from requesting six extra combinations that you don’t even really want – meaning less stress for you and getting to the reception (party) quicker!
In addition, ask your officiant to reiterate at the end of the ceremony that family will need to stay for photos because uncle Paul is already thinking about cocktail hour! And if you don’t plan on doing full extended photos, make sure the officiant specifies that only family that has been told to stay behind need to stay.
Select one family member or a close friend who knows your family well to act as a formals helper. During family formals I am the only one actually taking pictures (this ensures everyone is looking the same way!). Stephen is in charge of the list and calling out names and groupings, but we will not know all the extended family members. If you have an assigned friend to make sure everyone is where they are supposed to be, this will make this hectic time run much smoother!
Please let me know ahead of time regarding family members who are elderly or have other mobility issues. This helps me to plan so that they don’t have to get up and down multiple times.
Also, please let me know regarding divorces or family feuds. Weddings are happy events so we want to avoid any potentially awkward situations!
Even if they weren’t on the list you made, it is highly possible that you will have family and friends approaching you for photos while you’re in the midst of going down your formal list, even if they weren’t on the list you made. This is normal and understandable! Everyone wants a photo with the bride and groom because you’re the stars of the day! When this happens at a wedding I’m photographing, I always like to remind them that I will be there for the rest of the night and can take that photo during the reception when there will be plenty of “down time.” Just about 99% of the time this satisfies the person asking for a photo so that we can move on with the list!
On that same note, lots of couples really like the idea of a photo with all of their guests. I love this idea too! However, it’s best to do this at the reception. For one thing, everyone is a bit more relaxed, meaning you get a photo that is FUN with everyone cheering! Also, everyone is in one place AND for any stragglers, your DJ will be able to help round them up. Be sure to let your photographer know that you want this photo in advance, too!
We realize that family formal photos are not as fun as those candid shots throughout the day, but your parents and grandparents love them and it will be something they will cherish and proudly display on the walls of their homes.
I’ve provided a helpful starter list below for planning your family formal shot list.
Bride and Groom with Officiant
Bride and Groom with Bride’s Parents
Bride and Groom with Bride’s Siblings
Bride and Groom with Bride’s Parents and Siblings
Bride and Groom with Bride’s Parents, Siblings, and Extended Family
Bride and Groom with Bride’s Parents and Groom’s Parents
Bride and Groom with Groom’s Parents
Bride and Groom with Groom’s Siblings
Bride and Groom with Groom’s Parents and Siblings
Bride and Groom with Groom’s Parents, Siblings, and Extended Family
Bride and Groom with Bride’s Parents and Siblings, Groom’s Parents and Siblings, Both Extended Families
Bride’s Parents Alone
Bride’s Grandparents Alone
Groom’s Parents Alone
Groom’s Grandparents Alone
Family formals can be a stressful and often time consuming part of planning your wedding. However, it will definitely pay off to put some thought and effort into the family formals shot list on your wedding day! By working with your wedding photographer to plan ahead, we will be able to get all of the photos of your loved ones that you’re wanting in the least amount of time possible!
Courtney Lynn Photography are husband + wife wedding photographers based out of Dallas/Fort Worth and an educator for small business owners who are hustling to create their dream photography business!
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