Family formals are a part of the wedding day that elicits strong reactions from all – excitement, nervousness, aggravation, boredom, a little bit of all of the above. A common part of many wedding days (though not required, you can skip these if they aren’t your style!), family formals often get a bad rap because they are a very direction heavy and time-consuming part of the day. But good news, they don’t have to be! In this post, I have some tips for making your family formals as stress free and seamless as possible.
And It All Starts With Planning
The best way to make sure family formals go smoothly and don’t throw your timeline off track is to go in with a game plan. This means it’s time to make a shotlist. 😎
If you’ve sat down and tried to do this before – you may have found yourself at a loss for how to do it. This is where I bestow my knowledge from years of making way too many of these to help you.
Step #1: Write your name and your partner’s name.
Easy. We got it.
Step #2: Write down the name and relation of each person from your family who you know you will want a formal photo with.
Don’t worry about groupings yet, just get the names down.
Step #3: Add any special notes about the people involved.
Note the following: Ages under 10 or over 70, ability needs, and anything else you feel is relevant.
Step #4: Make the groupings!
See the next section for some tips on this.
Tips for the List
Every family and every wedding is different. What I suggest might not work for your family and that’s ok! Only you know your family dynamics and what photos are important to you. That being said, these tips will help you keep your celebration running on time.
Make your list alone. Your mom / dad / aunt / sister are going to have very different ideas of what photos matter and how many there should be. Make the list you want, not the list you’ve been pressured into.
As a rule of thumb, each family grouping will take 3-5 minutes. This means 10 groups will take at least a half an hour. If you’re looking at your final list and it’s got 20 groupings but you want to attend the second half of your cocktail hour, you’re in for trouble.
Prioritize core / immediate family. If you have large families this is especially important unless you want to be taking family photos for hours. Focus on parents, grandparents, and siblings. Cousins, aunts, and uncles are great to include if there’s time but you can always grab me at the reception for a photo with them if you need!
Have bigger groupings. One photo with grandparents, parents, siblings, and their spouses will take less time than three photos featuring each group.
You don’t need every combination. You don’t need a photo of grandparents + parents + siblings, parents + grandparents, siblings + parents, siblings with their spouses and kids + siblings without their spouses and kids, etc. Everyone there is there to celebrate you, it’s ok if they’re in a photo together.
Limit ‘Myself +’ photos to really special ones. If you already have a grouping of ‘Us + Group A’ consider if you really want ‘Myself + Group A’ too. Your guests are there to celebrate your union, so it’s ok if you’re both in all the family photos. Duplicates of existing photos with just one of you add to the overall time very quickly. Plus, if either of you have a dress we have to reset your train every time you move.
Remember, you can get photos with more guests later. Don’t worry if you can’t include everyone in family formals! Grab me at the reception when I’m taking candids and I’ll snap any extra photos you want.
Put photos including elders + kids first so they can be done and rest / play sooner. If they’re in multiple photos, group those ones back to back so they don’t have to sit down and stand up a bunch.
Give everyone on the shotlist a heads up. Let them know they will be in family photos and when and where those photos will take place (you’ll know after our timeline call!). This helps everyone be in the right place when we’re ready to go.
If you’re still not sure how to build out your list (or don’t have time to let’s be real wedding planning is a lot!) that’s ok! Just do through step #2 and send that to me. I’m happy to make your list for you, and you’ll get to see it and ok it before it’s used on the day. 🙂
If you don’t have a family formals shotlist by the time we do our timeline consultation, we’ll make one together during our meeting or call. I can’t lie, it’s not the most fun part of the timeline call but it’s so important to have. ❤️
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community myself, I'm committed to making wedding day dreams come true for you and your love (or loves!) no matter your sexuality or gender identity. With me, you'll never have to worry about crossing off a gendered label or answering uncomfortable questions. My entire photography process was designed to create a comfortable and safe environment for you.
About Maya lovro
Are you and your partner planning an elopement or small wedding?