After shooting over 150 weddings I’ve seen a lot of things! Including smooth family formals on a wedding day and….not so smooth family formals! Today I’m going to be breaking it down with 5 simple steps to ensure you can have fast, easy, and FUN family formals on your wedding day.

You may have heard it said that taking Family formals on your wedding day is like herding cats! But I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way! These are my best tips to prepare for family formals and even have time to join cocktail hour!

Planning In Advance

The key to having fun and fast family formals is to make a plan with your Photographer!

WHO will be in these photos
WHAT sensitive issues may arise
WHEN will family formals happen
WHERE will the photos be taken
HOW will you communicate this information to your family
WHY it’s important to plan

  1. WHO

Choosing Who To Be In Family Formals

Below is a list of common combinations my couples use on their wedding day to help you get started with creating your own family formals list. I recommend that you take photos with anyone that is important to you! DO NOT feel pressure to take individual photos with those random family members you just found out you had (More on when is a good time to take those photos coming)


Bride’s Side:
-Couple + Parents + Siblings + Grandparents
-Couple + Parents + Siblings
-Couple + Parents
-Bride + Dad
-Bride + Mom

Groom’s Side:
-Couple + Parents + Siblings + Grandparents
-Couple + Parents + Siblings
-Couple + Parents
-Bride + Dad
-Bride + Mom

Extended Family (After the ceremony):
-Couple + Bride’s Extended Family
-Couple + Grooms’s Extended Family


Sensitive Issues May Arise

We love our family and know that sometimes things are complicated. It’s best to communicate with your Photographer ahead of time about any sensitive issues they should be aware of on the wedding day so they can help avoid an awkward situation and help your celebration to be as joyful as possible!

-Divorced parents don’t get along
-Passing of a loved one
-Over zealous family who may try to tell your photographer the “new” family shot list


The Best Time For Family Formals (three different times)

One hour before the ceremony is the BEST time to take these photos. Reserve this for immediate family (parents, siblings, & spouses)

Immediately following the ceremony is the best time to take any larger group shots with extended family

The reception is a great time to get extra photos with people you love who may not need to be a part of formals


Best Place For Family Formals

The best place to meet for family formals is where the ceremony will take place. It’s typically an easy location for people to find and will cause less confusion for family members navigating a venue they likely haven’t been to before. From there, your photographer can move the group to the best lighting. (You don’t want the sun shining in someone’s eyes making them squint or the bad lighting to enhancing wrinkles and bags under the eyes!)

5. HOW

Communicate In Advance

Let family members know before the wedding day WHEN they need to arrive for family formals and WHERE to meet

Have your officiant make an announcement after your recessional for all family members a part of photos to stay at the ceremony site.


PRO TIP: Assign a family member on each side to help your Photographer call off names and gather people quickly

6. WHY

Enjoy Your Day

In my experience over the years I have seen this part of the day cause a lot stress for my couples. But that won’t be your experience if you plan ahead with your photographer. With these tips you could join cocktail hour or even have some private time alone together as MR & MRS before your reception!


-Make Family Shot List
-Tell your photographer of any sensitive issues
-Send a text/email to all family with the details
-Assign a family member on each side to help
-Tell your officiant to make an announcement for family to stay after the recessional

I know if you follow this above advice, not only will you have super fast, fun, and smooth family formals, but you’ll actually get to spend more time with your family and loved ones on your wedding day because photos won’t take forever!

Happy Wedding Planning!


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