Besides getting married, family is the most important part of your wedding day! There are very few opportunities where families are dressed up all in one place beyond wedding days. And who wouldn’t want photos of all their families looking spiffy? BUT after shooting over 100+ weddings, I’ve seen it happen time and time again – people are annoyed or confused about this part of the day because they know family formals are all that stand between them and the party! Don’t worry, I’ve come prepared with a few wedding family formal photo tips!
Poorly planned family formals have a way of stressing everyone (and I mean everyone-myself included!) out and leaving a bad taste in your mouth during what’s supposed to be the most joyous and celebratory part of the day! Disorganized family members, unclear expectations about who is supposed to be where and when, awkward relationships…you name it – all of these have the potential to derail a short-and-sweet timeline into a long and drawn-out mess.
BUT, if handled correctly, there are a few ways to help you survive family formal photos with your sanity intact and get photos with the people you love most. Sounds great, right? 😉 I’m here to help!
Here are a few ways escape family formal photos with your sanity intact! (SEE THE REST OF OUR WEDDING ADVICE HERE!)
Wedding Family Formal Photo Tips
1. Have a pow-wow with your partner on who you’d like included in family photos first.
This decision should include both of you to ensure you’re both equally represented during family photos. Consider only doing immediate family photos during “formal” time and get more casual extended family groupings during the reception. Once you have the appropriate conversations, then loop in your parents to make sure they’re on the same page.
2. Communicate with family about who is needed for post-ceremony photos.
Every family is different with different dynamics and levels of relationships. It’s understandable that you wouldn’t want every single person who is related to you by marriage or blood included during this time. Once you’ve decided who you’d like to be there, email your list out to the people with CLEAR and concise instructions of what to expect after the ceremony. There is nothing more awkward than people asking me if they’re needed for photos and I have to tell them no. YIKES! Let them know you’re on a strict timeline and that any family members that are missing will likely miss out on having their photo taken.
3. If you do a first look, you can knock out family photos with your new spouse before the wedding.
You’ve heard me talk about all the benefits of first looks before, but the list of benefits also includes allowing us time to knock out family photos before the ceremony, allowing you to get to the party much quicker than you would if you had to do family photos after the ceremony.
4. Budget time appropriately.
At first blush, people think taking large group photos is a fairly quick process. You’d be surprised how much time it takes to situate any group of people – budget 4-5 minutes for larger groups and 2-3 minutes for smaller groups, including 1) me calling out names, 2) family getting where they need to be 3) family situating themselves/calling a missing family member 4) us posing them 5) to snapping a few photos. Typically we allocate 20 minutes for immediate family photos and an additional 15-20 for extended family photos if the couple explicitly requests them. (If creating a timeline scares you, don’t worry! I, along with the help of an excellent planner like Brannan Events, Paisley and Plum or Andria Leigh Events, can help you make the picture-perfect timeline!)
5. Plan to do family photos at a close central location to the ceremony, like the altar.
It’s easier to tell people to stay in one place than to move to a different location. Moving means potentially losing people. If you’re ceremony space has good light, plan to do your family photos in that spot. This also allows you to make sure of any florals adoring the space, too!
6. Create an ordered list of groups (and include names)!
We will definitely not be winging it in terms of the plan-of-attack for family photos. 😉 If I’m your wedding photographer, I will send you a pre-wedding questionnaire 60 days prior to the wedding to collect the names and relationship of the people you want included in your photos. If you want bonus points, create an ordered list of exactly who you want, in which groupings, and in what order to make sure the photos run smoothly. It is really important to me to use first names and the relationship to you is shared so I can quickly call out pairings.