Weddings

How To Create Your Family Formals List

October 1, 2019

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Elizabeth
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As both a bride and a wedding photographer, I’ve learned that one of the most stressful parts of a wedding day can be fitting formal family photos into a short amount of time, and one of the best ways to ensure the process is as quick and efficient as possible, it to give a family formals list to your photographer. This way, you can ensure that all important family photos are taken and it helps the entire process go more smoothly–so everyone can get back to the party!

Here are some recommendations for creating your family formals list that can help you create one that your photographer (and your family) will thank you for.

KEEP YOUR TIMELINE IN MIND

When you’re building your family formals list, it’s imperative that you keep your timeframe in mind. This portion of the wedding day is almost always a time crunch, especially for larger families or complex family combinations, there may be a lot of groupings you want photographed, but after the ceremony family members are often pulled in many different directions.

Also consider, that while it may seem simple to take group photos, it’s important to account for time spent finding missing family members, wrangling little ones, and placing everyone in a visually appealing arrangement.

For very large groups, or more editorial groupings, this can sometimes take 10 minutes or more. For this reason, I highly recommend limiting your family groupings to 10-15 groups maximum.

I also encourage you to be really honest with yourself about which family members are the most important to you. Having individual photos with every second cousin three times removed probably will not feel like a priority in fifty years.

The best way to include all important family members is to have one large group photo of each person’s immediate family. I also don’t recommend including any siblings’ boyfriends or girlfriends, unless that couple is already engaged (even then, you just never know).

BE HONEST

Every family is complicated in its own ways, and as a wedding photographer, I’ve seen and am sensitive to all kinds of family dynamics.

I always discuss these typed of dynamics with my clients beforehand so I can be sensitive to them on the wedding day. If there are tensions in your family, I encourage you to discuss them with your photographer beforehand, or include some notes in your family formals list.

ORGANIZE YOUR FAMILY FORMALS

When planning whose family will be photographed first, consider factors such as if one side of the family has much older or younger members of the family. You don’t want certain family members having to stand and wait for long periods of time, or having to control little ones any longer than humanly necessary.

SHARE THE PLAN WITH FAMILY BEFOREHAND

The best way to keep family formals from taking more time than necessary, is to communicate with everyone beforehand. Set expectations so they know where they need to be, and emphasize how important it is that they don’t disappear after the ceremony.

You may even consider sending out your family formals list, so everyone knows what to expect in advance. I can tell you, there is nothing more frustrating for couples than watching the sun set as your sister runs around frantically trying to find your brother.

STICK TO THE PLAN

It’s common for family photos to occur right after the ceremony. It’s also common to have friends and family members want to greet you and share their congratulations. It’s important to resit the distractions and save all your mingling for your reception and cocktail hour.

It always helps to have your officiant announce after your ceremony that family and friends not involved in photos should go straight to cocktail hour.

FORMALS CHECKLIST EXAMPLE

WEDDING PARTY

Couple alone

Client #1 with each bridal party member individually Client #1 with their side of the bridal party

Client #2 with each bridal party member individually Client #2 with their side of the bridal party

Couple with entire bridal party Couple with flower girl and ring bearer

FAMILY

Couple with Client #1’s parents

Couple with Client #1’s parents and siblings

Couple with Client #1’s parents, siblings, and spouses/kids

Couple with Client #1’s grandparent(s)

Couple’s parents together

Couple with Client #2’s parents

Couple with Client #2’s parents and siblings

Couple with Client #2’s parents, siblings, and spouses/kids

Couple with Client #2’s grandparent(s)

Couple’s parents together

Couple with both sets of parents Couple with both sets of families

Couple with any kids present

Couple with grandparents individually

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BEHIND THE LENS

ABOUT ELIZABETH

Photographer, Equestrian and Scuba Diver. Lover of Fashion, Art and Interior Design. Collector of Cookbooks. Creator of Everything-But-The-Kitchen-Sink Travel Itineraries. Obsessed with Haute Restaurants and Hot Yoga.

When Elizabeth isn't photographing destination weddings, she's scuba diving (warm waters, if at all possible), riding her Iberian Warmblood, or spending time with her sweet family in Central California. She's just as good at planning menus as planning trips, and she makes a legendary pomegranate and rosemary baked brie. 

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