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LP Education: Family Formals Advice


After each ceremony I hear the exact same thing come from the bride or groom.

Lyndsey, it is really important to us that we don’t hold our guests up while taking pictures after the ceremony.”

Usually they then refer back to a wedding they’ve attended where the family photos took an hour…or more! Can I just say that I whole heartedly agree? I would never, EVER want to keep wedding guests waiting this long. Trust me – I understand that everyone is ready to relax and celebrate!

With that, 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 all dressed up nicely! You want this documented because it’s not every day you get the opportunity for great photos. Because of this, the formal photos deserve some advance thought and attention. With some careful planning and consideration, it is possible to get some really nice portraits in the least amount of time possible. So today, I’m going to share with you about how to make the most of your family formals on your big day!

1. Keep Your Formal Photo List Short

As a family formal list advocate, I can guarantee I’ve annoyed you with this question..”Have you made a family formals list yet?”.  My first piece of advice is to try and keep that list fairly abbreviated.  I tell my couples to try and keep the list to 10-12 groupings at most.  Remember, with each grouping you are not only having to call names, but oftentimes you’re having to send someone to hunt people down if they’ve run off despite your best efforts.  I will also need to arrange and pose people so that everyone looks their best.  Sometimes this can take few extra minutes per photo depending on the number of people in the image.  You can see how fast the time can add up!  So, keep your formal list short and concise in order to avoid family formals taking too long.

2. Bride and Groom In All Formal Photos

I also recommend that the bride and groom be included in every photo taken with family and friends after the ceremony to avoid too much repetition. You may want photos of just you and your immediate family apart from your spouse, or maybe you with your parents – and this is completely understandable.  However, these photos are best taken before the ceremony in order to maximize the family formals timeframe.

3. Communicate and Delegate

I am always a firm believer in over-communication…and this includes planning your family formals!  One way you can prepare your family and friends is to send the list of formals and the location to the people who will be in them.  Emailing is a cost effective way to manage this communication.  Or, for your out-of-town family and friends, you could include a nicely printed note and list in their hotel welcome baskets.  And of course, ask your officiant to reiterate at the end of the ceremony that family will need to stay for photos.

6. Stay Focused

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!

BONUS – Sample Family Formals Shot List

If you’re absolutely stumped, I’ve provided helpful starter list below for planning your family formal shot list.  Feel free to take and use this as a template and re-arrange/substitute as needed!

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

Groom’s Parents 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 using the advice provided in this post and the provided family formals shot list, you’ll be able to get all of the photos of your loved ones that you’re wanting in the least amount of time possible.  So get those formal photos planned, send the list to your wedding photographer, and then kick back knowing you’re now on top of your wedding planning game!

August 5, 2020

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