One of the most important parts of the wedding day are the legacy family formal photos you will capture of your family with your new spouse. That’s not something most people say right off the bat. Lol! When I ask about the most important part of the day, the group family formals usually aren’t at the top of the list. In fact, most couples dread this part of the day because typically, group photos are stressful. They think back to the last holiday get together and everyone arguing over who stands where or trying to chase down little kids, and it just floods most couples with a sense of dread.
Family formal photos at your wedding does NOT have to be that way. And I’m here to tell you that we will do everything we can to make sure it is as stress-free as possible.
We’ve photographed 100s of weddings and seen every possible combination of family groupings. There have been divorced families, remarried families, elderly grandparents that are divorced and/or remarried, family members who were uncooperative, little kids that are short a nap, and so many other situations. We’ve also photographed families without any of those dynamics as well. Our goal, no matter what the dynamics or family history is for your respective families, is to help you have those legacy photographs of your family on your wedding day that you know you’ll want in 20-30 years.
When we first meet with engaged couples, we ask couples what the most important part of their wedding day is, and often it’s related to finally being married, with a close second being their excitement to celebrate with the people they love most – their friends and family. They look forward to the candids and the moments, the emotions of the day, being captured forever. We love photographing those moments, and they are often wonderful images to document the story and feeling of the day in a wedding album.
As we dig a little deeper with couples, we usually learn how important their family is to them, and that’s when we usually talk about family formals. Not because they are exciting, but because in many years, it will be one of the photos that you will look back on to remember who was at your wedding. Imagine your 5 year old niece or nephew as a teenager in 10 years, and you look at the family group photo and see how much they’ve grown! Or remember back to a grandparent that has since passed away. These generational portraits may not be the most exciting part of a wedding day, but they are often the most treasured photos years down the road. That’s why we give them such a high priority when planning your day – we want them to be beautiful, effortless, and something you are proud to hang on your wall to showcase your family and the ones you love.
After photographing so many family formals, this list and order is pretty much etched in my brain and I have it memorized! However, we like to share it with our couples and have them let us know names so that we can address people personally as we gather for photos. This helps everything run smoothly, and your relatives will greatly appreciate it. When everyone is on time and ready to go, we can typically get through our family formal list in around 20-25 minutes. When there are divorces or remarriages, it’s around 30-35 minutes.
A quick note about extended family formal photos. More and more of our couples are choosing to simplify family formal photos and stick with just parents, grandparents, siblings (and their children and spouses). The large extended family images with cousins and aunt and uncle groupings are fading from tradition a bit. It simplifies things tremendously, which is why many couples favor this approach.
That being said, we are 100% willing to take extended family photographs on wedding days. We help our couples put together a list that is cohesive and ordered in a way that makes sense. When our couples make this request, we recommend one LARGE group photo for each side of the family, which will cover all your bases, and takes the least amount of time. Reorganizing multiple groupings of aunts and cousins gets rather tiresome for the bride and groom. It’s usually about that point in the day where people start to wonder if this was the best idea, so sticking to the big family grouping (“Alright, mom’s side!”) is simplest for everyone. When adding large extended family photos, we usually need an additional 15 minutes to organize 4 large groupings.
Today, I’m excited to share with you our family formal list, but before we get to that, I wanted to share a few final tips!
- We find that family formal photos work best when they are either right before or immediately following the ceremony. Our preference is before, since it is easier to keep track of everyone before the ceremony. It’s difficult to reconvene once people spread out after the ceremony. We also think most couples enjoy time together after their ceremony instead of with allllllll of their family, just to have a little newlywed bliss first!
- If you are choosing to have your family photos after your ceremony, have a set time and location. Be sure to remind your family of those details. Remind them more than once. 😉
- Engage the help of your wedding planner to help round everyone up 10 minutes prior to start.
- Make sure personal flowers such as boutonnieres and corsages have been distributed and pinned prior to start time. Make sure family arrive early for this process!
- Keep the family formals list simple. Anything beyond our recommended list takes away from other photos, and we also don’t want you to get tired out. These are important photos, but we also want you to have time (and energy!) for couples photos later on!
- When photos are held before the ceremony, we usually start with parents of the couple and then groupings that include children. When group photos are right after the ceremony, start with grandparents so they don’t have to wait long. Children come next.
- Delegate one family member on each side that knows everyones names to assist in gathering people. We usually have our assistant helping, but it always helps when someone knows who each individual is on our list.
- Our biggest tip: print your family photos. They make the most wonderful gifts for your family, and they will appreciate it so much!
Our final tip: trust us. One of the great benefits of hiring a professional photographer who has experience with this aspect of the day, is that it doesn’t phase us. We’ve literally done it 100 times! We know how to diffuse tense situations between family members, or help little ones cooperate. We have also find that family members listen to us better than you might expect. So when it comes time for us to photograph your family formals, let us do the hard work, and all you have to do is smile!
Download our complete family photo list and tips!