Family formals guide

Having a solid plan for the family formal portion of your wedding day goes a long way to helping things run smoothly! This guide will share a sample family formal list and provide tips for how to make the process seamless.

If possible, do a first look

Scheduling a First Look really gives you a great opportunity to take photos prior to the ceremony you wouldn't normally be able to take if you're not allowed to see each other. Even if you can't do all of the group formals before the ceremony, a First Look allows you to break up the list, achieving as many as possible before walking down the aisle. Many of our couples will take immediate family and wedding party photos before the ceremony, and reserve extended family and bride & groom portraits for after the ceremony. This means your wedding party and family gets released to enjoy more of cocktail hour faster! We've even been able to wrap up early enough for the bride and groom to enjoy cocktail hour, too.

Sample family formals list

Bride's Family

  • Bride & Groom + Bride's immediate family (parents & siblings) + grandparents
  • Bride & Groom + Bride's immediate family (parents & siblings)
  • Bride & Groom + Bride's parents
  • Bride + her parents
  • Bride + mom
  • Bride + dad
  • Bride + siblings

Groom's Family

  • Bride & Groom + Groom's immediate family (parents & siblings) + grandparents
  • Bride & Groom + Groom's immediate family (parents & siblings)
  • Bride & Groom + Groom's parents
  • Groom + his parents
  • Groom + mom
  • Groom + dad
  • Groom + siblings

Optional Additional Groupings

With so much family coming together, often many from out of town, it's such a nice idea to plan larger group photos to get the extended family! If you opt to include aunts, uncles and cousins, please note that larger groups add 5-7 mins to portrait time per grouping. We typically will take these photos FIRST, immediately following the ceremony.

  • Bride & Groom + Bride's immediate family + maternal extended family
  • Bride & Groom + Bride's immediate family + paternal extended family
  • Bride & Groom + Groom's immediate family + maternal extended family
  • Bride & Groom + Groom's immediate family + paternal extended family
  • Bride & Groom + Bride's Parents & Groom's Parents
  • Bride & Groom + Bride's Immediate Family & Groom's Immediate Family

(It may be that you want some of these additional groupings but not during the formals. We have taken these more informally during cocktail hour or at the reception!)

Outdoors vs. Indoors

If you're getting married at an indoor venue like a church, you may be debating whether to take family formals inside at the altar, or outdoors. The natural lighting outdoors is almost always preferable for photography, but there also may be sentimental and traditional reasons for choosing to take family formals at the altar. If you're unsure, we suggest discussing the options with your parents and us, your photographers. For timeline or logistical reasons, one option may be better than the other, so it's wise to talk it out ahead of time!

Family "Situations"

Everyone's family is different, and sometimes there are sticky situations if folks don't get along. We have seen it all, and can plan accordingly. A month before your wedding we'll gather all of your family formal details and have a phone meeting to discuss the photo plan for the day. At that time, we'll go over any situations we need to be aware of. As long as we know ahead of time, we can usher everyone through the process of family photos with grace (and often so quickly that they won't even have time to get upset).

"What about my family member's significant other?" Easy-peasy! If you have a sibling or a parent with a long-term-but-not-spouse partner, it's super simple to put them in one photo and take them out of the next, "just in case."

Additional Pro Tips

  • Send out a text or email blast to family members before the wedding day to let them know when & where they are expected to be for photos. Don't assume they already know.
  • Make an additional announcement at your rehearsal about the logistics of wedding day family photos.
  • Assign an assertive family member (everyone has that one aunt!) who can help round up extended family if needed.
  • Extended family photos can be taken more informally during the reception if you're not sure you want to include them in the formals.
  • Did we mention scheduling a First Look? ;)