How To Nail Family Formals
Did you know that family formals are my NUMBER ONE seller when it comes to prints?! Every single print order I’ve had in the past year has included at the very least one family formal. Because of this, I’ve decided to put together all my go-to tips for getting the most out of your family formals on your wedding day!
What Are Your Priorities?
These photos are very staged, they will all look the same in terms of composition and light and location. Family formals are generally used for prints, included in albums, and shared on social media. These are groups of people that are almost rarely in the same room together! That being said, definitely think about your personal priorities before sending out that mass email to every single person related to you. Just because your great great Aunt Claudia’s boyfriend got invited does not mean you are obligated to schedule time for a photo with him. Think about who the most important people in your life are and start building your list from there. Also consider whether you’re more interested in large group photos, smaller groupings, or all of it!
And just because these are called family formals doesn’t mean they are 100% family-only photos. This time can be spent knocking out group photos of people that are just as special as family.
Communication Is Key
Once you and your partner have built your list of who you want included in family formals - SHARE IT! Get a mass-email going and share the list with everyone! Here’s an example of what you can send to your family/friends that are included.
We are so excited to celebrate our wedding day with you! You’re getting this email because our photographer will be taking our family photos at (INSERT TIME) and I want to make sure we are all ready in the right place at the right time! The photos will take place at (INSERT PLACE) so please make sure you’re there. We’ll attach the list we’ve put together of the different groups - let me know if you have any questions.
Make sure you touch base with everyone after sending this email. All it takes is one person not showing up to put a halt to family photos, so make sure everyone knows what’s expected of them!
How To Stay Organized
On the day of your wedding, it’s mainly my job to stay organized but that’s only possible if you’ve done all of the groundwork by creating your list and communicating with your family.
Since I’m not familiar with both of your families or their dynamics, it works best to have someone who knows the crowd be the person who calls out the names on the list. It’s no big deal if I have to be the one reading from the list, but for efficiency’s sake, find someone who’s familiar with you/your families to be in charge!
It’s All About The Timing
You have to be realistic with how much time you set aside for family formals. They can take anywhere from 15-45 minutes depending on how organized/on time your families are, how many different groups are on your list, and if there are children involved. If there are kids in your family photos, keep in mind that your wedding timeline may not coincide with their nap timeline so tears may happen.
The best time to take family formals is either before the ceremony (this is only possible if you’ve done a first look) or directly after the ceremony. The last thing you want to do is leave family formals for the reception because then people get scattered, some may leave early, some may be tipsy, and there may not be enough free space in the reception to take them. I’ll do everything in my power to get all the important family formals done before the reception but this can only happen if you allow time for it in your timeline!
Location Location Location
You should have an idea of where you’d like your family formals to happen but if you’re feeling indifferent, I’ll always scout the area beforehand and give my opinion. In a perfect world, somewhere with ample space and natural light is my go-to.
For outdoor ceremonies, the arbor is a popular choice for location.
If your ceremony is in a church and you’ve decided to do family photos after the ceremony, an announcement should be made for all family participating in photos to stay in their seats. This is the easiest way to take care of photos in the church!
Big Families vs Small Families
If you have a big family, budget more time, budget more space, and budget more patience! Churches will oftentimes have steps that are perfect for large crowds! Every large group photos I’ve ever taken takes around 5 minutes to orchestrate given that everyone is present. Make sure you tell your families that they can have access to the group photos that are being taken. Oftentimes, the biggest time-waster during family formals is people trying to get the iPhone version of the photo I’m trying to take!
With smaller groupings it’s a lot easier to get more candids and more photos of couples/families without the bride(s) and/or groom(s). But this all goes full circle to what your personal priorities are! If you want that huge group photo, I’ll make it happen. If you just want a select few photos with your immediate family, that’s doable too.