Why Family Formals Lists Are Crucial | Weddings

Thankfully, a lot of photographers are doing this now…but it’s something I learned about 3-4 years ago the hard way! I kept asking myself on a wedding day…where are we seeing a disconnect in the joyful, carefree mood of the day? Where do we start feeling stress even with the most lighthearted and laid back of celebrations with couples who couldn’t be sweeter if they tried?

It was ALWAYS when the family formals began. That’s when we started to require a family formals list BEFORE the wedding…and EVERYTHING CHANGED! We saw that stress disappear… and we probably prevented a heck of a lot of awkward situations and arguments.

Family formals happen when the ceremony ends and the family members of the bride and groom take pictures with them usually right near the ceremony site. Moms and dads, brothers, uncles, etc. This can be really simple, with just a 6-8 family formal breakdowns of the most immediate family OR can get really wild with 20-25 breakdowns..and trust me, we’ve seen it ALL and done some really large groups and breakdowns BUT our general recommendation is 12-15 tops. We don’t require that…but we recommend it because we know this can cover the general amount of family members but not get too extensive where we really start losing TIME for the bridal party and bride and groom portraits!

Here are some of our BEST recommendations for brides and grooms creating their family formal list. We give a great example now breaking it down to our brides and grooms…but here’s a general idea!:

1. Try to keep it between 12-15 breakdowns, but if you can’t, that’s okay!
2. If possible, don’t break apart family units when unnecessary. For instance, the bride and groom getting a shot with her uncle, aunt and cousin is great, but when each of those individuals take a turn…it really starts to add up. Is it possible?! YES! Another idea however is to grab a picture on the dance floor with them individually when there is a less of a press for time.
3. USE FIRST NAMES! Mike calls the first name of the family member, because let’s be honest…when you yell “Dad!” or “Mom!” – a LOT of people may come running, lol!
4. Set aside at least 20 minutes for these…but we usually only end up taking about 15 tops.
5. Make sure this is done at least one week prior to the wedding so you don’t have to sweat it! If you can do it sooner though, get it done and off your mind!
6. Don’t worry about hurting feelings if it’s someone you TRULY do not want to prioritize during this time, feel free to ask your photographer to be diligent about this and to be the “bad guy” and we can always take that other family member’s picture with you during the reception instead so that we can stay on time.
7. Give your photographer permission to speak up for what YOU guys want, and they will be there for you in uncomfortable situations! At least…we will, lol!
8. If you have any elderly or sick family, make sure to put them at the top of the list so they can be done first. Then, any pictures with small wild children is great to go next so they can get scooted along, too!

I hope this helps, brides! I know it’s a HUGE task planning your wedding day and you have a lot going on, but this is one of the ways we make sure we can give a better and less stressful experience to our couples. If your photographer hasn’t suggested this, feel free to suggest it to them…they will thank you!

I sat on Mike’s shoulders for this large full guest post-ceremony shot…and it was worth it! And, I did NOT fall, which is great, too!!! 🙂

Here’s a more typical family formal:

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