Weddings always seem to run behind schedule and that's why it's so important to have a solid timeline in place. And the family formal time is one of the wedding day segments that can easily run way longer than anticipated. Need a scenario?
Aunt Beth and Uncle Richard had no idea that they'd be needed for pictures, so they walk to the cocktail hour area with the rest of the guests. The bride's sister leaves the portrait location to go find them and is gone for 15 minutes. Then when everyone is gathered for the group photo, the bride's 3 year old nephew has a meltdown because he doesn't want to wear his suit coat anymore. It takes a few minutes to calm him down and coax a smile out of him, and by that point everyone is restless for the formal portrait time to be over.
This scenario might sound unlikely to you, but trust me, it happens all the time.
Here are my 5 tips for smooth family formals:
1. Make a list ahead of time. The family formal list is one of the most important pieces of information I get from our final questionnaire. Having a list already printed out means that we can go out of order if we're waiting on someone. We cross off each group as we shoot it, so we know we haven't missed one.
2. Keep it simple. If you've seen a sample family portraits list online, it probably includes every possible combination: Bride with Mom and Dad, Bride with Mom and Dad and Sister, Bride and Groom with Mom and Dad, Bride and Groom with Mom and Dad and Sister. Bride with Mom and Grandma. Bride and Groom with Grandma. Do you see how this can get out of hand? Moving people in and out of groups takes time, especially when they're standing in the middle (aka the bride & groom)! That's why I recommend having both the bride and groom in all the pictures so they don't have to move and we can speed through the process.
3. Keep it short. I recommend allotting 2 minutes for every photo on the list. It takes more time than you think to get everyone in place and fire off a good 6-8 shots. (We want one with open eyes and good smiles, right?) So while it sounds nice to take a photo with each aunt and uncle separately, it takes a really long time. 30 minutes of family formals works out to about 15 groups. That's it.
4. Make sure everyone knows what to do. If we do family photos before the ceremony, family members need to know to arrive extra early. After the ceremony, it's really tempting for family members to wander off for a drink or a bite to eat, so it's important to inform everyone that they will be needed for photos. When we have everyone gathered, we like to start with the biggest group and work our way down. That way extended family members are finished more quickly and able to go to cocktail hour. And it's actually quicker to take people out of a group than to add people in. The faster we get the big groups taken care of, the less likely anyone will wander off.
5. Tell me about your family. I can prioritize certain photos if I know your brother has two young kids or that your grandparents aren't able to stand for too long. It's also important for me to know about any sensitive family dynamics so I don't accidentally do something awkward, like ask a divorced couple to stand together or include your cousin's brand new girlfriend when you'd rather not have her in your pictures.
With these 5 tips, we've helped make our family portrait time efficient and stress-free for the couple. Our goal is always to take beautiful photos, but to do it very quickly so everyone can enjoy the party. It's really not that hard. It just takes a bit of advanced planning.
Want More Wedding Photography Tips?
Advantages of a First Look
Timeline VS Wedding Day Time
The Family Formal List
The Must Take Shot List
Budget Wisdom from Every Last Detail
Sunset Time on the Wedding Day
What About a Rainy Wedding Day?
Options for Your Wedding Exit
What To Do With Your Wedding Photos