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 mother of the bride leaves the portrait location to go find them and is gone for 15 minutes. Then when everyone is gathered, the ring bearer has a meltdown because he doesn't want to wear his suit coat anymore. It takes another 10 minutes to coax a smile out of the ring bearer, 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 will cross each group off as we shoot them and we won't have to worry about missing one.
2. Keep it simple. If you've seen a sample family portraits list online, it probably includes every possible combination: Bride with Mom, Bride with Dad, 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. Do you see how this can get out of hand? Moving people in and out of groups takes time! 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 a first look, family members may need to arrive extra early for pictures before the ceremony. After the ceremony, it's really tempting for family members to wander off for a drink or a bite to eat. We'll plan 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. It's important for me to know about any sensitive family dynamics. Whether it's a young child that might get restless, a divorced couple, or a cousin's brand new girlfriend that you'd rather not have in your pictures.
The goal of family portrait time is to be quick and painless and get everyone off to the party. It's not an impossible goal. It just takes a bit of advanced planning.