One of the most important parts of the wedding day photo timeline is family formals. This is the time when we’ll shoot off a list of all of the family photos you want taken! Today I’m sharing five tips to make family formals the most seamless experience possible for everyone involved.
Creating Your List
Four months before the wedding day, I send my clients a wedding questionnaire. It goes over basic wedding information, how to plan their photography timeline, venue restrictions, and so much more! It also has a section for my clients to fill out their family shot list. I always ask for three lists:
-photos with just the bride and family
-photos with just the groom and family
-photos with both the bride and groom with family
The most ideal family shot list will also have the names of each family member so that I can call them out. Family members always pay more attention if they hear their name being called rather than their place in the family.
Here are some examples:
-Bride + Sherry, Martha, and Carl
-Bride + Grandparents
OR for an extremely large extended photo:
-Bride + Groom and the Miller family, White family, Thomas family
-Bride + Groom + All Extended Family
Calling out someone’s name will grab their attention faster than their title!
When creating your list, be realistic with who you want in your family photos. Typical family photo lists stick to immediate family members. This includes parents/step-parents, siblings/step-siblings/siblings-in-law, nieces/nephews, and grandparents. However, you can still do one really large family photo with all of your extended family members to include them. Think of it this way – if you would want to hang photos with those people on your walls, include them on your list. If you wouldn’t frame them, you can leave them off. We can always take more casual photos with other guests/extended family members at the reception!
I include in my wedding questionnaire that it will take 1-2 minutes per combination to account for calling up those family members, getting everyone into position, and taking the photos. Sometimes a family member has wandered away from where we are taking the photos and has to be brought back. Loved ones with mobility issues might take longer to get in position than other family members. If we’re taking a large extended family photo, that can take more than 1-2 minutes to get everyone into position. Even though snapping the image itself will taken less than ten seconds, a lot more goes into the photo that we have to anticipate. Once clients send me their family shot list, I’ll put the amount of time we’ll need for that size list in the timeline.
First Look vs. No First Look
If you’re having a first look, I always suggest doing all of your family photos before the ceremony if possible. This is because the time between the ceremony and reception is always a lot more chaotic, and family photos can be a lot more calm if they are done beforehand. (If you have to save some extended family photos until after the ceremony, that’s fine! Even doing just the immediate family photos beforehand will make a huge difference in your timeline.) With a first look, we also can use any spot on the venue property that you would like for family photos, lighting permitting.
If you are not having a first look, I always suggest doing the family photos of each of you separately before the ceremony. This way we can do individual family photos beforehand (without you seeing one another), and then do any joint family photos that you are both in after the ceremony during cocktail hour. Keep in mind that the longer the list, the less time we’ll have for other portraits before moving to the reception. Any family photos we do after the ceremony will typically be done at the ceremony site or somewhere within a short walking distance.
Family Photo Wrangler
I always suggest that you have one family member or wedding party member that knows all of the family members on your list and can help get them to the area we’ll be taking photos. Even though I have your list, I don’t know what your family members look like, so I won’t be able to ensure that my second shooter can gather all of your loved ones after the ceremony. If you have one person that can gather every family member on your list quickly and efficiently, that will make a HUGE difference in the amount of time it will take us to finish your family portraits!
I also always tell my couples to make sure that they’ve sent a photo timeline to every person that will be in family photos so that they know what time they have to be there and where. (Honestly, it’s typically best to even tell them to be there 15-20 minutes early. If we are waiting for family members to arrive and they are late, it could delay your timeline significantly.)
There we have it! These are five tips to help make family formals go smoothly on your wedding day. From my experience, this is one part of the day that can get off track very quickly, so I think it’s crucial to make sure and plan for your family formals ahead of time to ensure a seamless process.
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