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Making Family Formals Run Smoothly

Family formals are one of the important pieces of each wedding day. The family photos you take on your wedding day not only serve as a record of who came to support you on  your wedding day, but they also are more than likely the first time many of your family members have been photographed together in a long time! My photos with my immediate family on my wedding day are the most recent ones I have with them…and they were taken over three years ago! I remember as a child seeing my mom’s wedding photo with both of her parents and her siblings in it. That’s the only family photo she has to remember all of them by! It’s crazy how in this era of selfies we have tons of photos of our own faces, but not as many of the people we care about most.

Though they’re important, family formals can be one of the more stressful parts of the day. I hear from brides and grooms all the time that they don’t want many posed, formal, shots like this because it’s uncomfortable. Or that they are worried about wrangling their large family. Large family formal shots can make even the most extroverted person a little bit overwhelmed! To ease some of that stress for our wedding couples, here are some of my best tips for making family formal time run smoothly!

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Make a List.
This is the only time that we will ask for a shot list. The rest of the day we prefer to shoot the wedding as we see fit (of course, we are still open to your ideas though, and we do want to know what’s most important to you), but for family formals, I work from a specific list of shots that you write out for me ahead of time.

Be Specific
Your list from the above tip should be as specific as you can make it…rather than “bride’s mom and stepdad”, you could write “Bride and groom and Ann and Leo”. This way we know exactly who is in this shot and can call people by name. Most people might not recognize you’re calling them in a hectic situation like a wedding day if my unfamiliar voice is just calling “Mom”, but people do recognize their own names!

Designate a Helper
If you have a large family (or even if you don’t, but especially if you do), having a helper who may or may not be in the photos to help gather up the people on your list is invaluable. Since this person knows who your other family members are (he or she will know exactly who your grandparents are without having to ask!) they’ll be much more efficient than John or I would be at looking for someone who might have slipped off to the bar in between shots.

Keep it Simple
Family formals are one of those things that don’t seem like they take a long time, but they can get incredibly timely if you’re not careful. A lot of people might think that it’s as simple as just snapping a quick shot of each grouping, but it often isn’t! It takes time to gather people, arrange the shot, and then capture a few images to ensure that we’ve got one good one where everyone is looking, no one is blinking or grimacing, etc. As a rule of thumb, each family formal grouping takes at least 3-5 minutes to set up and photograph. Considering this, we suggest limiting your shots to at least TEN maximum. If you want more than that, we can work with you, however, keep in mind this may mean you are sacrificing portrait time or cutting into your reception. If you have large groups of people like an entire side of the family, or all of your sorority friends, we suggest taking a quick shot during the reception. If possible, ask your DJ or band leader to call the people in the photograph to the dance floor (or other location that we determine best for the shot). This will help manage timing a bit better!

Inform Family Members Ahead of Time
I always suggest letting all of the family members who will be in family photos that you’d like them to stay after the ceremony (or arrive early if we decide doing them before the ceremony is best for your timeline) to be in your family photos. Tell them what time the photos will be and ask that they arrive prepared. This means if they have a corsage or boutonniere, it should be placed at the latest by the time the family photos are scheduled to start. If you have family members who are frequently late, don’t be shy in telling them we’re starting 15 minutes earlier than we are! It’s better to have a time cushion than be waiting for people and cut into portrait time or take time from enjoying your reception!

Hopefully these tips will make things run a little more smoothly when it comes to family formal time! If you have questions, please let me know!

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Great tips, Katie!

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