Planning Your Family Formals Shot List on your Wedding Day
Updated: May 13, 2022
HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR FAMILY FORMAL PORTRAITS
Family formals are the posed portraits with the bride and groom’s immediate family members that typically follow the ceremony during cocktail hour. If the couple has planned a first look, they can also be taken before the ceremony. The family formal shot list is one of the most important things the photographer needs to be planned prior to the wedding day. That way when the time comes for family formals, I can simply read straight down a list because I have already worked with the bride and groom to create it and keep things easy and stress free for the couple and family members involved.
Family formals can be a stressful and often time consuming part of planning your wedding. However, it will pay off if you put some thought and effort into the family formals shot list on your wedding day! So how do you plan for this portion of the day?
1. KEEP THE LIST SHORT
Decide who is included in your family formals. I ask my clients to keep family formals to their grandparents, parents, siblings, siblings-in-laws, nieces, nephews and children. Obviously if you have a special family circumstance, those are always accommodated. I recommend trying to keep it to a total of 10-12 groups and to create an exact list of the portraits you need along with the full names of each person in the photos and their relationship to you or your partner.
2. INCLUDE THE BRIDE & GROOM IN ALL PORTRAITS
I recommend that the bride and groom be included in every photo taken with family and friends after the ceremony to avoid too much repetition. You may want photos of just you and your immediate family apart from your spouse, or maybe you with your parents – and this is completely understandable. However, these photos are best taken before the ceremony in order to maximize the family formals time frame.
3. COMMUNICATE & DELEGATE
Let your family members know ahead of time that they are included in family portraits. Begin communicating the details with your family as soon as the photographer and/or planner has a final timeline and plan for these portraits. I recommend sharing exact instructions (time and location) with your family members a few weeks prior to your wedding and again the day before. Also, appoint a family member or friend ahead of time to find missing people. Unfortunately, I do not know what your family members look like, so I am not able to do this
4. THINK ABOUT THE ORDER
I typically start by splitting the families by bride + grooms side starting with the elderly and children. If it's an outdoor summer wedding, it gets hot and the elderly like to get inside and cool off. The children often get antsy and want to go run around and play. Your family will love you for thinking about this ahead of time.
Another point of consideration is any divorces or family feuds. You’ll want to let your photographer know about these situations in advance but also try to avoid any potentially awkward situations when you’re planning out the order of your family formals.
5. HIDE THE BRIDE & GROOM
Decide on a location where you and your partner will “hide” after the ceremony. Sometimes this is a church office or the bridal suite of your venue. Either way, have somewhere that you can go together, be alone for a few minutes and wait for guests to clear the ceremony space. Otherwise, no one will leave if you’re around - they love you and want to chat!
SAMPLE FAMILY FORMALS SHOT LIST
Bride and Groom with Officiant
Bride and Groom with Bride’s Parents
Bride and Groom with Bride’s Parents and Siblings Bride and Groom with Bride’s Siblings
Bride and Groom with Bride’s Parents, Siblings, and Extended Family
Bride and Groom with Bride’s Parents and Groom’s Parents
Bride and Groom with Groom’s Parents
Bride and Groom with Groom’s Parents and Siblings Bride and Groom with Groom’s Siblings
Bride and Groom with Groom’s Parents, Siblings, and Extended Family
Bride and Groom with Bride’s Parents and Siblings, Groom’s Parents and Siblings, Both Extended Families
Bride’s Parents Alone
Groom’s Parents Alone
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