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Hi there! Welcome to the place where I write about stunning weddings, beautiful families, and my own journey. So glad you're here!

Hi, I'm Sherah!

How to Make Your Family Formals MAGICAL!

Feb 5, 2020


Most people hear the words “Family Photos!!” at a wedding and cringe. They might think of endless combinations of people, and lots of painful waiting around while the cocktail hour ticks away without them 😉 But wait! Family formal portrait time doesn’t have to take LONG, and it doesn’t have to be painful! Here are some of my best tips for making the most of your family formal portrait time, capturing those beautiful faces — and getting everyone off to the reception ASAP!

Have a Plan

Build this time for portraits into your wedding day timeline. In my experience, twenty to thirty minutes is absolutely all we need to get your essential family photos captured! If your portraits are taking place at your ceremony site, make sure that it will be available at the time you’d like these photos to take place. For example, some outdoor locations aren’t ready two hours before the ceremony, or some churches have a mass or service immediately following wedding ceremonies, which makes the sanctuary unavailable. Confirm these details ahead of time, and you’ll be much less stressed on the day-of!

Make a List

What family members should you include? Typically, family photos contain simple combinations such as:

Bride & Groom with each set of parents

Bride & Groom with Bride’s immediate family

Bride & Groom with Groom’s immediate family

Bride & Groom with grandparents

Bride & Groom with siblings

If you have larger extended families, you can certainly include those people as well during the family formals — but remember that the more combinations you request here, the longer it will take. We work quickly, and you can figure that if everyone is present and ready to go, each combination will take 1-3 minutes, depending on the size of the group! If you do have large extended families or other big groupings that you’d like us to capture, another idea would be plan on taking these photos at your reception. This ensures that (1) you’ll have adequate time for portraits of the two of you (=most important people of the day!!), and (2) you won’t be stuck waiting for an uncle who wandered off or a cousin who dashed off to cocktail hour!

Often, parents of the Bride & Groom have their own combinations of shots they’d like to have — and they SHOULD! This is a hugely important day for them as well! My recommendation? Ask for their input ahead of time, make your list, set expectations, and reassure your parents that we will get any additional combinations that they would like at the reception! (Receptions are a great time for generational pictures, a “Sisters” or “Siblings” photo, photos with your college friends, etc.!)

Get Backup

When you have two photographers working to manage family portraits, things move quickly! (This is why we can get your photos done in twenty minutes!) Typically, I’ll handle arranging the current group while my second shooter gets the next group ready to go, and things move really smoothly! We have fun, and laugh, and before you know it, portraits are done!

Another great tip is to designate one family member from each side of your family as your “point person,” someone who will corral everyone, know where everyone needs to be, and will get them there! For example: if your family formals are immediately following your ceremony, recruit Cousin Jane — the most responsible person in your family who isn’t afraid to tell people what to do (haha!). Give her the family formal list ahead of time, and ask her to kindly remind everyone on the list to stick around for “a quick twenty minutes of photos after the ceremony!”

Trust Your Photographer

This can sometimes feel like the most chaotic part of the wedding day (especially if things are running behind!), but we are GREAT at improvising and making things happen! If we need to make up time, we can do it during family formals! If someone gets away from Cousin Jane (haha!) and isn’t ready for their photo, we’ll make a note and be sure to grab that photo at your reception! Remember: we’re working hard to document your memories, so that you don’t have to worry about it!

And finally: GREAT JOB! You’re doing the hard work now, ahead of time, thinking through all of this before your actual wedding day, so that on the day-of, you know that your photographers will get the pictures you need, and all you need to do is focus on getting married! YAY!!

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