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Family Formals on your Wedding Day

An important part of the wedding day will be the family formals. These are the images of people dear to you on the most important day of your life. The photos that will fill the frames of your home. In many cases, one of the few times the entire family is together. I have included some helpful info and tips to make your family formals run smoothly and efficiently.

Who: Immediate family and any other important people in your life. Remember that we can also do more groupings at your reception. I find that it is best to keep the family formals within 30 minutes. If you have children in the wedding party that will not be present at other photo locations, it is important to include a full wedding party photo with the children at the beginning or end of the family formals.


Photo 1: Client 1&2, bride's mother, father, siblings, and their families, grandparents on both sides

Photo 2: Client 1&2, bride's mother, father, siblings, and their families

Photo 3: Client 1&2, bride's mother, father

Photo 4: Client 1, Mother and Father

Photo 5: Client 1 and Father

Photo 6: Client 1 and Mother

Photo 7: Client 1&2, groom's mother, father, siblings, and their families, grandparents on both sides.

Photo 8: Client 1&2, groom's mother, father, siblings, and their families

Photo 9: Client 1&2, groom's mother, father

Photo 10: Client 2, Mother and Father

Photo 11: Client 2 and Mother

Photo 12: Client 2 and Father

Other Common Groupings: Client with Grandparents, Client with Siblings, Client with Parents and Siblings without spouses.

When: Traditionally after the ceremony. For pictures at the altar or where you have said your vows, allow 10 mins for guests to move away from the photo location. A receiving line can also affect what time we start the family formals. Depending on how many guests, it can take 30 mins or longer for you to receive congratulations and hugs. If you have planned a first look and can arrange your family to meet earlier in the day we can take family formals before the ceremony.

Where: This depends so much on your ceremony venue. Many church ceremonies take place at the altar. Urban locations and Ballrooms often take place inside. Wineries, Estates, and other venues may offer beautiful landscapes for your family formals. It’s your wedding day, make your own rules! You do not have to take Family formals where you said your vows, they can be done outside. In the below examples you will see a alter location and outside. The outdoor image was taken at Silver Oaks Chateau at their front door. The time of day was mid-afternoon with afternoon sun. I chose to ask the family to meet at the front door of the venue. It was shaded from the sun, but still bright enough to provide ambient light for everyone’s faces. The altar location will always include a flash. I use a large umbrella to provide soft light and fill in any shadows that church spotlights can cause.

Outside Location:

Church Altar Location:


Tips: I will bring several printed copies of your family formal list on your wedding day. I suggest that you assign one person from each side of the family that knows everyone on the list. They will be given a list and can act as a go-to person for questions and make sure that everyone on the list is ready to go. If you are unsure of who to ask, just think of who loves to take charge. They will love it! I can do this myself, but I like to keep things upbeat and lively. Reading names of people that I don’t know can come off very military and not friendly. My second shooter will be working with the family for positioning, asking for the removal of large phones from pockets, and catching the forgotten pair of sunglasses that are often propped on top of the head.

When customizing your family formal lists make sure and ask for input from both sides of the family. An in-law or mother that hasn’t been included or asked for input may give you or me input during the family formal time. We will already have a plan in place and may not have extra time for any additions. It's best to make these decisions ahead of time. Trust me, it will save you from added stress and hurt feelings. We can always get group shots of family members during the reception. Make sure and note this on your family formal list.

I hope this helps you plan for the family formal part of the wedding day! Feel free to reach out with any additional questioins :)