How to Make Family Formals Quick & Easy!

No matter what style of photography your wedding photographer specializes in, every wedding usually needs formal documentation of important family members - family formals! Whether your photographer is a fine art, editorial/fashion, or photojournalistic style, some time is usually set aside to get some nice portraits of your family - everyone looking their best and smiling at the camera. These are important family heirlooms in themselves on the wedding day.

Your photographer will be a big part of making things run smoothly during this time, but here are just a few ways you can help make this time quick and easy for everyone.

(Bride and groom with groom's family)

(Bride and groom with groom's family)

1. Create a list of groupings.

      Before the big day, create a list of groupings. (Bride and groom with bride’s parents, bride and groom with groom’s parents, bride and groom with bride’s extended family, etc.)
     Just make sure you don’t go too crazy with the list! You don’t necessarily need a shot of every combination of a single group. I recommend keeping your list to 6-10 groups and allowing for at least 3 minutes for each grouping. While your photographer may be able to work quickly and get all the groups in less than 10 minutes (like I try hard to!), this isn’t something that can be completely controlled since people tend to wander off, get caught up in conversations with others, etc.
   I’m not going to show up with a megaphone and yell at everyone, so it’s helpful to…

2. Designate someone from your family to round people up!
     Before the wedding, ask someone who preferably knows both sides of the family to help round people up during formals. This can be a brother/sister or cousin - anyone who knows the family dynamics (bringing Aunt Cindy over will make Uncle Joe come over right away!) and will definitely speed things up a bit.
     You can also then have your designee find the photographer when it’s formals time and stick with them to help get the checklist done!

3. Tell your family beforehand.

    It’s simple but extremely helpful to let your family know before the wedding day and again before you head on over to the ceremony venue that “Family formals are at 4pm! Please make sure to get there on time!” Or maybe tell them 3:45pm - people always tend to show up late ;)

Bride and groom with all of bride's family!

Bride and groom with all of bride's family!

4. Consider if you want the family formals done before the ceremony or immediately following the ceremony.

    Usually if a bride and groom choose to do a first look (seeing each other before the ceremony), they prefer to do all of their portraits and family pictures then at the same time to get it out of the way. That way, after the ceremony, they can immediately enjoy cocktail hour with their guests.
     Here are some things to consider if you choose to do family formals before the ceremony -
       a. When will the flowers arrive? Will boutonnieres and corsages be on your parents already? How long would it take for them to put it on? Do you care if the flowers are there for the family formals? Will you have your bouquet by then?
        b. Will everyone know to show up on time before the ceremony for family formals? Again, this is best communicated beforehand, and always consider that things and people run late! (On wedding days especially, for some reason).

    If you choose to do the pictures immediately following the ceremony, here are some things to consider -   
     a. This is when everyone is present - take advantage of that! Ask your officiant to make an announcement after the ceremony that immediate family members should stay for formal photographs.
     b. Stick with your photographer and stand right at the place where family formals are supposed to be. Don’t wander off! People will naturally gravitate towards you as they want to congratulate you, hug, etc.

These basic tips should help move things along! I don’t think anyone really likes to be told to put down their wine glass to go stand over there and smile! I try my best to get through them quickly and painlessly for everyone so they can go back to enjoying the event.

Sometimes, a child just won't look at the camera. After more than 30 frames shot, this was the best one. It's okay :) Sometimes kids will be kids!

Sometimes, a child just won't look at the camera. After more than 30 frames shot, this was the best one. It's okay :) Sometimes kids will be kids!

And lastly, here’s another quick tip.

5. Getting kids to look at the camera -

Don’t look at babies when you’re trying to get them to look at the camera! Just keep smiling at the camera and when the baby finally looks at the camera, I’ll be watching and immediately hit the shutter (that’s on burst mode, of course). If your head is down looking at the child when he/she finally looks at me, that would seriously slow things down.

And that’s it! If you have any questions or tips you think of, feel free to leave a comment below.