Large family photo with the bride and groom on their wedding day in front of a window filled white wall of a wedding chapel.

Family Formals on the Wedding Day: 5 Tips For Easy Family Formal Photos


Weddings are a great time to get an updated Family Photo of your entire family (and your new family) but it can take up a lot of the wedding day timeline if Family Formals are not organized.  So, here’s a few tips to make the wedding formals go a lot more smoothly during the wedding. Because it’s usually a lot of people and it takes a lot to coordinate, any help I can get here is so important! 

Unfortunately, there are couples I speak to later on in their lives, who wish they spent the time during their wedding to get these family formals. Because, you never know. This may be the only professional photos you have with some members of your family. I always say to prioritize the wedding formals. A lot of time it means more for your family to have these photos than you, but it is so worth it to spend the 25-30 minutes it takes to get them. 

Will You Be Doing a First Look?

There are two separate times I do family formals during a wedding. Since the wedding formals include the bride and groom, it’s completely dependent on whether or not you want to see each other before the wedding. 

If you opt for a more traditional approach and don’t want to see each other before the ceremony, then we can’t get family portraits without y’all seeing each other. In this case, the family formals are typically after the ceremony. 

Large family photo with the bride and groom on their wedding day in front of a window filled white wall of a wedding chapel.

But if you chooses to do a first look, we can get wedding formals done before the ceremony and this is one of the many reasons I suggest doing a First Look on your wedding day! If you decide on a first look, then it’s easy to sneak those family formals in right after the first look/bride and groom portraits. That way, they have already had their first look, and the guests don’t have to wait around for me to get finished taking pictures after the ceremony before heading over to cocktail hour! 

Promptly Fill Out Your Wedding Day Questionnaire

To help you get organized, I send all my couples a wedding timeline questionnaire about one month before the wedding date to help us prepare the final details for your big day!  

In this questionnaire, I have a space from couples to fill out whatever combination of wedding formals they want. Sometimes it’s Bride with mom, bride with dad, cousins, grandparents, each side of the family – sometimes it’s a special aunt or two. I’ll even ask you to write in the names of everyone so I will know what names to call out. It makes things go by quickly!

A bride and groom smiling on their wedding day in front of the venue with their family.

But sometimes coupes just want me to plan and organize the family formals myself. They don’t want to even think about it. And that’s okay too! I have a sample wedding formals shot list I follow (See the list at the bottom of this post) so that there’s no pressure on your end to figure out what you want exactly if you are unsure!

Prepare Everyone For The Wedding Formals 

When we finish the wedding timeline one month before, I suggest forwarding the finalized timeline to everyone who will be a part of the family formals. Send it through a text or email and communicate clearly so everyone knows where and when to be for the formals.

A lot of times, I’ve seen family members who don’t know where to stay after the ceremony, and it takes more time to gather them from where they went. Send out this timeline to anyone who needs to know so we can get the family formals done and get you back to the party! 

Collage of a bride and groom with the bride's dad on their wedding day and the bride and groom kneeling down with their flower girls in front of a window filled white wall of their wedding chapel.

Prepare Your Photographer for Special Circumstances

PLEASE make me aware of any special circumstances. Maybe there are divorces or family members who’ve passed away. Sometimes these are special relationships that might impact family formals. It happens a lot that there’s a family member who doesn’t want to stand next to another. I always always ask about special circumstances so I am prepared for the day of the wedding. Knowing all of this will help me to place individuals in a line up, and how to communicate with your family effectively.

Put Someone In Charge Of The Little Things

Usually the wedding planner or coordinator takes care of this, but I always suggest putting someone in charge, who can assist me and my second shooter that knows who everyone in the family is. Maybe this is a mom, or a sibling or an aunt.

This is important, because with this person in charge, I’m not bugging the two of you. Instead of me asking you “hey… who’s your grandma?” I can pull Aunt Suzie to ask! Designate someone who can make sure that everyone is gathered and where they need to be! Most of the time I have family formals handled, and it all goes pretty quickly. But it’s always nice to have that person in a pocket I can rely on! 

Collage of the groom smiling with his mom outside the wedding venue and the bride and groom smiling with the bride's mom and a photo of her dad who has passed away.

Example Family Formal List

Bride and mom
Bride and dad
Bride and Bride’s parents
Bride, Groom, and Bride’s parents
Bride, Groom, Bride’s parents and siblings
Bride, Groom, Bride’s parents, siblings, and grandparents
Bride, Groom, both Bride and Groom’s parents and all siblings
Bride, Groom, Groom’s parents, siblings, and grandparents

Bride, Groom, Groom’s parents and siblings
Bride, Groom, and Groom’s parents
Groom and Groom’s parents
Groom and mom
Groom and dad
Bride and siblings
Groom and siblings
Bride and Groom and all siblings

Emily Quigley is a wedding, engagement and newborn photographer in Northwest Arkansas. She’s been featured in Glamor and Grace, Aisle Society and several other online websites. Click here to get your booking today!

If you like blogs like this, check out some of my others:
Why You Should Do a “First Look”
3 Tips for Building Your Wedding Day Timeline
4 Reasons You Need a Wedding Planner
Wildflower Wedding (Kourtnie + Joseph)
Elopement in Farmington, AR (Emily + Lawrence)

Find out more about Emily! 

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