January 17, 2023

Family Formal Photo List for your Wedding

I have to be honest. Family formals are the worst part of wedding day. Trying to gather everyone and get them to focus while cocktail hour is happening is… not easy. But, we make it as simple as we can! We’ve grown to have this part of your day down to a science, and it’s where we receive the most compliments from our guests. Our goal is always to be efficient. Here are some tips to keep this part of your wedding moving and a sample list to help get your started!

Save photos for after the ceremony.

A lot of my couples who do first looks want to try and do photos before the ceremony so they can attend cocktail hour. Trust me. I get it! But it’s best to save the family formals until after the ceremony for a few reasons.

  • Everyone is already in one place. All of your loved ones will already be present after the ceremony, so you don’t have to go track anyone down.
  • Everyone will be on time. Asking everyone to try and arrive to your ceremony early for photos is putting your timeline in their hands and counting on them to be on time. It’s not a risk worth taking.
  • It makes everything run smoother. Once specific family members are done with their photos, they can be dismissed to cocktail hour. Making things a little less chaotic as the area starts to empty out.
  • It keeps your guests from seeing you. If you don’t want your guests to see you before the ceremony, doing photos before would mean starting even earlier so we can wrap up before guests start arriving.

Be realistic about your list.

Some families (mine being one of them) are larger, and that’s ok! Being realistic doesn’t mean to necessarily keep your list short, but just to be thoughtful with what you’re wanting. Do you have to have a photo with all 13 of your cousins individually? Probably not. Instead opt for a group photo of the cousins. Remember that, although we try to be as quick as we can, photos do take time! We can always capture photos of you and your second-cousins at the reception!

Order matters.

Another place where you want to be thoughtful is with the order. I like to start with grandparents first, as they are usually the ones who want to take off first. It also will give them time to get to the reception space before your celebration starts.

Also think about moving the least amount of people at a time. We try to order our family formal lists so we are simply adding or taking away bodies rather than doing a whole new group each time. You’ll see what I mean with the sample list!

Communicate about any family sensitivities.

If your parents are divorced, if someone has passed, or if there’s simply just family members who do not get along, make sure your photographer knows this before hand! This will help is avoid any potentially awkward interactions when lining up your loved ones.

Use first names in your list.

Some families might have more than one “Auntie.”

More than one person might go by “Mom.”

Maybe you call both of your Grandmas “Grammy.”

Using first names is super important in helping this process go smooth and efficiently!

Prep your family members!

Whether you send them a text before hand, slip a note in their invitation, or leave a reminder on their seat, make sure the family members you want in your photos know they’re wanted to stick around after the ceremony! Let them know that in order for this to go quick, they should be ready with sunglasses off their heads, phones in their jacket pockets, and programs out of their hands.

Sample Family Photo Lists

Last but not least, here are some sample lists to get you started! While we fully understand all family dynamics are different, this is just a sample. For this example our couple is Rachel and Ross.

Rachel’s Family

  • Rachel, Grandparents
  • Rachel, Ross, Grandparents
  • Grandparents (Together alone)
  • Rachel, Ross, Mom’s side of the family
  • Rachel, Ross, Dad’s side of the family
  • Rachel, Dad
  • Rachel, Mom
  • Rachel, Mom, Dad
  • Rachel, Mom, Dad, Siblings
  • Rachel, Siblings
  • Mom, Dad (Together alone)

Ross’s Family

  • Ross, Grandparents
  • Ross, Rachel, Grandparents
  • Grandparents (Together alone)
  • Ross, Rachel, Mom’s side of the family
  • Ross, Rachel, Dad’s side of the family
  • Ross, Dad
  • Ross, Mom
  • Ross, Mom, Dad
  • Ross, Mom, Dad, Siblings
  • Ross, Siblings
  • Mom, Dad (Together alone)

Rachel and Ross’s Families

  • Rachel, Ross
  • Rachel, Ross, Rachel’s Grandparents, Ross’s Grandparents
  • Rachel, Ross, Rachel’s Parents, Ross’s Parents
  • Rachel, Ross, Rachel’s Parents
  • Rachel, Ross, Rachel’s Parents, Rachel’s Siblings
  • Rachel, Ross, Rachel’s Parents, Rachel’s Siblings and Spouses
  • Rachel, Ross, Rachel’s Siblings
  • Rachel, Ross, Ross’s Parents
  • Rachel, Ross, Ross’s Parents, Ross’s Siblings
  • Rachel, Ross, Ross’s Parents, Ross’s Siblings and Spouses
  • Rachel, Ross, Rachel’s Siblings, Ross’s Siblings

Miscellaneous Groups to save for the Reception

These groups I recommend saving for your reception or tackling if these people are in your bridal party.

  • Family friends
  • High school friends
  • College friends or roommates
  • Work friends

If you’re looking for someone who can take charge with your family formal photos, we’re your photographers! Say hello!

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