Wedding season is about to begin! Everything you’ve worked so hard on planning is about to come together. You’re filled with emotions and are so completely ready to be married to your best friend. When it comes to family formals after the ceremony, it can be very overwhelming. You just got married, all of your family wants to say hello and congratulate you, and you want to get photos taken so you can head into the reception and eat something. Below are a few ways I help educate my couples to ensure family formals go as smoothly and quickly as possible.

Family formal list. Once a couple books their wedding with me, I send them my questionnaire and suggested timeline. Once the questionnaire is filled out with basic information like what time the ceremony will begin, I create a suggested timeline. In this suggested timeline is everything from when I arrive to what I photograph throughout the day. One of the most important parts of this timeline is the family formal list! From this list, I read the grouping of names straight from the list. Each grouping of people takes about 2 minutes. I always suggest to my couples to have 8-10 groups with no more than 10 people in each group. This way, family photos will take no more than 20 minutes and we can move forward with bridal party portraits or bride and groom portraits.

Communication. Make sure to tell your family members before your wedding day that family portraits will happen immediately after the ceremony. Let them know that they should plan on sticking around for about 20 minutes after the ceremony ends so they are close by and ready to have their photos taken. If the ceremony takes place at a church and the family photos will be taken at a venue, ask your family to all gather right in front of the venue so that once everyone arrives, everyone is in the same location. From there, we can go to straight to the portrait location and knock out the family portraits.

Communication is absolutely key to having family formals go smoothly. If your family members aren’t told a head of time where to go they will most likely scatter and find the food and drinks. I’ve run into the situation where we have a whole grouping set up for a picture, then find that one person is MIA, so we have to send someone to go find them. That is going to take a good 5-7 minutes to find that person and get the photo taken. It’s really important to tell everyone on the list ahead of time that they need to stay behind after the ceremony for pictures.

Designated Family Member. It’s a great idea to have a designated a family member from each side of the family act as a liaison for the photographer. Since they know who people are, it’s really helpful to have them help gather people as I call names off the list.

List Breakdown. In the beginning planning stages, I tell my couples that I always begin with one side of the family. This side is determined by which side might have an elderly grandparent who may have trouble walking or standing for long periods of time. I then start with large groups on that side of the family then break it down until it’s just the Bride, Groom, and the Bride’s parents, for example. Then I do the same thing for the other side of the family.

Check the List. A few days before your wedding day, I ask my couples to check the timeline one more time just to make sure their are no changes or no one has been forgotten.

I hope this information has been helpful and you feel excited about your family formals on your wedding day!

Here are some more tips for brides that you may find helpful!

The Importance of Engagement Sessions
Should you have a First Look
Sample Wedding Timeline
What Time Should Your Wedding Begin?

Sarah Botta is a Northern Virginia based wedding photographer whose work can be described as organic, natural, and timeless. Sarah specializes in capturing people’s stories and building connections with each client to help tell their story.

Sarah has photographed over 30 weddings across Virginia and Maryland from rustic barn ceremonies to elaborate golf course receptions. Her natural timeless style shines brightest with outdoor locations. Sarah is available for travel worldwide and is passport ready.