This guide will help you develop the PERFECT family formals list for your wedding day!
Your wedding day is approaching, and it’s time to put together your family formals list! “Family Formals” is a fancy way of referring to the traditional posed group portraits of you, your soon-to-be spouse, and immediate family members. These may seem like a formality, but it’s worth taking the time to think through the photos you’ll want in 5, 10, or 20 years. Couples often frame these photos, gift them to loved ones, and almost always treasure them.
There is no strict rule on this, but generally we prioritize photos during this time of the couple, their parents, grandparents, and siblings. We include any children of the couple as well, and nieces and nephews. Generally we do not include members of your “extended” family, including aunts and uncles. However, depending on the size of your family and closeness of these relationships, you may want to include them! The list is completely up to your discretion, as long as we build in sufficient time to document your desired combinations.
Some of these photos we’ll plan to take before your ceremony, if possible. If you and your partner choose a first look together, your photographer may advise taking the majority of your family formals before the ceremony. This gives you more time after your ceremony for wedding party and couples portraits, and may even mean you get to enjoy some of your cocktail hour!
Each grouping takes anywhere from 3-5 minutes to get everyone together, posed nicely, and photographed. It will take more if your family isn’t “ready” on time or your brother has to be tracked down at cocktail hour…). Therefore, it is important to choose a manageable number of combinations. I recommend 10 groupings for post-ceremony photos. This is because it will take approximately 30 minutes for 10 groupings. Then, if we have time, we can always add in additional groupings then or during your reception. The key is to prioritize your top photo requests on your list, which I will make sure we get on your wedding day!
Here’s a brainstorm of common groupings to help you think through which ones you’d like to include for your wedding day. Not all of these will apply to all couples, so use these suggestions to create your own perfect list!
I divided this list into two sections. First are photographs that I recommend taking pre-ceremony during your getting ready time, or after your First Look (if you choose to have one). The second section are photos to take pre or post ceremony. I encourage you to take as many pre-ceremony as possible. Remember, the more photos you take before your ceremony, the sooner you and your guests can enjoy your cocktail hour!
Note: If your parents are divorced, consider Partner 1 + one parent + siblings, then second parent + siblings. May include photos with/without parents’ spouses as well if remarried.
Consider “Generation Photos”, for example:
Note: If your parents are divorced, consider Partner 2 + one parent + siblings, then second parent + siblings. May include parents’ spouse as well if remarried.
Any “Generation Photos”, for example:
And there you have it! Starting from this list will help you prioritize your top photographs on your wedding day! While it can feel daunting to put this list together, I promise you’ll appreciate these photos over the years, so it is worth it to put in the thought!
One final note:
Family photos can be very emotional when there has been a recent death in the family, or if there is an estrangement, divorce, or other challenging dynamic. Also, be sure to talk to your photographer about anything like this (I include a question about this on my Pre-Wedding Questionnaire!) so they will be aware and able to support your family where possible.
If you are missing someone at your wedding, you might consider holding a framed portrait of a beloved family member in some photos. Talk to your photographer about other creative ways to honor loved ones in your family photos.
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