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8 Tips to BREEZE Through Your Family Formals | South Florida Wedding Photographer

Tips and Advice


Planning a wedding can be the most exciting time of your life. You found your forever partner, venue, dress, the perfect flowers, and all the little details are starting to fall into place. But there’s always this one part of the day that couples seem to forget about planning. The craziest, busiest part of the day. No, I’m not talking about the Hora Loca… we’re talking FAMILY FORMALS.

Two words that strike fear into the hearts of photographers worldwide. Is there enough time? Where is Uncle James? Does the bride’s brother’s girlfriend want to be in the photos? Will the church lady kick us out before we’re done? Did we allot enough time for portraits after?! WE’RE LOSING LIGHT.

I do my best to prepare my couples for this part of their wedding day timeline, so I thought I’d share some best practices to make your wedding day even more enjoyable:

1. Figure out if you’re going to have a “first look” before the ceremony. Some couples like to also photograph the wedding party and family right after couple’s portraits are done. Or, move the family formals to right after the ceremony so there’s still plenty of time for snacks and cocktails before the reception. I’ve written a blog post about the pros and cons of a first look here.

2. Now that you know when to tell the family to be on-site and ready for photos, get that list down to no more than 15 groupings. Each grouping can take up to 2 minutes to photograph. That might seem like a long time, but when Abuela is still in the bathroom, and you don’t know where your sister went, that time just flies by.

3. Organize the list so the children are photographed FIRST. Children have an attention span of about 14 minutes, and meltdowns can turn into epic battles in the blink of an eye. The rest of the groupings should be ordered so the bigger groups are photographed first, and we peel people away to get the smaller groupings.


4. Remind your photographer of any special family situations they should be sensitive to. This could be death, divorce, that new girlfriend you’re not so sure about, etc. We want to make sure your family is comfortable, and avoid any embarrassing moments.

5. Designate a “family coordinator” to help you with the list. This could be your loudest groomsman, or your sister – so long as they know who these people are. After sharing your list with your photographer, send it to said coordinator so they can let family members know where to be, and at what time.

This is usually the part of the day when I get slightly bossy. It’s like herding kittens sometimes, so I use humor (and a loud voice) to get family where I need them in the most efficient way possible.

6. If you see a family member behind your photographer stealthily trying to grab their own iPhone shots of your formals, kindly ask them to stop. There’s nothing worse than a well-lit, beautiful image of your family with eyeballs all over the place because they didn’t know where to look. Remind family that your photographer is super generous and you’ll share the images when they’re ready!

7. STICK TO THE LIST. Don’t worry about offending anyone not on the family formals list. Chances are, your photographer will be with you through the end of the night, and there are plenty of opportunities to grab more group shots after dinner. Keeping your list short and sweet gives us more time for portraits, or more time for you to enjoy cocktail hour with your guests.


8. RELAX. Have fun. The hard part is over and now it’s time to party. If you stick to your list, and keep these tips in mind, you’ll have beautiful portraits to share with your family.

And if that wasn’t enough, here’s a few more family formals tips:
Wearing a veil? Have your groom put his hand UNDER your veil to avoid the dreaded hair pull.

Keep your bouquet low. Flowers should be at your belly button.

For large groups, keep your train behind you. (Bridesmaids love messing with your train, there’s no need to waste time fussing with it.)

In the end, remember why we’re taking these photos. Family formals are typically the images that are printed and displayed on the wall for years to come. These images typically take up 1-2 spreads of your wedding album. It may not be the most fun part of the day, but they’re SO important.


Have any additional tips to share for a stress-free family formals experience? I’d love to hear them! Drop your notes in the comments below!

Looking for more wedding tips for your Florida wedding? Check out some of my other articles here:
Help me, Sonj