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Hi there! Welcome to my blog, a place where I share my life, weddings, and my journey through building a life-giving business. Stay a while and say hello!


Family Formals on a Wedding Day

Wedding Wednesday

June 5, 2019

Family Formals, or family portraits, is a part of the wedding day that can be a burden on many people if just a few things don’t go right. It can go south really quickly if just a few simple things aren’t handled. I, as well as most photographers, usually allow around 30 minutes in the timeline for family formals – this is usually the perfect amount of time to get everything checked off the list!

I know that these are some of the most important photos for me to take on a wedding day. I absolutely love the family pictures that my photographer captured on our wedding day for us. They are some of my very favorites because we love the people in them dearly! However, I also know that it’s usually one of the last things everyone wants to be doing right then. The bride and groom have probably already spent over an hour taking photos, the mother’s are thinking of last minute things that need to be done before the ceremony, the father’s are wondering when photos are going to be over, and all the siblings could be found in every part of the venue: the restroom, the lunch buffet, the water fountain, etc. And, not to mention all the nieces and nephews running around!!!

You can see why family portraits can get chaotic and frustrating because it’s so many people to gather and organize, but know this: photographers have done this millions of times. They have systems for these kinds of things, so if you can, trust that they know what they’re doing. By now, I know ways to make it easier and more enjoyable for everyone so that I can crank these photos out faster than they would believe.

Here’s a few tips for you (the bride, a mother, a sibling with your own husband, children, whoever you are!) to help everything go smoothly and for everyone remain calm and happy. If these are all done, I can be done with family portraits in even less than 30 minutes!!

  1. Be sure to tell ever single family member exactly what time to be ready for family portraits ahead of time. You could probably talk about this at the wedding rehearsal the night before, or send a reminder group text to everyone the morning of!
  2. BRIDES: Share the portrait list the photographer sends you with your whole family. This will help them understand what is expected of them, they’ll know when they’ll be done, and it avoids a lot of questions and confusion during the portrait time. This is another thing you could share at the wedding rehearsal or text to everyone!
  3. Assign two people to put boutonnieres and corsages on all the groomsmen, ring bearers, ushers, fathers, mothers, grandparents, etc. and let them know what time that needs to be done.
  4. Be ready to go 10 minutes before family portraits are supposed to start. This can be hard, especially if you have small kids, but if you can, plan on being there even earlier than you need, then it gives you extra wiggle room if getting your babies ready takes longer than expected.
  5. If you’re a mom with little kids, have their favorite snack on hand to reward them if they behave well. Have water on hand too!
  6. You don’t want to be the one person that the WHOLE family is waiting on. This will make everyone frustrated, sometimes it’s really hot outside, the babies will get impatient and start crying, the mother’s get frustrated that their children aren’t ready, the men will be annoyed photos are taking so long, even if it’s only been 5 minutes. That’s how this can go south really fast, so trust me, you DON’T want to be that person!
  7. If you yourself are ready to go, take a look around, and see if anyone else is missing. If you don’t see someone, send a groomsmen, usher, bridesmaid, planner, someone who ISN’T needed for family portraits to go find them! We don’t want to start family portraits, then realize we’re missing someone important, then have to re-take the photo. We can always move on to another portrait combination that doesn’t include said missing person while someone goes to find them. Again, you don’t want to be that person.


Now that you know ways that you can make family portraits go smooth and fast, I’ll share more about the actual PORTRAIT LIST that I organize literally months before the wedding day! 3 months before the wedding date, I send a questionnaire to the bride and groom. I ask them all sorts of questions like ceremony time, location addresses, each family member’s names, vendor information, and so much more. I include an entire section just on Family Portraits – you’ll have the option to select which family combinations you definitely want and any specific ones you want to add. From this section, I’ll put together a custom portrait list that also includes everyone’s names; this helps me a ton when I am working with a family that I don’t personally know well – when I include names in the list, I can still organize everyone I need super quickly!

There’s also a specific order of portraits that I try to follow. This may have never even occurred to you, but when I organize the list in a way that makes as few people have to move between combinations as possible, it makes it go wayyyyyyyy faster. I usually arrange the portrait list around the bride because, with her wedding dress, she is usually the hardest one to move in and out of photos.

If there are specific family portraits that you want that aren’t listed below, we can always add them! This is what a typical family portrait list looks like:

+ Bride with mom

+ Bride with dad

+ Bride with mom & dad

+ Bride & Groom with mom & dad

+ Bride & Groom with her immediate family (parents, siblings & spouses, nieces & nephews)

+ Bride & Groom with her siblings & spouses

+ Bride with siblings

+ Bride & Groom with maternal grandparents

+ Bride & Groom with paternal grandparents


+ Groom with mom

+ Groom with dad

+ Groom with mom & dad

+ Bride & Groom with mom & dad

+ Bride & Groom with his immediate family (parents, siblings & spouses, nieces & nephews)

+ Bride & Groom with his siblings & spouses

+ Groom with siblings

+ Bride & Groom with maternal grandparents

+ Bride & Groom with paternal grandparents


I’ll generally try to follow this order because I know this is how I can get it done the fastest, but there are some exceptions. If we are missing someone, I’ll jump around the list to keep checking combinations off while we wait. If there are grandparents that aren’t able to move around well or can’t stand for very long, I will do their portraits first, then they can go back inside. OR, if there are A LOT of young kids and babies, I will also try to do all the portraits that they are in first while they’re in a good mood. I’ve shot family portraits with 7 kids under 6 years old before! It definitely depends on the situation, but in the moment, I’ll know exactly what to do!

Here’s a few of my favorites from when we got married on July 14, 2018! It was extremely hot, but my whole family were troopers and we endured the heat! Photos by the amazing Seneca Epley!

Baby Leo was a little unhappy…but somehow still adorable in his little suspender and bowtie outfit!!!!

I hope this helps you a ton and gives you a glimpse into the best way to handle family formals! They can be stressful, but they definitely don’t have to be!



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