How to Organize Family Formals

It’s your wedding day and the ceremony just ended. Cocktail hour is in full swing and your family and friends have scattered throughout the venue. It is now the most opportune time to take family photos, but they are nowhere to be seen….bring on the stress!

When I first started shooting weddings, almost every single one came with high stress from producing these family photos. After a while, I learned a few tips on how to get beautiful family photos done as quickly and smoothly as possible. My job is to make this part of the day less stressful than it needs to be for you and your loved ones.

First of all, the more aware you are that this time could get a little chaotic, the less you’ll be surprised and stressed out by it all. This applies for those captured in the photos as well. Alert your family and friends to have them mentally prepared for this photo session. Let them know ahead of time that they should stand nearby right after the ceremony so they don't wander and make it difficult to get through the list of photos. 

Making a list ahead of time and coordinating with your photographer is absolutely necessary to staying organized during this time because you know exactly who needs to be in the shots. Try to keep this list as condensed as possible so that we can evaluate the combinations of groups per set of photos. The more people on the list, the longer the session will drag out and smiles will begin to fade. No one wants that! :)

It will also be my job to motivate the group and keep the shoot active and short-especially so that we’re not having grandparents wait for so long. For coordinating the groups, my suggestion is to start with the largest groups first and then pull away to form the smaller groups. This will also prevent people from wandering when we need them back for more photos and it won’t exhaust the family as much.

For coordinating the groups, my suggestion is to start with the largest groups first and then pull away to form the smaller groups. Otherwise it would get complicated when having to pull away, bring back, and swapping people. This will also prevent people from wandering when we need them back for more photos and it won’t exhaust the family as much.

To get a better idea of this organization, take a look at the bride’s family as an example. First we’ll start with the largest group photo. This may include everyone on the bride’s side-parents, stepparents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, godparents, etc. Next we pull away to show just the immediate family-parents, stepparents, grandparents, and siblings. Then just the family core-parents and siblings. Then a more intimate photo with just the parents. Then the bride may want a single photo with mom and a single photo with dad. Finally, she may want a photo with just her siblings. The same will work for the groom’s side of the family. This pulling away strategy makes for much better organization and flow in sequence.

Lastly, I recommend having no more than 10 photos from each side of the family so that you won’t have to take away as much time from your visiting guests. The fewer combinations and more organized we can be, the more fun and relaxed the photos will look.

Ultimately, you’ll want to take photos that will capture memories surrounding your loved ones, but we also don’t want to take away from this special day by creating a load of stress. In addition, there will be tons of great candid opportunities throughout the reception. Keep these tips in mind and your family photos will go by in a breeze, while capturing relaxed and loving moments you’ll treasure for many years to come.