Wedding FAQ: Family Formals

March 7, 2017

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I admit that posing for formals are not everyone?s favorite moment of the wedding day celebrations. Bit – It is record making in a classic form and I do think it is important.  Wedding formals are the only time during the day when I tell you what to do and where to stand.  The rest of the day I?m reacting to what?s unfolding.

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I?m using the word family is a very loosely here.  I consider family to be inclusive of whoever is in your inner circle (be they biological or logical family).

I want to make this as quick and painless as possible.  I want you to spend happy times with your friends and family and with each other – not endlessly lining up for posed portraits.  In order to make that happen (quickly and painlessly) I ask that everyone who is in the pictures know before hand where and when they are to show up ready.  


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We will touch base a month or so before your wedding to cement your list for family groups. We start with the largest groups of family and then the smaller ones.  Before the wedding day, I?ll be checking in with you about timelines and any specific groupings of people you want to have for family portraits.  We?ll make a list and figure out the logistics.  This varies on the time of day, the venue and the size of the families.

Be sure to tell everyone on the list.  And tell them again,  just in case.  Budget 5 minutes for each group. This will buffer in time for the inevitable diaper chance, open bar magnet, dad who forgot his pants in the hotel, etc.

So Who?s On This List?  

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You can, and perhaps have already, done a web search for Family Formal Shot List and found a some huge lists that cover everything and everyone you’ve ever met or been introduced to.  As a someone who leans towards minimalism and inclusivity – you may not have that many people on your list. 

You can start with one of those big lists and then ask yourselves: Do we actually want this picture? Are we including this group because we are supposed to or because we really want to? What will we do with this group photo? Will we print it and frame it? Will we want it in our wedding album?  The answer might be an enthusiastic YES!  Or you may beginto pare down the list. 

I recommend this at a minimum:

Wedding Couple

Wedding Couple with parents on one side

Wedding Couple with parents on the other side

Wedding Couple with each extended side

Wedding Couple with both extended sides

Wedding Couple with Grandparents


There’s a portrait of my mother’s parents from her wedding that is wonderful.  My grandparents look fantastic, and everyone in the family has a large wall portrait of this image.  I like to quickly get some images of the parents alone, or of your siblings and their families.  Yes, you and your fiance are the reason that everyone has gathered.  It’s important to get you in the majority of the pictures, as the centerpiece. While everyone in present and looking dapper, let’s take advantage of it! 

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I find the best times are either before the wedding ceremony (if you?ve done a first look) or between the ceremony and the reception (usually a little time and place called cocktail hour).  If your list is very long, it might make sense to split the groups up into smaller groups and spend a little time at the beginning, middle and end of the day.  


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Realistically, if you have two big families, a wedding party and family expectation that everyone gathers for formal portraits, you?re looking at at least an hour of your wedding day relegated to family portraits.

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If you have ideas for any other groups (friends from work/school) you would like to see photographed, make sure to tell me. Informal groupings can be done during cocktail hour, during the reception or on the dance floor.  


Occasionally, I have clients that request a picture of all of the guests present at their wedding.  If this is something you want – please be sure to tell me in advance.  These images require additional time, gear and the logistics to be worked out in advance.  Ideally, a tall ladder or balcony or drone is used.