Family formals... aka the more structured family photos taken on your wedding day...

Here are some basics to know about family formals:

  • Family formals is the block of time on your wedding day where we take photos of you, your sweetheart and your immediate family members.
  • Generally, family formals take place immediately after your ceremony. In some cases, family formals can be taken an hourish before your ceremony starts.
  • Every couple I work with completes a wedding day questionnaire! On the questionnaire I ask for a list of different combinations my couple wants for their family photos. Preparation is KEY to make these photos as enjoyable as possible! I'll talk more about how to prep for success as you scroll!

to have the most enjoyable and efficient family photos, i suggest avoiding:

multiple rounds of family photos

I advise couples to clump all family formals into one 30 minute block of time. I've worked wedding days where couples insisted on having four different time periods for family photos. Doing something like this is incredibly exhausting for you and your family members.

including extended family members

in your family formals. There are exceptions to this rule, but in general, my couples feel less stressed when we save photos with aunts, uncles and cousins for photos during the reception, rather than during the designated time for photos with immediate family.

photos right next to COCKTAIL HOUR

When this happens, guests not in the photos tend to come distract and interrupt your family. This causes family formals to take longer than necessary. OR more commonly, we lose your family members to the allure of the open bar at the cocktail hour!


having a list with a max of 20 photos

I have my couples write a list of different family combinations they want photographed weeks before the wedding day! This is a part of the wedding questionnaire I send to all of my couples. I also ask my couples to limit the list to 20 different groupings. If we finish up these 20, we can certainly add more if time allows; however typically, this can become a bit chaotic and since my couple already planned out the photos they really want taken, there's no need to have last-minute additions.


Sending an email or text, or having a phone call with every family member BEFORE your wedding day is super important!! Let your various family members know that they will need to be available for family photos on the wedding day. Also tell them WHEN and WHERE they should be for these photos!

When Jason and I got married, we assumed family members knew to stay after the ceremony for photos... until we couldn't find his grandpa in the church! He was driving already to the reception! Imagine the chaos!

taking family photos immediately

after the ceremony. There are times when my couples want "a short break" after the ceremony and before family photos. When my couples do this, families get confused and irritated because they are waiting OR we lose family members to cocktail hour and it takes extra time to regather the troops! If you would like to take a break during cocktail hour, I recommend it be after family and wedding party photos or after all portraits. We will just be mindful to set up a 10ish minute break for you in there!


Like I mentioned before, about 8 weeks before the wedding day, I send a questionnaire to my couples. On it, they write a list of up to 20 different family formal combinations they want. With this questionnaire, I also send an example list to act as a guide. One of the beautiful things about wedding days, is that all weddings are different and all families are different! There's never a need to copy the sample list I provide- it's just to help couples understand what a list can look like! So, feel free to create a list that is unique to your family!

Below are some family photos taken that were planned on-the-spot or were a new or unique combination my couple came up with, that isn't on my sample list!

At Holly & Clayton's wedding, Holly's sister was expecting the first grandbaby (or baby niece) in the family! To commemorate a sweet miracle on an equally beautiful wedding day, we captured these endearing sibling photos!

For Erin & Paul's wedding, they included on their list of different combinations a photo with each of them and their parents. A photo of Erin with both her mom & Paul's mom and a photo of Paul with his dad and his new father-in-law!

Jenny & Tristan's wedding day consisted of two ceremonies - a Vietnamese Tea Ceremony in the morning, and a Western Wedding in the afternoon. Both had beautiful traditions and different outfits- so they wanted two different sessions of family formals on their wedding day. (This is one of those exceptions I was talking about!) Their day was unique with two ceremonies, so we were intentional in the timeline about blocking two different times for family formals, both for 30 minutes.