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WEDDING WEDNESDAY: Tips for Organized Family Formals

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Organized Family formals during your wedding day, its what every bride wants! Unfortunately, they can really get a bad rep. Keep on reading for our tried and true tips for organized family formals.

Over the years we have experienced it all when it comes to family formals. Stressful, chaotic, joyful, downright hilarious, drunk family members, crying family members, yelling family members, helpful family members… you get the point! There is however, one thing we have found absolutely necessary to make this part of your wedding day a positive experience. You HAVE to have an organized game plan for your family formals. It is a non-negotiable if you want this part of your day to run smoothly. Take it from a pro, family formals are not something you just want to “wing it” on.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love getting to know my couple’s family and friends so much! It is actually one of my favorite parts of the day. However, it is important to me to have control over this section of the day to avoid causing extra stress on our sweet couple. About 8 weeks out from their big day they always get a questionnaire from me. In this questionnaire we really drill hard on family formals!

Tips for Organized Family Formals:

Awkward Family Dynamics 

The first thing we always want to know is if there are any awkward situations we should be aware of. Not that divorces always make for an awkward situation, but we definitely want to know if there are certain family members who don’t get along. This really helps us to know who we can group together without causing controversy. It also lets us know if there are any step parents/grandparents that you want or more importantly DON’T want included.

Hey, I get it! Chris and I both came from blended families and we are raising one ourselves. It’s pretty common these days and nothing to be ashamed of. However, our couples happiness is our first and foremost goal. If there are certain people you do not want in your family formals, but you don’t feel comfortable expressing that; tell your photographer! We are here to help 🙂

Tips for Organized Family Formals:

The Family List

I know a lot of you may be asking, how the heck to you accomplish that without making it an awkward situation. It’s reeeeeeal easy my sweet friends. Its called the family list! We get together your family list before your wedding day. And then Chris is like the security guard at the front of an A list celebrity club… He calls the names of the people that are to be in each photo grouping and when we are done with the list, we are done with family photos!

Now there has been an occasional situation when someone will ask for an additional grouping. If our couple is okay with that; we will most definitely do it. BUT if our couple doesn’t lead on they want that shot, we kindly tell the guest we are out of time for family formals. BUT we will always assure them we are more than happy to snap a photo of them with the bride and groom during the reception. This has always worked great for us and leaves little to no negative energy.

Tips for Organized Family Formals:

Family Grouping Ideas

Now, if you were like me when I was getting married, you are probably thinking HOW THE HECK DO I COME UP WITH A FAMILY LIST?! Well my friend, I got you there as well 😉 When it comes to family formals less is truly more! We always recommend sticking with your immediate family. That is not us saying your other family is not important. In our experience, it is SO much easier (and stress free) if we get any extended family photos during your reception. To break it down even further, here are our recommended “go to” list for family formals

B&G with Bride’s Immediate Family

(Parents, Siblings, Grandparents, Nieces, Nephews)

B&G with Bride’s Parents

B&G with Bride’s Siblings

Bride with her Parents – We try to do this before the ceremony

Bride with Mom, Bride with Dad – We try to do this before the ceremony

B&G with Bride’s Grandparents

B&G with both sets of Parents

B&G with Groom’s Immediate Family

(Parents, Siblings, Grandparents, Nieces, Nephews)

B&G with Groom’s Parents

B&G with Groom’s Siblings

Groom with his Parents – We try to do this before the ceremony

Groom with Mom, Groom with Dad – We try to do this before the ceremony

B&G with Groom’s Grandparents

B&G with all family members if time allows

Tips for Organized Family Formals:

How WE run Family Formals

As mentioned above, we always chat with our brides/grooms in advanced to get the family list narrowed down. After we have finalized that family list; we instruct our brides to reach out to each person on said list to let them know what time to be there for family formals. If our couple is doing a first look, it will be before the ceremony. If our couple opted out of a first look they will need to instruct their family members NOT to go to cocktail hour and to join us for family formals right after the ceremony. Typically when there is this open communication before the wedding day, it results in less chaos (AKA not running around searching for Uncle Joe). Once we determine where we will be taking your family formals, I stage our couple and start working down the list.

This is where the real magic happens and how we are able to get through family formals quickly and efficiently. Chris has the list in hand and starts calling out the names of the family members. I will usually help gather the first grouping. But after that, Chris is getting who ever is “on deck” ready to go and we swap your family members in and out as needed until we’ve completed the entire list. Sounds pretty simple right? Well it definitely is, if we have an organized game plan 😉

*Extra pro tip: Always have someone available (a bridesmaid, sister, aunt etc.) who knows everyone on the family list handy to assist in case your photographer cannot find someone on the list. While 99% of the time we don’t run into this issue when the family members have been directly told to be available for the family formals. It can still happen, and your wedding photographer doesn’t ALWAYS know who they need to look for (other than their name on the list). Having this extra help on stand by always helps to keep things running smoothly!

Tips for Organized Family Formals:

Its YOUR Wedding Day

At the end of the day, its your wedding day and you should do WHATEVER the heck you want my friend! If you want a smaller list, do it; if you want a larger list; DO IT! If you want to wing it; go for it sister friend. These are just a few tried and true tips and tricks we have found through out the years to help our sweet brides! We really hope you found these tips for organized family formals helpful. Comment below with any other family tricks and tips you have discovered 🙂

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  1. […] This can easily turn into one of the most craziest parts of the day as far as photography is considered! We recommend having 30 minutes set aside for this part of your day, BUT not at the expense of your bride and groom portraits. If you want more tips for organized family formals, you can check out our wedding Wednesday post over here! […]

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