Because my work has such a candid feel, many people are surprised to learn that I encourage couples to put time aside in their wedding schedule for wedding party and family photos. Formals aren’t for everyone, and I do certainly respect the decision of clients who skip the posed pictures. But there are some big advantages to having a structured formals time:

  • Organizing the posed group photos ahead of time takes some stress and chaos away on the wedding day.
  • I can better identify whose candid reactions to focus on at the reception if they were included in a select group for your family photos.
  • Family members will likely request these photos whether or not they are planned, so scheduling them ensures that I have time to thoughtfully light and pose the group pictures.
  • And of course, these photos are likely very important to family members, and the pictures will be passed down for generations.

Family_Formals002Yes, formals can get a little crazy – but they don’t have to be. Here are some tips for helping everything run smoothly:

  1. Put aside enough time. We will need approximately 4 minutes per grouping. If your groups are very large (15+ people), add a couple minutes per group of that size.
  2. Be selfish. Just include the groups that you really, truly want photographed so that we spend your valuable time on what matters most to you. If other people suggest family groupings that aren’t a priority for you, just let them know that I will be available during downtime at the reception to photograph any groups that they would like to gather.
  3. Organize people ahead of time. Let everyone know a couple weeks in advance where the formals will take place and what time they should arrive. Remind your family and friends a couple times, including in an email on the day prior to your wedding.
  4. Schedule formals early in the day. If you and your fiance are planning to do a first look, you can schedule formals to take place right before the ceremony. Ask your venue or church if the ceremony space will be available early for photos, or plan on a nearby location. The earlier in the day, the more fresh everyone will look. Completing your formals early in the day frees you to enjoy your celebration without worries afterward.
  5. Use your getting ready time. I encourage you to schedule a little more time than you think you’ll need for getting ready photos if important people will be there with you. Often a bride’s mom, best friend, sister, etc. is also present and freshly made up, and this can be a wonderful time to find some window light and get an elegant portrait of just the two of you together. These pictures are sometimes my favorites of the more traditional shots because they are sweet and intimate. This is also a simple way to add some variety to your posed portraits without taking up much extra time.
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