Wedding Day Family Formals in Under 30 Minutes

May 30, 2019

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I’m a wedding & senior portrait photographer from WI who loves big laughs, sunshine and puppy snuggles. I'm armed with coffee on the daily and a heart for capturing joyful moments.


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So far, we haven’t yet heard that family formals are our couples’ FAVORITE part of the wedding day.  But, they’re really important!  It’s the perfect chance to get updated family photos because everyone is all in one place.

But if they aren’t thought about before the wedding day and organized well when the time comes, family formals can be a major stressor.

Before you know it, they can knock the timeline off track and prevent the bride & groom from getting to the cocktail hour on time (or at all) or creep into the time planned for Bride & Groom portraits!

I know from experience that couples typically don’t want to spend all day taking family formals. As a wedding photographer, it’s my goal to remove the stress of wedding photography so all that’s left for my couples to experience is joy on their most special day.  Family formals are the perfect opportunity to do this, and it’s good for everyone involved if we can get them done quickly & efficiently!  We’ve discovered a few great ways to accomplish this, and I wanted to share a few tips with you!

Stick to Immediate Family Only

Some families are small.  A few different combinations on both sides and they’re done!  But other couples have HUGE families!!  I’m talking dozens of aunts & uncles, cousins….. on both sides!!

If you tried to include all family members for portraits, it would take a up HUGE chunk of time during your wedding day, preventing you from having time to get the photos you’re really looking forward to!

My best advice is always to limit family formal time to immediate family members ONLY – parents, siblings, and grandparents.  That’s it!

As for everyone else, we can (and do) get shots of them at the reception after you’ve accomplished all of the other portraits you need and my timeline is no longer as strict!  Trust me, it works well for everyone!

Write out the List

I always collect a list of family combinations far before the wedding day so that Adam and I are armed and ready with everyone that needs to be included.  Adam calls out the names on the list, and I take the photo.  It’s seamless!

Have the bridal party help

Just as we’re about to start family formals, we notice that Grandpa is nowhere to be found.  And we have no idea what he looks like!

We LOVE it when one of the bridal party members (who is familiar with the family members) can help us out and grab family members while we go down the list!  It takes the burden off of the bride & groom, and keeps things moving!

The Kind but firm “no”

On a wedding day, we transform from photographers to family members.  We love connecting with our couples in this way – it’s so much more personal.  During family formals, this is no exception.  There might be a time when other family members try to step in and take over, even when you don’t want them to.  Family formals is the perfect opportunity for this to happen.  Uncle Bob REALLY wants the Bride & Groom to take portraits with all 10 of their cousins.  And their cousins’ children.  We can see by the Bride & Groom’s faces that they’re not excited about the idea of taking an extra 30 minutes for this, but they’re afraid to say anything…

That’s where we come in!  We know that situations like this will absolutely throw off the rest of the timeline, so we’ll step in with the gentle “no”.  But at the same time, it’s not really “no”.  We’ll say something like, “In order to keep our timeline on track and have enough time for Bride & Groom portraits, we won’t be able to take these right now, but Adam would be more than happy to take these during the reception!  Just come find him, and he’ll do that for you!”

Nice and simple, and a win for everyone.

Give family members a heads up

After you have your list,  it’s helpful to let those family members know before the wedding to stick around after the ceremony for portraits.  That way, they know what to expect and aren’t caught off guard!

Hey! I'm Katie!

This is where I share not only my work and show off my sweet couples, but also (many) pieces of my life. I'm an open book when it comes to talking about things I love, current obsessions, my cute pup, and my amazing hubby, so I hope you love reading about it! Also, you'll find quite a few resources for planning the wedding you've always dreamed of, so grab yourself a latte and start exploring!

-cheers, Katie

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Katie Schubert is a wedding & senior portrait photographer based in Madison, Wisconsin


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