Category: planning

7 Tips for Stress-Free Family Formal Wedding Portraits

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Family. We love them. But, let’s be honest, they can REALLY stress us out. Now, add the typical family stresses to the stress of a wedding day, and mix in people’s opinions and emotions and personal agendas, and then tell everyone to get together, real close, and all smile at the same time?! What?? Oh, and did we mention that this has to be done like, 10+ times?? With multiple different groups of people?? And all within a very small and specific window of time?! Yeeeah… Family formals can definitely get a little crazy. But it doesn’t have to be that way! With all of the many things going on on your wedding day, family portraits do not have to add to the chaos. In fact, here are 7 super easy ways to avoid the added stress of formal family photos on your wedding day! You’re welcome ;)

1. Compile a list of all group shots, and do this well before wedding day. This isn’t a task that you want take on by yourself, nor do you want to wait until the week of your wedding to do it. Sit down with your fiance, as well as both sets of parents, to talk about what shots are important to them and who absolutely must be included in the portraits. Sometimes all you really want are a few good shots with your parents and grandparents, but other family members might have a completely different list of people in their head and you want to make sure you know about it BEFORE your photographer starts flashing. Nothing screams stress like a surprise list of “must have” photos presented by your brand new mother-in-law just before you’re about to walk down the aisle, because no one took the time to let her voice be heard beforehand.

2. Consider (and discuss) minimizing the number of groups. The more individual groups you have, the more time it will take away from your own portraits and/or even your cocktail hour. If you (and your parents and soon to be in-laws) want to make sure that Aunt Jinny on your mom’s side and Uncle Steven on your dad’s side, and cousin Mary, and your fiance’s second cousin once removed, are all photographed with you on your wedding day, consider simplifying things by just doing one (or two) large group shots on each side of the family. It saves so much time, so much hassle, and everyone gets their photo with the bride and groom!

3. Make sure your photographers are aware of sensitive situations and physical limitations. Divorces, separations, family feuds, small children, elderly relatives… these can all present some interesting challenges during your family formals. It’ll be even more of a challenge if you didn’t make your photographers aware of them before your wedding day. Does grandpa have trouble standing for long periods of time? Let your photographers know ahead of time so that they can be sure to get his portrait quickly, or where there’s a nice place for him to sit instead of stand. Mom and dad are divorced and get along great but mom isn’t too keen on your dad’s new girlfriend? Let your photographers know so that they don’t unknowingly try to get them to stand next to each other looking cheerful. Plan on having lots of children in your photos? Keep your photographer posted so they can get the kid photos done ASAP and move on to the adults afterwards.

4. Plan to take all family formals immediately following the ceremony. This is the most opportune time, as everyone is already in the same place because they all just watched you get married! If you try to have large groups of people relocate to a “prettier” photo spot, or if you choose to just wait until the reception for your group photos, you’ll likely loose a few people in the transition somewhere. Aunt Chris always gets lost. Uncle David will absolutely hold everyone up, because you know he always gets caught up in conversations and loses track of the time. You’ll definitely have a hard time pulling Kristen and Laura off the dance floor. Wait, has anyone even seen grandma recently?? Oh, and not to mention, everyone has now been throwing back drinks for an hour and a half (including grandma), so… good luck with that.

5. Make sure everyone who is to be included knows about it ahead of time. Reach out to everyone on your shot list a week or so prior to your wedding day to make them aware of it. Be sure to tell them exactly where they need to meet and what time. This way they know what to expect and they can plan to stick around after the ceremony. No one needs your mother racing around the ceremony venue trying to find them, meanwhile they’ve already ducked out to your cocktail hour because no one told them they’d be needed for a photo.

6. Appoint someone (or several people) to be in charge of wrangling everyone together at the designated time. You have enough things on your plate on your wedding day. The last thing you want to be doing is chasing people down for a photo. While your photographers should definitely have your shot list by now, they will be of little help when it comes to trying to tell the difference between Grandma Lucy and Great Aunt Marge. Your best bet is to give the task to a few trustworthy family members on each side of the family. Have a cousin or two on your mom’s side, and a few aunts on your dad’s side in charge of making sure everyone is where they need to be and when they need to be there. Introduce them to your photographer(s) so they can communicate with each other about what people are going to be needed in the next shot. Make sure the wranglers each have a copy of the shot list, as well as giving a copy to your parents to hold on to also (this will help avoid the frantic, “Wait, honey! Isn’t cousin Alex supposed to be in this one??” question for every. single. shot). It can also be helpful to send out a pre-ceremony text saying, “Don’t forget! Photos on the front steps immediately following the ceremony!”

7. Allow yourself enough time. Talk to your photographers about your shot list before your wedding day and ask how much time they think it will take to get through all of your groups. If they come back with a length of time that you aren’t stoked about, instead of saying “eh, we’ll just move fast, it’ll be fine”, consider combining a few groups together or eliminating the unnecessary ones.

We figured out what works best to make family formals quick, easy, and stress free throughout many years of experience and trial/error, and we pass that along to our couples in the form of education, worksheets, questionnaires, and other organizational tools. In other words, if you’re an Ayres couple, we’ve got you covered! As stressful as this part of the day could potentially be, you’ll be able to sail right through it with us at the helm. ;) If you’re not currently an Ayres couple, but you’d still like to get your hands on our family formals worksheet, you can sign up here to download it!!


Interested in more wedding planning tips?? Click here!


Vendor Spotlight: B Sweet Designs

Filed in planning, weddings shot by on at

Back in the day wedding planning was pretty easy, (at least from what we’ve heard…). That’s because every wedding pretty much followed the same rules. Pick a date. Pick a place. Pick a dress. Pick a cake. Get married. Finito!

These days, when it comes to picking your options, things are a bit more involved than they were in the good old days. One of the things that seems to be getting harder and harder to decide on is dessert! Do you go traditional and stick with a fabulous cake? Or perhaps go a touch more modern and opt for cupcakes instead? Then there’s cake pops and individual mini cakes…. Hmm. But what if you want to ditch the cake idea all together?! Well then the options are really endless! There’s pie. So many flavors of pie! And what about donuts?? And candies! And chocolates?! And donut flavored chocolates and candy flavored donuts!! What’s a girl to do?!

In the days of 2019, we have a solution. And that solution is… PICK ALL OF THEM! Every sweet your little heart desires! And there’s truly no better woman to help your sugarplum dreams come true than Marisa Battaglia, owner of B Sweet Designs! Marisa sleeps, breathes and eats (well, obviously) sweets! She creates the most incredible custom dessert tablescapes that your taste buds could only ever imagine. Marisa takes all of the delicious desserts that your sweet tooth is craving and turns them into one giant extraordinary edible display of beautiful chocolate and candy coated daydreams. You’ll be swimming in a lovely sea of custard, floating along on a big cakey donut ring, tossing bonbons into your mouth and eating caramel corns like they were blueberries. And the best part is, you don’t have to lift a finger except to grab another bite sized cannoli. Marisa does everything for you.

We love Marisa and her amazing dessert table displays so much that we absolutely had to feature her wonderful business, B Sweet Designs, as one of our Vendor Spotlights. She’s such an awesome person and she really loves what she does! And really loves weddings! And really loves sweets! Which is probably why she’s so darn good at making dreams come true for her sweet craving brides! We talked with her all about her unique business, her eye for design and herself! Read on to learn more about B Sweet Designs and the woman behind the table!

How would you describe yourself in three words or less?

Happy :-)

Tell us a little bit about B Sweet Designs!

At B Sweet Designs, we specialize in custom dessert tables for weddings and special events! We like to be as “full service” as possible, so we provide everything from custom designed desserts and candy, to themed decor, serveware, scoops/tongs, treat bags, custom signage and tags, linens, delivery, setup and tear down. We can even provide custom designed backdrops! I like to say that desserts, no matter what the occasion, should be as dressed up as the guests at a party. Desserts are one of the last things your guests will taste and see at your event, leaving that ever-lasting impression. It’s really important to us that your desserts not only taste great, but look incredible as well.

How did you decide to start your own business?

After graduating college with a degree in Journalism and Marketing, I dove head first into the corporate world. I worked in Design & Marketing for about five or six years and developed a foundation that has certainly guided me throughout this whole process of starting a business. But I’ve always had that entrepreneurial itch inside of me and knew a 9-5 desk job just wasn’t going to cut it anymore. After planning my own wedding out of the country and seeing how my guests reacted to our dessert table, I just knew in that moment that I needed to bring custom dessert tables to the Buffalo/WNY area (my hometown, born & raised)! It’s been over four years and we’ve designed countless tables for all sorts of events, from weddings and showers, to corporate events, holiday parties and everything in between!

How do you go about creating the perfect dessert table display for each couple? Share your process :)

The first thing we do before even considering what the dessert table is going to look like is we meet with our couples/clients face-to-face (my favorite part!). I am a big believer in meeting in person. I just think it’s so important to get to know my couples’/clients’ personalities and get a feel for who they are because when I design, I design with them in mind. We discuss all sorts of details about their big day, from tablescape design to dessert and candy preferences, theme/color palette, florals, etc. Every aspect of their wedding or special event is important because every last detail helps me coordinate the design of the dessert table perfectly with the style of the event! We then spend the time between our first meeting and the actual event just brainstorming and throwing around ideas, coming up with new dessert designs, etc. And once we’ve settled on a layout (which varies greatly) and specific desserts (based on preference), we lay it all out and finalize any remaining details. We also love collaborating with other creatives in the area such as florists, backdrop and signage artists, linen rental companies, etc. to really bring the dessert table to the next level! On the day of, you’ll usually see us picking up our custom desserts all around the city, delivering everything to the venue, setting up the display, putting our final touches on everything and coming back at the end of the night to tear everything down! The best part is getting to see our couples’/clients’ faces when they see their dessert table for the first time. We don’t always get so lucky, but when we do, it reminds us why we do what we do :-)

What sets you apart from other sweet shops in the Buffalo area?

We’re a dessert table design business, so we provide a variety of custom designed desserts from bakeries and chocolatiers all across the Buffalo/WNY area. It’s completely based on preference, so we’re able to provide almost endless options of flavors and varieties. We work with each bakery to design every last detail of each dessert, right down to the way the gold leaf and sprinkles, for instance, are placed on a doughnut or the way the frosting is piped onto a cupcake! What I love is that our couples/clients get to offer their guests a variety of sweets, from baked goods to gourmet chocolates and candies, you name it and we can probably make it happen! Our tables usually consist of anywhere from 9-12 varieties of desserts and candies when all is said and done. What’s even better, our dessert tables also act as a piece of decor. Each dessert item is carefully thought out and placed strategically on the table to bring a cohesive design to life. And the best part…no two tables are ever the same!

What is it about Buffalo that makes you love living and working here?

I was born and raised in Buffalo, so I may be biased, but I just feel like we breed the most generous, hard-working, kindhearted people. I’m also really close with my family, even my extended family, so I’m really grateful that I get to do what I love every day in a city where I can be so close to the support of my loved ones.

What is your favorite thing to do in Buffalo?

If I’m being honest, it’s probably eating, lol! Buffalo has the BEST food! Brunch is my fav ;-)

Summer or Winter??

Summer (it IS wedding season after all!)

What is your favorite part about what you do?

I really love getting to know my couples/clients. I love getting to know their stories, especially my brides’ and grooms’ love stories. Being asked to create a custom dessert table just for them and to play a role in one of the most memorable days of their lives is truly an honor.

Chocolate or Vanilla?

Chocolate. All. Day. (But with salted caramel too please!)

What is it that keeps you coming back to this job day after day?

The look on our couples’/clients’ faces when we see them at the end of the night. Not only do we feel an incredible sense of accomplishment, but you can just feel the love in the air. The whole room is swarming with good vibes and energy. We love playing a part in one of the most special moments of their lives.

If you were to plan your own cake and dessert table for your wedding, what would it be like? What types of sweets would you include and why?

I actually DID plan my own cake and dessert table for my wedding (we had a destination wedding, so that’s what inspired me to start this business back here in Buffalo). We had everything from mini pies, cupcakes, doughnuts, chocolate covered Oreos and pretzels, sugar cookies, cake pops, fudge, peanut butter cups, popcorn, etc. to an assortment of candies such as gumdrops, fruit slices, gourmet wrapped chocolates, sour candies, etc. People still talk about it to this day! We even designed a three-tiered cake just for cutting ceremony purposes (one layer real, the others fake), a trend I see is very popular these days! The whole thing was so beautiful; I just knew my Buffalo couples would adore having a dessert table at their wedding as much as we did!

Do you offer any specialties? Unique flavors? Novelty desserts? Anything out of the ordinary bakery experience that is uniquely B Sweet?

We are constantly brainstorming and playing around with new designs and dessert ideas to offer on our dessert tables. Some of the more unique items we offer are glitter doughnuts, pyramid truffles, and we just recently created a “cakesicle”: a beautiful blend of cake and frosting wrapped up in a little chocolate shell on a Popsicle stick! They are so adorable and soooo delicious!

What do you love most about working in the wedding industry?

I love collaborating with some of the most incredibly talented individuals I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. From bakers to florists, artists, stylists, photographers, etc., it is so energizing and humbling to work alongside such creative energy. Together we really can make magic happen!

When meeting with brides and grooms, what is the biggest piece of advice that you find yourself giving out over and over again?

I always tell my couples to make it a point to purposefully carve out some time during their big day to walk away together from all the hustle and bustle and soak up everything that’s going on. Cherish the moment because as cliche as this sounds, it really does fly by so quickly! Also, don’t sweat the small stuff. That’s why you hire us, the professionals ;-)

What’s the best compliment that you’ve ever received from one of your couples?

One bride told me I made her dreams come true (melt my heart). And another couple told me as soon as the band announced the dessert table was open, it was devoured in 10 minutes flat. What an incredible compliment!

What’s your favorite color?

Blush! Also, does Rose Gold count?

What has been the happiest moment of your life thus far?

The day I married my husband (maybe that’s why I love weddings so much!) He’s my best friend and my partner on this crazy ride! A few weeks after we got married, I told him I wanted to start this business and he’s been so supportive since day one. I seriously couldn’t do what I love each and every day without him.

What is the most unique (and/or your favorite) dessert display that you’ve ever created?

I can honestly say I have loved each and every table we’ve created over the years because they are all so unique to the couple or guests of honor. We design with them in mind after all, so every single table really does hold a special place in our hearts. Personally, I do love a good neutral color palette, so any time I get to design around a blush/nude or champagne vibe, I get pretty stoked. We did create a gorgeous dessert table that was featured in the September 2018 issue of Martha Stewart Wedding Magazine that we were pretty excited about!

Fondant or Buttercream?

Oooo….I LOVE Buttercream (I could seriously eat it by the spoonful), but I love the beautiful designs we can create using Fondant.

If you could only eat one type of cake flavor for the rest of your life, what would it be?

That would be a sad day! But if I had to choose….carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, extra frosting please ;-)

And lastly, share some fun facts about yourself! Anything that will amp up how awesome we already know that you are!

Believe it or not, but I LOVE to Hip Hop dance. And I’d be down for a dance off, anywhere, anytime! I also really love to travel and used to live in London (my absolute favorite city in the entire world). In February 2018 I went to Bali, where my husband officiated the wedding of our two best friends!


Want to see more incredible work from B Sweet Designs?? Click here!


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