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!!

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