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How to Make a Family Formals List For Your Wedding Day

Washington DC Wedding photographer
 Welcome!  I am a love stories and history obsessed photographer living in the heart of Washington DC, who is dedicated to  preserving legacies for future generations. Here is where share wedding tips and tricks, a peak into my work, and recent adventures. Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy!
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Tips to Make Family Formals Stress-Free on Your Wedding Day

Family formals can be the most stressful part of a wedding day because there are so many moving factors and people involved. But it does NOT need to be that way! Over the years as a DC wedding photographer, I’ve come up with a few tips to help make this part of your day easy for everyone! There’s a lot of tips in this post so make sure to save it for your own wedding day or pass it along to someone else you now who’s getting married. Now, onto how to make a family formals list for your wedding day! 

tips for family formals on your wedding day

Use your family’s names on the actual list

You’ll make a list for your photographer that breaks down who you want in each image. Here’s a secret: I don’t know your Grandma’s first name or your sister’s unless you tell me! By writing down exactly who needs to be involved in the images by name, you’re solving a lot of problems at once. First, people are more responsive to their actual name than a title.

Listing the names also helps us create a good flow for the images, so that people don’t have to stick around longer than necessary and we don’t have to track anyone down. That means everyone can enjoy cocktail hour, too! Finally, when we know exactly who’s in each image, we can decide where to have your formals. We need to be able to plan for that big group shot you want! I highly recommend one of two formats for the names on your list:

Option 1: John and Susy with Susy’s mom, dad, and sister (Jill, Bill, and Lily)

Option 2: John, Susy, Jill, Bill, Lily 

If you have children involved in the images, let your photographer know! 

If your photographer is aware of who is inthe photos, we can better plan. For kids, they often need to work around nap times or rest times so that everyone’s on their best behavior for the big moments of the day. Knowing that kids are involved beforehand allows us to plan their photos with their parents and excuse everyone quickly.

woman walks with flower girls during DC wedding

Split up your family formals!

If your timeline allows, I highly recommend splitting your family formals in half. Complete your immediate family portraits before the ceremony and extended family portraits after the ceremony. This can be done with or without a first look, too. With a first look, we can knock out all of those immediate family photos before the ceremony easily once we’re done with your portraits! Without a first look, we can do each of your sides before the ceremony separately. We can then combine them for a big group shot after and any extended family photos, too. This helps reduce the number of people waiting for portraits and standing around after the ceremony. 

Keep it brief!

Most couples have between 10 and 15 family formal groupings on their list. That’s a great number. You need 3-4 minutes a grouping, honestly. Because of that, I’d avoid going over 25 groupings if you can. There’s just too much happening at that point – and you’re going to miss out on other things! 

tips for family formals on your wedding day

Name a Team Captain!

If you, like me, have a large extended family, I recommend naming a Team Captain for each branch of the family, who is responsible for wrangling their portion of the family. This is an excellent job for an aunt or cousin, who can find the appropriate people – and create one less thing for your parents, siblings, and brand new husband or wife to worry about! It also means I don’t have to chase anyone down – which is much easier, since I don’t know who they are anyway! 

Assign your team captain roles ahead of time, and ensure they know when, where, and who they are responsible for wrangling for the family photo. A copy of the list would be great for them to have! Inform your photographer and planner who the person will be for each branch so we know whom to look for help wrangling family members. Trust me, having someone who knows who’s who makes everything go way faster!

tips for family formals on your wedding day

With a little bit of pre-planning, your family formals can be stress-free on your wedding day! It’s important to capture portraits with the people most important to you, and we always want to make that happen. I hope these tips help you feel less anxious about one of the biggest parts of any wedding day! 

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