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Family Formals: Navigating all the relatives

Family formals can be tough to plan for and navigate. How can you keep them efficient and stress-free? What happens in tough family circumstances? How do you corral little kids for one good shot?

First off, family formals photos are as important to the rest of the participants in the photos as to the newlyweds, possibly even more so. Just think about it: how often do you think Aunt Sue manages to get all the cousins, all dressed up, into a photo? If our team is photographing a formals session with 2 photographers, one photographer will stay with the couple, while the second photographer may both help pose groups, and grab photos of those groups without the couple in them (perk!). Pro tip: Parents LOVE having a photo of just the grandparents, the kids, and the cousins, even without the couple in them!

Second, have a list of photos you’d like taken. Make sure you don’t just put “the Adams Family”; list out the names so there’s no confusion. If you just say “I want all the Adams in this photo,” there will somehow always be someone missing, convinced you want only the immediate family members, and they somehow end up running towards the group only after lots of people yell and beckon, or after the photo was taken. Share the list with your photographers at least 2 days prior to the wedding day. Our team always brings two copies of the shot list and actually goes through it, with or without a “photo coordinator.”

Example of a group shot list:

  1. Glen, Barb, Bud, Nicole, Suzie, Deb, Sasha

  2. Glen, Barb, Bud, Sasha

  3. Barb and Bud

  4. Bud and Glen

  5. Glen, Nicole, and Suzie

  6. Suzie, Deb, Sasha

  7. Deb, Sasha

Third, having a designated “photo coordinator” is extremely helpful for making sure each group of people gets corralled and lined up as the previous one is having their photo taken. The photo coordinator should be someone who knows most of the people on the photo list, and recognizes when the wrong Uncle Tom pops over. (Make sure your photo coordinator likes to yell.) We usually recommend using a member of the wedding party, as the wedding party will have photos taken last with the newlyweds.

Finally, if you have elderly family or friends, or young children, make sure those groups are at the top of the list, right after the wedding party, so their photos can be completed first. Work with your photographer to plan out the situation for all of the family formals; for instance, if you have an elderly grandparent that has difficulty walking far, or needs a chair or walker, we’ll take those photos somewhere paved, close to transport/help/the venue, and accessible, rather than on a grassy hill. For younger children, let the photographer know what words get the kids giggling. The most common one we use ends up being “fart” because that makes everyone, not just the children, laugh. If the kids have a favorite animal name, or like jokes, let us know so we can plan ahead of time and get them having fun in front of the camera!


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