Family formals (aka, mom’s favorite pictures from the wedding day [for good reason]) are a necessary component of any wedding day, and are sometimes one part of the day, unfortunately, that stresses brides out the most. From family members making a dash from the ceremony to cocktail hour to your niece (the flower girl) needing to use the restroom, you might be wondering: is there any way to successfully (and quickly) work through the family formals section of a wedding day?

What if I told you, bride-to-be, that family formals don’t have to be so crazy? That all family formals could be done within a short, concise timeframe? By following these five commandments of family formals, you will be sure to make it through your entire list without letting your list take the entirety of cocktail hour:

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1. Have a specific list with specific names.

This is the number one most important key to mastering the family formals portion of your wedding day: have a specific list with specific names. Spending five minutes a month before your ceremony writing out exactly who you’d like to have a part of family formals can save lots of time on your wedding day. Don’t forget to touch base with your groom, your mom, and your mother-in-law to make sure their requests are on the list, too!

Our strategy for wedding days is to have a specific list to work from so nothing has to be decided on the fly the day of the wedding (i.e., one less item for the bride to have to coordinate). If we know exactly who needs to be in your formals beforehand, we can start gathering people directly after the ceremony, calling names, and putting people “on deck” for the next photo.

2. Don’t stray from the list.

Commandment number two might be just as important as number one – once you have your list finalized, don’t stray from it! I’ve seen many a list get elongated throughout the family formals timeframe from well-meaning family members who want a specific combination that the bride (and the bride’s family) aren’t interested in having. Allowing friends and family members to elongate the list during this specific timeframe can cut into bridal party portraits, as well as portraits of the bride and groom. Know what shots are important and stick to them!

3. Keep your list simple.

Simplicity is best when it comes to family formals. If you have a limited timeframe to complete formals, keep it short and sweet – keeping the list to immediate family members and grandparents is a great way to save time (less people to gather), and other larger portraits (i.e., your mom’s whole extended side of 30+ people) can be saved for the reception, where the DJ can announce: “we need all of the bride’s mother’s extended family on the dance floor for a photo!” or the like.

4. Let everyone on the list know exactly where they need to be, and when.

What takes up the most time when it comes to family formals? Gathering family members. Alerting family members ahead of time that they will be needed for a photo, whether it’s directly after the ceremony or at an alternative specific time, will save ample amounts of time. Tracking down someone in a 200-300 person crowd can be tough (especially during cocktail hour when there’s food and drink involved!).

5. Bust through your list right after the ceremony.

At your ceremony, everyone will be sitting in the same room – which means everyone is already gathered and ready for formals! After the couple has exited the ceremony, many couples have their pastor make an announcement to have family members remain in their seats so that they’re ready for photos. If no one leaves the ceremony, it’s easier to jump straight into photos!

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By following these five commandments of family formals, you’re sure to breeze through your list with ease and efficiency and spend your day celebrating with family members, rather than just taking photos with them – and that’s what is truly important!

Have any tips to add? Drop them in the comments below!

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