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As my girl Kacey Musgraves says, “You might look just like ‘em, that don’t mean you like ‘em, but you love ‘em!”
Your family formals are probably the most ubiquitous photos from a whole wedding day. If you’ve ever looked through wedding albums of parents or older family members, you probably saw a lot of family formals. As we’ve all fallen in love with candid moments and beautiful details, it’s an aspect of the day that doesn’t get as much love as it used to. But it’s still critically important! Although they don’t get talked about a lot, we have never shot a wedding without doing family formals.
In this week’s edition of our timeline tip series, I’m going to go over what “family formals” really consist of. We’ll go over where you can start as a baseline to make sure things stay efficient. And we all know family can sometimes drive you crazy. So we’ll go over how to make this small but important part of your day be as excellent and efficient as possible.
First off, if this is all news to you, you might be questioning, what is a family formal?? It’s pretty simple. These are posed photographs of the bride and/or groom, surrounded by different family groups from each side of the family. While we have our go-to groupings, most of the groups are totally up to the couple. There is no right or wrong way to take family formal photos!
The number one thing you can do to help this part of the day out is to make sure you have those groupings listed out beforehand. This makes sure that we know ahead of time who we need to grab, what order everything should go in, and how long it should roughly take!
If you have a location in mind of where you’d like to have these photos done, that can be helpful too! Usually our couples will have a location, but opt to let us choose the best light if necessary. Up near the altar at the ceremony site is a popular option.
That goes on to our next point..!
Make sure that your family members know where and when exactly they need to be. Ideally, immediate family members should be ready pre-ceremony to knock out the first part of the ceremony. That way, extended family members won’t be waiting too long when it’s their time post-ceremony. We can jump right into their photos and not take as much total time!
Our goal with all of this is all about preparation and efficiency. So about two months before your wedding day, I’ll send out a questionnaire. It goes over every family grouping. This gives you a chance to talk to your parents and make sure you’re not leaving out anyone or any special grouping! This list of groupings should include both the names of the people in the photos and their relation to the couple.
A lot of couples confide in us that they’re nervous about the family photos because it involves wrangling so much family.
We’d be nervous about wrangling our own family in a predetermined 30-45 minutes as well, and we’re experts!
However, the actual day typically goes more smoothly with all of this preparation. With our handy shot list, we’ll rope in a ‘helper’ from each side of the family. AJ is very charismatic and can call out family member names over the crowd of bodies. With enough confidence and preparation, this process usually goes very smoothly and we sometimes even get a little time back in the day. But again it isn’t possible without the help from the couple beforehand!
We have found that 8 separate groups will take a total of 30 minutes. In a typical 8 hour day, we recommend you limit it to these constraints in order to have the most efficient day.
For a reference, we do not consider individuals (ex: bride + her mom, groom + his dad, etc. etc.) to be a part of those 8 groups. From our end, the time it takes for one group also includes the time for individual photos. As an example: The grooms’ immediate family group will also include a groom + his dad, groom + his mom, groom + his siblings. Those don’t need to be their own separate groups!
That said, keep in mind that if you prefer to do each grouping together and separate, this will take more time. For example, if you want two shots of all your cousins, one with your new spouse and one without, that will take more time! Especially if the bride in her big beautiful dress is the main one moving! 🙂
You can do it one of two ways.
If you know your family well and think they won’t be ready pre-ceremony, rely on that. That’s a super important thing to recognize, and it’s better that we don’t fight that but work around it! Here’s how it would look, taking it from where we left off last week!
Or, if you know your immediate family can be ready to go before your ceremony, here’s what that can look like:
WALK TO FIRST LOOK LOCATION: 5 MINUTES
FIRST LOOK! : 10 MINUTES
BRIDE & GROOM PORTRAITS: 30 MINUTES
ALL WEDDING PARTY PORTRAITS: 45 MINUTES
FAMILY FORMALS: 15 MINUTES
BRIDE & GROOM IN HIDING: 30 MINUTES
Ceremony: 30 minutes
Extended Family formals: 15 minutes
Family joins cocktail hour: 45 minutes
Hopefully that all makes sense! This can be a crazy, confusing, complicated part of the day and that is why it’s so important to plan ahead of time for it! Making sure your planner and photographer have that list of must have family groups is key to making it all go smoothly.
Remember: It may feel like the longest 30 minutes of your wedding day…but this is a small portion of the day that you’ll be so grateful you did years from now! Just remember to smile and stay positive! And let your photographer be the one to keep things in check! 🙂
Stay tuned for next week when we talk receptions and the importance of sunset portraits! If you missed the first sections you can check them out here:
We are an Austin, Texas-based wedding photography duo committed to celebrating your Big Day by capturing every joyous, unscripted moment.