who to include, and how to prioritize

On a wedding day, the family formals are exactly what it sounds like: Formal portraits of you and your family. It's nothing more than lining everyone up, smiling, and snapping a quick photo, but believe it or not; this can be the most chaotic part of the entire day when the shot-list is long. I have seen more brides snap during family formals than any other time, but I'm here to help us avoid the chaos, know who gets to have a formal portrait with you and who you might just want to grab a more casual group photo with later at the reception.


have more questions?


The short answer is; anyone you want. However, it's important to know that if you aren't doing a first-look, every family grouping that you include in your shot-list is more time taken away from your bride+groom portraits that we'll be doing after (see how a first-look effects the timeline here). For that reason, you may want to try and keep this list to a minimum and prioritize only the groupings that you know will be printed and framed and make the most sense to be taken outside (as opposed to gathering them for a casual group photo some time during the reception). 

A good minimal list of highest priority groupings might look like this: 

  • couple + all immediate family

  • couple + brides's immediate family

  • couple + groom's immediate family

  • couple + bride's parents

  • couple + groom's parents

While the most thorough list might be as long as this and take quite a bit of time:

  • couple + all immediate and extended family

  • couple + bride's immediate and extended family

  • couple + groom's immediate and extended family

  • couple + bride's immediate family + grandparents

  • couple + groom's immediate family + grandparents

  • couple + bride's grandparents

  • couple + groom's grandparents

  • couple + all parents

  • couple + bride's parents

  • bride + bride's parents

  • couple + groom's parents

  • groom + groom's parents

  • couple + bride's siblings

  • bride + bride's siblings

  • bride + each sibling individually

  • couple + groom's siblings

  • groom + groom's siblings

  • groom + each sibling individually

  • bride + mom

  • bride + dad

  • groom + mom

  • groom + dad

When deciding which groupings are most important to you to include, and worth taking time away from your bride+groom portrait time, it might help to ask yourself things like:

1.) Are these people already in another grouping, and do they really need to be in another photo without the other people? ie. Taking a photo of the couple with the bride's parents and siblings, and then another photo without the siblings. Would you be happy to just have the photo of everyone together, or is it important to you that you have both? In my personal opinion, what matters is having a photo with the people you love, not necessarily having individual photos with every possible combination of the people that you love. However, I'm happy to get as many groupings as you could possibly imagine if that's what you want.

2.) Are you adding this grouping to your list because you want to, or because somebody else wants you to? If the photo doesn't matter to you, but somebody else wants you to take it, it is okay to leave them off the list. I can be the one to tell them that we only have limited time but can grab a shot with them later during the reception. However, to avoid hurt feelings or drama, you may want to discuss this with anybody that you anticipate feeling strongly about having any group photos that aren't a priority to you before hand. Having your family arrive an hour before the ceremony to get family formals done before hand is a great option to avoid additional groups spontaneously lining up expecting a photo and causing us to run behind, but ofcourse this is only possible if you do a first-look.

3.) Is this photo likely to be printed larger than 4X6 and displayed? If you think it is, it's worth it to include on the list. If it will probably just be looked at once and never thought of again, it's not worth taking away from your couple's portraits and is probably better to pull me over for a group shot some time later during the reception instead.