Wedding Day Family Formal – How to plan for them

May 9, 2020


Wedding Day Family Formals – How to plan, schedule and create a list

Wedding planning is all about schedules and lists – especially planning the wedding day family formals. And especially if you are planning a big wedding, you don’t want to miss a photo of all the important people that will attend!  That’s why we’re here! Hopefully, after you read this, you will know exactly how to plan for family formal portraits!!

When is the best time to do family formal portraits?

* immediate and extended *

How to plan for family formal portraits during your wedding day will depend on when you have the most time available. And, if one bulk time isn’t ideal or possible, would splitting it up be an option? 

For one wedding, we did ALL the family formals about 2 hours before the ceremony – the family formals took anywhere from 45-1 hour. For another wedding, we did intimate/immediate family before the wedding – took 45 minutes and then extended family after the ceremony. In all honesty, I prefer the second scenario better. 

The most recent wedding, we did immediate family right after Bride-Groom intimate portraits and extended family right after the ceremony. 

So what did the schedule look like?

8:30-10:00: Bride & Groom Prep 
10:00 – 11:00: First Look & Bride and Groom Intimates
I like doing it this way because it gives the bride and groom some time to ride through the momentum built from the first-look. And if they don’t have a first-look, doing bridal portraits first, not too long after the makeup and hair is done is a great time because everything is at its best! 
11:00 – 12:30 pm: Immediate family portraits
4:00 – 4:40 pm: CEREMONY
4:45 – 5:00 PM: Formal Family Portrait (extended)
6:00 PM: Reception

This schedule was created with the intention to break up the time and allowing for enough time for everyone. Because family and friends were coming in from different locations, it made it more logical to do the extended family portraits after the ceremony than making them come early before. 

Additionally, doing it after also lessens the traffic before the ceremony – so, per sey, if your photographer needed extra time for photos – like of the ceremony site – I had ample time to do all I needed to do, before, without a mass of people around.

an important side note…

Special Parents Only Portraits

a beautiful suggestion for the bride and groom

While doing your immediate family photos, be sure to include a set of just your parents as a couple and also by themselves. You will not regret this choice! It’s a great time to capture a photo of your parents looking their absolute best! 

Make A List of “A” List People!!

If you want photos with all your important VIP guest members, you’ll have to make a list! A list keeps it organized and makes it easier to shuffle people in and out.

A simple method would be have someone on the side calling out the list and create a cue on the side! With one group done, the second group is cued up and ready to head in! This is probably the most efficient way to accomplish large group photos in a short amount of time!  But, even without the cue, as long as there’s a list and everyone is present, it’s not too difficult! If there are people or family who are missed, there is always time during the reception!

Having a list keeps you from missing important things… so start early!

With so many people at your wedding, like I said above, the only way to avoid missing an important face is to make a list! The funny thing is, this list can easily be found on the spread sheet you use while you are inviting your guests. It is – literally – as simple as. “the Stevenson family” or “Mom’s side of the family”. if you are looking for photos of close friends & not family, the same applies and you could simply put – “College friends”, or “Mom’s Church Friends”. And within those lists, list out the amount of people – so your photographer knows what to expect and be prepared – especially when a group of 50 – 100 ppl needs special  treatment.

Lists, lists, lists + details :)…

Lists + details are the most important thing when it comes to how you plan for family formal portraits and all the other portraits and aspects you will be needing to plan your wedding day! So utilize it a lot to stay organized!

HI, I’m Amy and I am a San Diego wedding photographer that loves serving people who are genuine, fun and yearns for a photographer that doesn’t just scratch the surface but can truly understand, bring out and authentically tell the love story that is unique to every couple!

To get to know me more, go to my About ME page! And to see my latest work, go to my Instagram & Facebook!

And if you ever need me for anything, please feel to DM me or drop a note in the contact form

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  1. Christine says:

    Great advice!! I wish I had read this prior to my own wedding 6 years ago!!

  2. Jennifer says:

    Such great Information!! Saving this post for sure!

  3. Great advice! Family photos are always chaotic on the wedding day, so this will make everything sooo much smoother! Love it!

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With photos only to remember her twin sister by, Amy comprehends fully well just how priceless photos are. And with that passion to create heirloom memories, she aims to create timeless and memorable photos beyond what the eyes see. Amy utilizes her uncanny ability to read people, her approachability, authentically warm & caring heart to bring out the TRUE EMPOWERING BEAUTY in all her clients. Not only will you fall in love with her, so will your family!



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