Family formals are hard. Grandma Watson can’t get her corsage to stay on, Uncle Bob is on the phone and Mom’s disappeared Probably making sure that arrangement at the front entrance is JUST right. And that’s just the bride’s side of the family.
Family formals is one of the most stressful parts of a wedding day. Why? Because locking 50 people who are related or about to be related into one room is like locking all the zoo animals into one stall. Everyone wants to visit, someone wants to micro-manage, and someone thinks sneaking out to the bathroom right before their portrait time is a good idea. It can all be a little overwhelming IF there’s not a set plan.
After doing this for quite some time and simply dealing with the madness, I sat down one day and thought, surely. Surely there is a better way to do this. And there is. A few years ago, we started implementing systems into our business. One of those systems in the pre-wedding work is to determine family formals and educate our brides.
With these steps, every wedding can have stress-free family formals.
- Communication : Communication is the most key element to stress free family formals. Without it, they will take forever, people will get lost and frustrated, photos will be forgotten and at the end, you’ll be disappointed. We only have one shot to make this work. Communication ahead of time is the make or break it key ingredient. Here are some ways in which you can communicate to help smooth out your family formals.
- Brides, communicate with your Momma AND future mother-in-law. This is a biggie. Your mom most likely has a few ideas for family formals she would like. And, because the groom’s momma often doesn’t meet me until wedding day she doesn’t usually feel comfortable dictating anything that I do. Communicating with her ahead of time to find out what images are important to her helps her feel like she has a voice. AND, will help her in the long run feel important too.
- Communicate with your photographer. Do you have a sticky situation in your family? Let your photographer know. Any professional can work around your concerns to make sure photos aren’t awkward. In these situations, it’s best to talk it out and be clear of what you want/don’t want.
- Make the List : The list. There is only one part of a wedding day where I shoot from any kind of list and this is it. Family formals are easy to get lost in the mix because someone stepped away and to make good use of our time, we switch gears and do some before others. I physically tick off the images taken because it’s easy to forget which ones we’ve done and which ones we haven’t done. Since we have a short time frame, this allows me to go quickly and efficiently, leaving no wanted family formal behind. I always suggest having a list for the bride’s side and for the groom’s side.
- Be Specific: Brides often don’t want to seem overboard, but trust me, being as specific as you can be on your list is really helpful. For example: Bride + Parents is really open. However, doing this : Bride + Mom, Bride + Dad, Bride + Mom and Dad, Bride + Groom + Mom + Dad. is MUCH more specific and actually much more helpful. That entire set right there would take about 3 minutes.
- Pick your location ahead of time: Picking a location for family photos may seem pretty daunting, but it’s not bad. We just need an open space, and I can help find the best one on wedding day. However, it’s best to decide ahead of time if you’d like your formals outside, inside, in the sanctuary, or in a ballroom. Each option gives hugely different looks and determines what we bring along for family formals and how we manage our time.
- Time. Carving out enough time in your timeline helps wedding day go so smoothly. Typically, I like to have 45 minutes for family formals. Usually, it takes us about 15 minutes for brides side and 15 minutes for groom’s side. (I’m REALLY fast.) But padding time is important too because sometimes, things happen. Having a little extra wiggle room especially where family formals are concerned.