The Perfect Family Formal Shot List


What are family formals? These are the formal shots that the bride and groom take with their families on the wedding day. This is planned into the timeline, usually right before the ceremony if the couple has a first look or they can also be taken right after the ceremony during cocktail hour.

Around six weeks before the wedding day, I send my couples a questionnaire with all of the information I need from them in order to photograph their wedding day. One of the most important things I need from my couples is their family formal shot list. The reason I ask for this before the wedding day is so that, on the wedding day, when it’s time for family formals, I can just read straight down the list, snap the shot, and then move to the next shot. It’s easy, painless, and stress-free for the families. And families almost always tell me they love how efficient I am! In reality, the efficiency happens because the bride and groom planned ahead.

Family formals can easily become one of the most stressful parts of the wedding day if not planned for well enough. My biggest tip is to make sure that everyone knows where to be and when! In case anyone is missing, appoint a family member or close family friend to find missing people. Unfortunately, I don’t know what your family members look like, so I won’t be able to do this. You also need to double check with your fiance to make sure you’re both on the same page regarding the family formal list. This part of the day goes SO much smoother when I can just read down the list, instead of someone trying to figure out additional groupings they want on the fly.

When thinking about who to include in your family formals, think about which pictures you’re going to want to hang in your home and pass down to your children. It’s usually photos with your immediate family and your grandparents. Remember that you can always take photos with your aunts, uncles, cousins, and other extended family members during the reception after the formalities. Limiting the number of people included in family formals really helps to cut down on stress for the bride and groom and the time needed for photos.

After photographing over 75 weddings and seeing what works well, and which photos actually get printed, here is my recommended family formal list:

Bride’s Side

  • Bride with mom

  • Bride with dad

  • Bride with both parents

  • Bride and groom with bride’s parents

  • Bride and groom with bride’s immediate family (bride’s parents, siblings, and siblings’ spouses and children)

  • Bride and groom with bride’s maternal grandparents

  • Bride and groom with bride’s paternal grandparents

Groom’s Side

  • Groom with mom

  • Groom with dad

  • Groom with both parents

  • Groom and bride with groom’s parents

  • Groom and bride with groom’s immediate family (groom’s parents, siblings, and siblings’ spouses and children)

  • Groom and bride with groom’s maternal grandparents

  • Groom and bride with groom’s paternal grandparents

Both Sides

  • Bride and groom with both sets of parents

This list takes approximately 30 minutes to complete if everyone is on time. Do you have any unique family situations such as an aunt who practically raised you? Or maybe step-parents need to be added in? Feel free to adjust this list as needed. This is your wedding day after all, and every family is different. I would just recomend trying to keep your family formal groupings to no more than 15. In my experience, this number tends to work the best. If you decide to add more than 15 groupings to your list, just make sure you set aside plenty of time (45 minutes-1 hour) for family photos at your wedding.


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