The #1 way to avoid family formal photo stress

Updated: Apr 10

You know exactly what I'm talking about.

That part of the wedding day where we line all of your family up in a row (how natural, right?) and we take a formal photograph of everyone together. It's a strange part of a wedding day, but it's very valuable in the long-run and your parents just gobble it up.

Until tragedy strikes.

Uncle Louis decides to go somewhere for some reason, and suddenly he's missing. His brother Dave goes to find him because Louis is supposed to be in this photograph - and now they're both missing. You need to leave in 10 minutes, and in your panicky state keep telling the photographer "we'll just get it at the reception, okay?" as you shuffle out the door before your sweetheart limo leaves without you.

Yep, you know exactly what I'm talking about. There are ways to combat this inevitable family reunion however.

While some people are adamantly opposed to this, the surefire way to never lose a family member is to do all of your family formals before the ceremony. Yes, this does mean you'll have to see each other before the ceremony (probably via first look), but the benefits to this are outrageous.

1. If you do your formals at your ceremony location, you know your family will be there. There's no chance of them skipping out because they felt ill (like how some skip the receptions)

2. Because the formals are at the ceremony location, they have to be there anyway. Ask them to show up an hour or two early, and they're guaranteed to be prim, proper, and ready to go.

3. Sometimes the celebratory drinks start very quickly after the ceremony. By having your photographs before, there's a good chance the whole crew will be sober enough to pay attention to the photographers requests.

4. And therein, if the formals are already done, the celebratory drinks can start right after the ceremony, no pressure.

5. Because you won't have any obligations between the ceremony and reception, you can typically head to your party right away. I've photographed weddings where the guests were at the reception waiting for the couple to show up from family formals, but the formals ran late. Let me tell you - there nothing scarier than a bunch of hungry guests because the couple is late and they ran out of appetizers an hour ago.

I know some couples feel that they just can't trade off having the aisle walk be their first sight of each other that day, and that's okay.

Just be sure to thoroughly consider what's more valuable to you that day - no couple that I've ever done a first look with has said they regretted it, or wished they hadn't done it. It takes away stress, you get to see each other longer on that day, and hang out with your favorite person for so much longer.

I always work with couples before their wedding day to get a list of VIP family groupings beforehand - this means you'll also have a concrete start and end time to family photos, and this can aid in maintaining attention spans.

Whether or not you choose to do them before or after, know that your photographer will help keep people where they need to be, and help this process go as quickly as possible.



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A wedding and portrait photographer based in Duluth + Minneapolis MN, traveling outward.

A believer in the honest and a photographer of the true moments that surround your life.

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