Family Formal Photos Made Easy

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Written by Curator Michelle Cox:

The wedding is finally almost here and now it's all getting real. As you are getting in your RSVPs and find out which family and friends are attending the wedding, it's time to start planning those important people into your photos. 

Yes, these can seem like an overwhelming task but trust me, you WANT to do this before the wedding day rather than on the day itself. If you think about your portraits before the day and write all of your ideas down, you will be less likely to miss anything and or anyone. Plus, once you make a list and hand it to your photographer, you both share the responsibility of remembering which photos you want more. It's really a win/win! 

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Weddings are about family

I always love to start with the formal photos of the couple's immediate families  and then branch out to the larger family. When we work with a smaller group and start adding it is easier to make sure that we haven't missed anyone. Photos with mom and dad, then add the grandmas, now the aunts and uncles and cousins... Having some kind of organization during this time is really important because when you are trying to add in 30+ people to your photos, there needs to be a plan. I know that some couples think that formal family photos can be hectic so they opt to cut them out of their day but I encourage you to at least consider the option with your photographer. I am a firm believer that weddings are about family and close friends so I do everything within my power to help organize that process to make sure that everyone is happy with the end result and that everyone will have wonderful photos to remember this wedding day. 

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Prioritize

As you start to consider the family and friends that are most importrant to your formal photos, write down a list. Obviously every guest is important but not every guest needs to get a "solo photo" with the couple and especially not at the formal photo location. Generally I ask couples to consider if there are special friends or family that have travelled far for the wedding - Sometimes those are the kind of people that you might want to get a "solo photo" with. If there is family or friends that you see rarely you might want to consider having them come to the formal photos also. You can also consider if there are special photos for anyone else in the family that they would like to get done. Sometimes just by asking your parents or future in-laws if there is anything they would like, it opens up conversation into another photo that might be beneficial to grab. 

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Think outside of the box

Just because you want to have "formal photos" doesn't mean they have to be stuffy. You can have full creative control on where you would like your photos and what you want them to look like. We could travel around the city to a new location or find a creative space that still shows off your unique style and personality. Its your wedding so whatever you want, we will do! 

Lists, lists, lists! 

I WANT to know every single member of your family but unfortunately, I just don't. As you are planning your formal photos, write them out in a way that will help me understand who needs to be where, in an order that makes the most sense to call out. Generally I ask couples to write them out by families (one side first and then the other), and to also list out with first names. If I were to shout out "Bob, Betty, Sam and Cassy" it is usually better recieved (and easier to call out) than "Bride's brother, his wife and their son and step daughter". 

Sometimes if you have a large family/group I will even ask my couples to assign a family member or person in the bridal party (who knows your family well) to help me when calling out names. Its not that I need help calling, but it is helpful to have someone who can recognize the family members that we are looking for. When you say "Uncle Joe" you know what he looks like - when I say it, it could be any number of gentlemen in the room. Depending on the size of the groups, having a family or friend to help with this process can definitely make things go a little more smooth. 

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What about my sorority sisters?!

If you have friends or family that you want photos with but don't feel like your relationship would be accurately represented during the "formal" photos, we can plan that into the cocktail hour or early reception. Generally sorority sisters, childhood friends and co workers could fall into this category. I generally recommend "planning" these kind of photos also because even if you imagine that "We could just snap that photo on the dance floor or whatever later on..." it might not happen that way! If there is something you really want, let your photographer know and they can make it happen. You will be much happier that you planned it out beforehand AND it will allow you to have to worry about less on your wedding day. That is the goal, right?! 

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