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5 Tips for Stress-free Family Formals

Family portrait time can be the most stressful time of your whole wedding. But it doesn’t have to be!

Below are five tips to help this time run smoothly. These tips will help you power through all your groupings and make it quick, easy, and hopefully stress-free!

1. Talk to BOTH sides of the family.

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been at a wedding where mom starts asking for every grouping possible. Talking to your relatives beforehand eliminates the stress of trying to squeeze in “just one more photo”.

 Setting those expectations beforehand helps you plan enough time to get all these photos done. You can help by making sure both families have input in the images they want taken during family portrait time. This helps everyone feel included.

2. Keep your groupings simple.

Moving people in and out of photos can get tough (and time consuming). Keep your groupings simple to help minimize the amount of dead time spent standing around waiting for their photo.

If you want an individual photo with each of your aunts, or cousins, or long-lost whoever the reception is a great place to take those without spending a lot of time during formals. We have HOURS to use while you’re enjoying the party and you can always grab me for a quick snap. By keeping the formal photos limited to immediate family, you can move through them quickly and not get annoyed by everyone being distracted.

We can also use the getting ready time to take your individual photos. If you have a first look with Dad, you’ll already have a one-on-one photo with him and won’t need to take up more time during formals with that. Same thing goes for any siblings in the wedding party.

*Tip 2.1 – Only include married or long-time relationships in your photos. If your siblings, or cousins, etc have short term or new relationships leave them for the reception candid times. These photos mean a lot to your family and become muddled in the future if people are no longer around.

3. Work from big to small.

This is MY personal preference. I like to get everyone up there at once with you and get it over with. That way your more distant relatives can head to cocktail hour and they’re not waiting around for their moment. Then we can focus on multiple groupings of your immediate family.

4. Be specific.

Creating a list beforehand helps us move quickly through each group. At the end of the blog you can download a guide where I’ve laid out the most common groupings.

If there is any family drama, or lost relationships, it is helpful for me to know so I can help this go smoothly. If your parents are divorced or remarried, there is a spot for you to write that. Feel GOOD about who your family is and celebrate them in the ways YOU want to.

If you want a photo with your biological mom and dad, and you think they can handle it, let’s do it. You know your family best! And I’ll do my best to help keep the peace.

5. Choose an open space.

Often we will use the altar as the space for photos. It’s clean and traditional and usually has enough space to accommodate everyone. If you get married in a church, we can either set up lights or move everyone outside. We usually make this call depending on the lighting inside and the size of your biggest group. Wherever we end up, we will make sure to accommodate any slow moving or disabled relatives to make sure they are accessible and comfortable.

I hope these tips have helped take the fear out of family portraits. These 5 tips will help you make portrait time seamless, less stressful and a wonderfully calm experience on your wedding day!

If you need help building a map of your own family portraits, download this Family Formal Planning Sheet to help you plan your groupings. This is a free preview of what I send to my couples to help you along your journey!

Meet Arielle


I’m Arielle, a Florida wedding photographer based in Gainesville, FL that specializes in joyful, bright and timeless wedding & family photography. And when I’m not photographing amazing couples and families, you can most likely find me on a roller-coaster, sipping Starbucks refreshers or binge-watching thriller shows on Netflix. My favorite days are spent with couples and families like yours!

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