what portion of wedding day photography do you think, is the most important? 

portraits of the happy couple? sure. i felt these were the most important portraits of the day when i first started my wedding photography journey, but now i know better. 

details? pretty of course, but not the most important.

moments? the moments make my heart sing... but not what we're talking about here. 

getting ready? nah. some couples don't even want these shots, it just helps tell the story of the day for wedding albums!

FAMILY FORMALS!!! family formals are the most important portraits on any wedding day. say what? how are family formals the most important portraits on a wedding day you ask? 

because when it's all said and done, those are the photos you go back to. those are the images your family members print and hang on their walls. 


if you're lucky enough to have your grandparents at your wedding... it might be the last big family gathering they attend... or the last time everyone was all dolled up together in the same place. family formals are what you'll show your kids and their kids. they are the photos you pull out to show all of the generations you had in your family.... they are literally the most important photos from any wedding. a record of your family. 


it doesn't matter where you take the family formals.  if you've hired a professional photographer they should be able to accommodate these portraits indoors or out. 


who to include in your family formals is up to you. obviously your immediate family (parents, step parents, siblings, grandparents) would be the obvious choice but also any important aunts, uncles and cousins can be added as well. especially if they are coming from out of town to your special day.

if you're adding in extended family with many different formations, be mindful that family formals take time. the more people, the longer it will take. don't go overboard. consider doing one large group shot with the extended families. 


family formals take anywhere from 15-30 minutes depending on how many family members and formations they choose to have. often times, i'll get a list of names and relationships and create the family formals list myself. if you have an unorganized list with random people in random orders, chaos ensues. an organized family formals list is your friend. 

this can be the most stressful portion of the day, but it doesn't have to be. if you have the right photographer, a helper to call off names and wrangle people, and a very strategic family formals list, it should be easy to accomplish. 


if you aren't able to accommodate family formals before the ceremony, many couples choose to do family formals during cocktail hour. if time runs out, or the weather isn't cooperating (florida problems) you can always sneak into your reception room and get gorgeous family formals there!


posed photos are definitely not my favorite thing in the world, but i understand the importance of family formals. how they are passed down from generation to generation, displayed on walls in homes and cherished for a lifetime. so 30 minutes of forced formal portraits in the grand scheme of your wedding day, is completely worth it. 


so these few simple tips will help you champion your family formals!

  • make sure you hire a professional photographer - look at full galleries so you know what to expect. just because you see awesome couples portraits on social media, does not mean they are a professional
  • create a detailed list with names for each formation so it can be read clearly
  • be mindful of any grandparents, or disabled relatives and kiddos! they go first so they can be released quickly
  • let your photographer know of any family feuds, divorces or potential problems with family members before your wedding day 
  • let your photographer know where you want to do your family formals, but take their opinion into consideration as well for lighting and backdrop
  • pick a member of your wedding party who knows your family to call off names and wrangle people (i swear, it can be like herding cats!)
  • don't ask parents what family formals they want or your 30 minutes will turn into an hour

all text and images © steph lynn photo 2018