The 3 Best Ways to Avoid “Family Formals” Stress

Sunday, January 5th, 2020



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.

Here are my top 3 pieces of advice to avoid family formal stress at a wedding:

1. Do a first look, and finish all of your family photos before the ceremony.

A first look is a personal decision, but if you’re already committed, consider doing all the family photos before the ceremony. You’ll have the benefit of knowing your family will already have to be in this location, and that all of the formal images will be completed before cocktails start flowing.

And you can turn this point around too: your family is ready to celebrate you. Reduce the stress of family formals for them by scheduling them before the ceremony, and they can jump right into celebrating you the moment they’re ready to.

2. Work with your photographer to have a specific list with names – and keep it to only the necessities.

It’s a task I do with all of my couples: getting the names, relationships, and groupings involved with their family photos. Brainstorm this list early, and double check it the week before the event. Having an accurate list will help you soar through this portion of the day, and get to the partying faster.

We both know you want an incredible photo with everybody who celebrates your wedding with you – but remember to maintain reasonable expectations with your list. I’ve encountered many couples who start to skip groupings on the list they gave me because they’re getting tired, their cheeks hurt from smiling, etc. Write your first draft, and then revise the list to exactly what you want.

3. Have everybody on the list present all at once.

There’s a temptation to say, “oh, you’re towards the bottom of the list, so just show up at the end!” so that family doesn’t have to be there the whole time.

Don’t do it.

Have everybody involved in this process show up at the same time, and tell them to be there earlier than you actually need. Somebody will always be late, and it’s easier to manage the crowd if everybody is there and ready to go at once.

Did you go through family formals at a wedding? How was the experience for you? Share your thoughts and advice below!


Hey! I'm Makayla, a wedding photojournalist based in Duluth, MN and Saint Paul, MN. 

I believe that stories are best told untouched, undirected, and with intentionality and meaning.

This blog is a space to share advice for couples about weddings, advice for photographers about witnessing events with intention, and steps to create decisions based on your values and what matters most to you.

Grab your favorite beverage, pull up a chair, and let's get to know each other.


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