Boston & New England Wedding Photographer Deborah Zoe

Boston & North Shore Wedding Photographer creating timeless imagery for classic New England weddings with a fine art approach.

How To Plan Stress Free Family Formals

In the fifth post of the DZP Wedding Planning Series, I'm chatting all about how to plan stress free family formals. The success of family formals on the wedding day is in the planning. Often, the idea of photographing grouping after grouping can seem overwhelming, to you, your family and your photographer. While it may seem like this is an easy and quick part of the wedding day -- when you are working with larger groups of people things can quickly become confusing, complicated and down right stressful. Today I'll be sharing my best tips on how to make this time with your loved ones, easy, stress free and enjoyable. 

The key to creating a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere during your family portraits is planning. Knowing what groupings you want to take and how much time will be needed for those groupings ahead of the wedding day is a great place to start. 

On the day of the wedding I allot 30 minutes to the family portraits. Below I have shared a list of potential family groupings that I can fit within a 30 minute period. 

Sample Family Portrait List

Bride with Mom
Bride with Dad
Bride with Mom & Dad
Bride and Groom with Mom & Dad
Bride with Mom & Dad, add siblings
Bride and Groom with Siblings
Bride and Groom with Grandparents
Bride and Groom with Bride's Immediate Family (Parents, Siblings, Sibling's significant others//families, Grandparents


Bride and Groom with both Immediate Families (Parents, Siblings and Significant others//families, Grandparents)
Bride and Groom with Both Sets of Parents

Groom with Mom
Groom with Dad
Groom with Mom & Dad
Groom and Bride with Mom & Dad
Groom with Mom & Dad, add siblings
Groom and Bride with Siblings
Groom and Bride with Grandparents
Groom and Bride with Groom's Immediate Family (Parents, Siblings, Sibling's significant others//families, Grandparents

Things To Consider

  • If you would like additional groupings then you'll want to add 2-5 minutes per additional groupings. Unless you are extending your cocktail hour or delaying your reception start time, this added time for groupings will cut into other areas of your wedding day, often the couple portraits. 
  • If you would like special groupings (for example college friends, cousins, aunts & uncles etc) then we will plan for that during the Cocktail Hour or Reception, depending on your specific timeline. 
  • When it comes to your family portraits think about the images and groupings that would mean the most to you as a couple. While it's important to consider your parent and family members' wishes, these are your images. You have the final say on who and what is photographed during this limited time of day. 
  • Manage expectations of your loved ones before the wedding day. Share with them your list and your desires for your family portraits. Remind them that you will be well taken care of that I will be working from a list to ensure no one is missed. 
  • You will be surrounded by well intentioned loved ones who may be asking a lot of you during this part of the day so it can be easy to become overwhelmed. If you need to take a break that's ok. If you or your spouse need to gently tell a family member that you need a moment, do so. 
  • What will you be doing with these images after the wedding? Are they being taken to be hung and framed on the walls, to be included in an album? Considering what you will be doing with the image following the wedding day can be a great useful tool in deciding whether or not you truly need the image taken. 
  • Remember that these images are for you, to document your family and those that you love. If you're requesting an image simply because you feel that you are required too have it or because someone else in the family took the same image, it's time to rethink why that grouping is on your list. Keep your groupings limited to only the images that will have special meaning to you as a couple long after the wedding day.