The Importance of Family Formals

The Importance of Family Formals

Most wedding photographers groan at the thought of family formals. I’ll admit it, I’m guilty too. Posing people in formations, reminding them of proper hand placement, and making sure everyone’s eyes are open in a large group photo can definitely be a headache. While traditional family formals may seem like a thing of the past (how many people actually order family portraits or display them in their homes nowadays?), they become invaluable when family members pass away.

I recently had a bride whose witty, spry grandfather passed away just days after her wedding. I remembered him well from the wedding day, as he kept striking up conversation with me and teasing me about things. Most of all, I remember how proud he was of his granddaughter. After his passing, the bride wanted to see the photos I had taken of her with her grandpa, and was delighted I had been able to capture his TRUE smile and laugh.
Albertsen Heitman Grandpa Family Formal

It’s moments like these that remind me just how important my job as a photographer is to the people I photograph. A photograph is worth more than just one thousand words, it’s a truly priceless, timeless memory. No matter how tedious or frustrating it can be to organize family formals, they should never been forgotten — memories last forever; people, however, do not.

I always make sure to factor in about 30 minutes for family formals. Ideally these can be done prior to the ceremony, but if the couple is sticking with tradition and does not want to see each other before the ceremony, I’ll knock them out (the family formals, that is, not the couple!) right after the ceremony, as the remaining guests head on over to the reception.

With my Wedding Day Photography Guide, I know ahead of time which formals are important to the bride and groom and can organize them in a way that takes the least amount of time. I typically start with one side of the family, starting with the largest grouping (usually bride, groom, parents, siblings, and grandparents) and peeling people away as necessary. That way, once we’ve gotten the desired photographs with grandma and grandpa, persay, they can take their time and head over the reception without having to wait out the rest of the formals.

Although I strive to produce creative, artistic, unique photos, I always remind myself that the couple’s happiness is key. I ask myself ‘what would I want photos of to remember my day’? Family formals are always included in my vision. The key is to get good photos quickly, then focus on the true candid photographs of family members during the reception. That tear down dad’s cheek as he watches his daughter dance with his new son-in-law. The smile on grandma’s face when she watches her granddaughter toast to her new partner.

What are your thoughts on family formals? Do you have any tips or suggestions to make them easy breezy?

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  1. August 28, 2013 at 10:05 PM

    Great thoughts Brittany! I’ve ran into this situation all too often – older family members aren’t photographed as often as we are with our selfies and all, and when they pass any photos of them are so much more precious! Weddings are a great time and place to get photos of everyone, not just the bride and groom, as everyone is snazzed up and looking good in a beautiful setting!

    Keep it up!
    amanda [a.photographer]

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