Your wedding is rapidly approaching and the time has come to submit your family list for formal photos at your wedding, but who exactly do you include?

While this part of the day is not typically the most creative, we feel as though they are some of the most important photos of the day.  These are the people who have always been there, will always be there, and when your future kids and grandkids are flipping through your wedding album it's who they'll be looking for (besides you, of course)!

formal family photo using natural light at the palace at somerset wedding

With all that said we like to keep the list as condensed as possible by handling as many of the breakdowns as we can before family portrait time.  We want you to have enough time for romantic portraits of you and your new spouse and make it to as much of your party as possible, including cocktail hour!

We've created the list below of what we think are the most important people/groupings for immediate family.  Every family is different and is going to come with it's own dynamics, and maybe even challenges which we'll talk about below.  

Family Portraits

  • Bride and Groom with Bride’s Immediate Family (including spouses, children and grandparents)

  • Bride and Groom with Bride’s Grandparents

  • Bride and Groom with Bride’s Parents

  • Bride with Mom and Bride with Dad

  • Bride with Siblings

  • Bride and Groom with Bride and Groom’s Immediate Family (including spouses, children, and grandparents)

  • Bride and Groom with Bride and Groom’s Parents

  • Bride and Groom with Groom’s Immediate Family (including spouses, children and grandparents)

  • Bride and Groom with Groom’s Grandparents

  • Bride and Groom with Groom’s Parents

  • Groom with Mom and Groom with Dad

  • Groom with Siblings

  • Bride and Groom with all Siblings

Doing each photo on this list at once should take about 20 minutes.

Most of the time, we’ll grab photos of just the Bride with her Mom, Bride with Dad and Groom with Mom, etc. during the getting ready portion of the day. Getting them done ahead of time allows us to concentrate on the family photos that require BOTH of you when it comes time for the family formal portraits and leaves you more time for photos of the two of you and bridal party! Emotions are running high as your parents see you fully dressed before getting married so these photos tend to be more authentic and meaningful when taken earlier in the day. Sibling photos too, can be done during getting ready or even during the Bridal Party photos. We will work with you to figure out whats best for your situation.

family photo breakdowns during the getting ready portion of the day. Mom with Bride and Bride with Sisters

Divorces, remarriages, squabbles, step-siblings and family members that don’t quite get along?

Hey, it happens (and more often than you might think)!  Remember that WE are there to advocate for YOU!  Is it your dream to have a photo with your Mom and Dad but they absolutely do not get along?  We will find a way to make it flow without them having a chance to say otherwise (and keep everybody comfortable).  The big key here is COMMUNICATION.  We can and have dealt with some crazy family issues, but the only way for us to get what YOU want is if you tell us!  Honesty is the best policy.  There is nothing like unknowingly putting your Mom and Dad together holding hands when they’re divorced or putting you on the spot in front of the person in question on your wedding day...  awwwwk-warrrrrd!

So what about immediate family members that have boyfriends or girlfriends but are not married?

Well again, it depends on your relationship with them and what you want.  Often times they are important people, but the worrier in you secretly desires a photo without them 'just in-case' and that's totally ok!  We can make this happen easily and without making anyone feel left out.  It's all about knowing who the key players are and what you want ahead of time!

Personalize the List!

 It would be more meaningful and important for me to have an individual photo of me with each of my grandmothers than with both of them and my husband together.  I might even want a formal generations photo. When you think about what means the most to you don't be afraid to prioritize.  You also don't have to feel like you have to do every breakdown under the sun and spend ALL of your time doing "grip and grins".  It is for this reason that we start with the bigger family groupings, that way at least everyone has been captured if halfway through you're over it and decide to pull the plug on family formals.  Sometimes the most important people to you aren't your immediate family.  Maybe you have an Aunt that was like a Mother to you, or a family friend that you're closer to than your siblings.  Although these people will typically be around during other parts of the day (prep, bridal party, etc.)  don't be afraid to let your photographer know so that a formal photo with them is not missed!

Extended Family

If an extended family photo is a MUST make sure you let your photographer know!  The worst feeling is having a group of 40+ people sprung on you in the spur of the moment and there’s no time left.  It can turn into no romantic portrait time, or missing all of your cocktail hour, and it could have totally been planned for!  

Extended family photo at a wedding at Clarks Landing in Point Pleasant NJ

Some Final Thoughts

  • Be sure to let your photographer know if any VIP's are coming late, or leaving early. We would want to know ahead of time to be sure to photograph them while we can!

  • Inform ALL of the people included what the start time is for family photos. You'll hate being pulled aside later to do 5 different family photos because someone didn't get the memo and now you need to do them over. We’ll provide you with a timeline which will include the family photos as well as the location for these.

  • While we're talking about timing, you know your family best! Mine is 15 minutes late to everything, so if I was planning on starting family photos at 4:15 you better believe I'd be telling them 4.

Don’t forget to Grab your family photo checklist!

A checklist for family photos on your wedding day, photos taken at Divine Park in Spring Lake, NJ by Jac and Jules

Pin this for later!