Tips on Creating Your Family Formals List | For Brides | Christa Rene Photography

It’s your WEDDING DAY! Family and friends from ALL over have come, and you might feel overwhelmed at first by thinking about how you’re going to get through family formals without them lasting an hour. But you also don’t want to miss anything, so you’re stuck between choosing to get through them quick, or making sure you have an individual pictures (and every combination) with each of your mom’s aunts.

I understand! My sister’s wedding a few years ago was one of the few times our entire family on my dad’s side has been together. It’s such a gift, and we treasure her photos.

So I wanted to share some tips as you decide what route to take in your family formals!

First, prioritize. Think about which photos will be hanging on your wall in the future. The ones I see most of the time are definitely immediate family! Let’s be honest, I haven’t seen an individual portrait with the bride’s second cousin on a wall. So this is a good sign that the picture with just your second cousin be a perfect one to take at the reception! But beautiful shots of immediate family are the ones I see posted most!

Second, keep time in mind. I normally shoot family formals immediately before or after the ceremony. I love getting to go somewhere beautiful outside for these so it matches the flow of your wedding and stays nice and airy! However, if there are 30 combinations, having family wait around outside might be a little uncomfortable if it’s in the summer heat since that would take a long time! I also do my best to get you to your reception as quickly as possible after the ceremony. Remember, it takes about 3 minutes to change the combinations, which makes the time you leave later and later! So if a combination is just you and your second cousin, and he or she will be at the reception, I encourage taking it then!

Third, feel free to combine multiple families. My sister had a picture hanging in her house of my dad’s entire family in one picture (he has 2 brothers each with a wife and kids). It was so special they were all in the same picture, instead of having each of my dad’s brother’s individual families in a picture with my sister and her husband. This might be different depending on your relationship with each family, but for us it saved a lot of time to put them all together instead of each family on my dad’s side individually, and created an image my sister wanted to hang with all the family from my dad’s side. Again, this goes with priorities. A recent bride was extremely close to an aunt’s family, so for her this was super important to get one with just them! Another bride combined all extended family into one, and since we had the space it turned out beautifully!

Include the groom in most of the family formals! I’ll be sure to photograph you with just your mom and just your dad without your groom, but other than that and possibly an immediate family picture without him, include him in the rest of the family photos! If he’s having to jump in and out of every combination, it gets confusing and uses up a lot of time! The ones hanging with extended family will probably be the one including him since he’s a part of the family now!

And last, I take a lot of pictures at the reception! I follow you around taking lots and lots of posed and candid images! So if you wanted a quick shot with just one cousin or friend, this is the perfect time!

I encourage my couples to stick to no more than 10-15 combinations! Here’s a sample list of what your wedding combinations might look like:


Bride/Groom separately with…



Mom & Dad


Bride & Groom together with…

Both sets of parents

Bride’s parents

Bride’s grandparents

Bride’s extended dad’s family

Bride’s extended mom’s family (some brides combine the last 2 depending on how many there are!)


Groom’s parents

Groom’s grandparents

Groom’s dad’s extended family

Groom’s mom’s extended family


This is just an example since some family members might not be able to attend and can be taken off, but really covers a lot of my couple’s family combinations! I also try to get each of the bride or groom’s sibling alone with them, and often they are in the bridal party! Which is perfect since I get each bridesmaid and groomsman alone with the bride or groom during portrait time.

One final note, I send a questionnaire beforehand that asks for family combinations, so you don’t have to worry about it after sending them back to me! I organize arrange everyone during family formals (with the help of my second-shooter!)!

But a final thought, remember the day is a celebration of your marriage. I don’t want it to be stressful, overwhelming, or chaotic in any way! It should be a day filled with joy, celebration, and time with those you love most. I hope these tips help with this, and happy planning!





Tips on Creating Your Family Formals List | For Brides | Christa Rene Photography



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