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How to Get Through Family Formals

Family formals are kind of a wedding day formality, but they are also often the most stressful part of the day. There are a ton of people in the room, everyone just wants to get through it, and everyone is talking at once, all while you're on a time crunch. Here are a few things I've learned in over a decade of doing weddings about getting through family formals as painlessly as possible.

Make a shot list with your photographer.

When I do my final planning meeting with my couples, I write out a shot list of every family grouping we'll be doing with everyone's names. I have a template that I also send my couples before the wedding to prepare them for this. On the day of the wedding, my assistant reads through each grouping, getting the next group ready while the one ahead of them is in front of the camera. This keeps things moving quickly.

Tell everyone to be there early.

Give people 5 or 10 minutes before their scheduled time for photos. (More if they are the type to run late--use your best judgement here.) That way they have time to get flowers pinned on if need be, and for smoke (who still smokes?) or bathroom breaks before being expected to be photo ready.

Don't let them leave.

Once everyone is in the formals location, no one should leave until it's over. Having to stop everything to go look for someone who wandered away right before their turn, especially if it happens more than once, is a good way to drag this out.

Use "inside voices."

Let everyone in your family know that they need to use their "inside voices" during this time. This is especially important in some churches and venues where the acoustics amplify every sound. If no one can hear the photographer or their assistant, things get chaotic quickly and take longer than they should. Plus, the extra noise makes it feel 10x more chaotic than it is.

Put your personal attendant to work.

Another thing that takes up a lot of time that isn't often thought of is the bride's train. If your dress will need adjustments every time you move in and out of a group, have your attendant hang close by so she can hop in to fluff the train between shots. This saves time from your photographer having to step up to you and do this between every photo.

Follow your timeline.

Keeping the chaos to minimum is not a problem at all if the day stays on schedule. If you get started on formals late, there is a good chance you're going to feel stressed to get them done faster. Stress is not something you want on your wedding day.

Trust your photographer.

If you have an experienced photographer, they'll have this down. They'll be able to get those groups in and out quickly because they'll know their camera, their settings, and how to pose people so they don't have to fumble around trying to get things right. They'll also have the confidence to direct a crowd and get their attention when necessary in order to keep things moving.


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