Wedding Tips

Creating Your Family Formals Checklist

May 7, 2020

One question I get asked all the time by my couples is – how will we fit all of my family photos into x amount of time? The answer is simple: create a family formals list!

If you haven’t heard the term before, a family formals list is a list given to your photographer to ensure that all family photos are taken and done in an efficient and orderly matter.

Today I’m going to walk you through some common questions about family formals lists and show you how to make one that your photographer and your future self will thank you for.

Tip 1: Keep Timing in Mind

When you’re creating your list, it’s important to keep in mind that there is a time crunch on a wedding day.

While it may seem simple to take a photo of a group of people, it’s important to consider that we have to account for time spent hunting down family that ran away (yep, this happens all the time), getting young kids to pay attention, and arranging everyone in a visually appealing manner.

Depending on how large a group, this can sometimes take 10 minutes or more to prepare for a group photo. This time can add up fast on a wedding day. I would recommend keeping your family groupings to 10-15 groups total for this reason.

Be honest with yourself about which family members are most important to you and don’t be afraid to not get individual photos with every single one of your dad’s cousins.

A great way to include all of your family is to get one large group shot of each partner’s side of the family, and then narrow it down accordingly for each shot. See the example list at the end of this blog post if you need a visualization.

Tip 2: Don’t Be Afraid to Be Honest

As a wedding photographer, I have seen all sorts of family dynamics and trust me that nothing surprises me.

It’s important that if there’s tension in the family (divorced parents, sibling rivalry, etc.) that you include a note in your family formals list about this.

The last thing you want on your wedding day is for your photographer to place your divorced parents together as though they’re still married. We want to avoid all unnecessary drama and tension!

Tip 3: Order of Family Formals

While it doesn’t necessarily matter which partner’s family goes first, you will want to take into consideration if one side of the family has particularly old or really young members of the family.

If that is the case, we will want to get photos with the old/really young family members done first so they don’t have to wait around. In general, though, it’s better to get photos of old family done before young kids. It’s better to have antsy kids than a dehydrated grandma (you can quote me on that!)

Tip 4: Communicate With Family Beforehand

One way to keep your family formals from running over is to communicate with family beforehand. Emphasize how important it is that they don’t run away right after the ceremony.

You may even consider sending them the family formals list, so they know what to expect as far as what order they’re in and how long they will be waiting. There’s nothing more frustrating than watching the sun set as your brother runs around frantically trying to find your dad.

Anything we can do to cut down on how long family formals take is ideal!

Tip 5: Keep Your Focus

If your family photos are right after the ceremony, you will most likely have family members and friends running up to you to say hi and congratulate you! It’s important to stay focused and save the “hellos” for the cocktail hour and/or reception.

You may even consider having your officiant announce after your ceremony exit that family and friends not involved in photos head straight to cocktail hour and to please not linger. This will help with timing immensely!

Bonus Tip if You Have a Large Family/Lots of Close Friends: Create a “Reception Family and Friends” List

A reception family/friends list is ideal if you have family and friends that you want a picture with but don’t necessarily need them to wait around during family formal time.

There will be plenty of time during the reception to get a picture with these guests without taking up precious sunlight that is needed for formal family photos and couples’ portraits!

Family Formals Checklist Example:

*Important note: while I’m using generic terms in this list, it is super helpful if you include the names of your family members as well.

For example, “grandma Sue” instead of just saying “grandma”, and you can replace “Partner 1 and Partner 2” with your names!


Partner 1 and Partner 2 with EVERYONE that is related, immediate and extended family of both sides (includes aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.)
Partner 1 and Partner 2 with Partner 1 immediate and extended family (includes aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.)
Partner 1 and Partner 2 with Partner 1 parents, grandparents and siblings
Partner 1 and Partner 2 with Partner 1 grandparents
Partner 1 and Partner 2 with Partner 1 parents and siblings
Partner 1 with siblings
Partner 1 with brother
Partner 1 with sister
Partner 1 and Partner 2 with Partner 1 parents
Partner 1 with parents
Partner 1 with mom
Partner 1 with dad
Partner 1 and Partner 2 with both sets of parents

*Partner 1’s side is released to cocktail hour*


Partner 1 and Partner 2 with Partner 2 immediate and extended family (includes aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.)
Partner 1 and Partner 2 with Partner 2 parents, grandparents and siblings
Partner 1 and Partner 2 with Partner 2 grandparents
Partner 1 and Partner 2 with Partner 2 parents and siblings
Partner 2 with siblings
Partner 2 with sister
Partner 2 with brother
Partner 1 and Partner 2 with Partner 2 parents
Partner 2 with parents
Partner 2 with mom
Partner 2 with dad

I hope this was helpful for you. If you have any questions about making your family formals list don’t hesitate to email me and I would be happy to help you.

meet kenna


Photographer, dreamer, traveler.
Inspired by the beauty our natural world offers and the people we get to share it with.

My approach on a wedding day is to turn your moments into art which you’re proud to display in your home and pass down to generations. We strive to be in the balance between capturing moments as they’re happening, and stepping in to direct and pose when needed. The end result is a gallery that feels like fine art and brings you right back to the best day of your life.