large family“Can I actually hear the beer getting cold? Yes, yes I can! I want out, I want to go have fun!” Everyone’s been there; been at THAT wedding either as a guest, a member of the wedding party or as family - where you stand around for what seems like an eternity taking the required posed family group pictures. I lovingly refer to it as “death by flash”. As a newly married couple, this can seem like cruel and unusual punishment; all your guests are just a few hundred feet away laughing, having a great time and you’re stuck here with that forced grin on your face for what seems like the 1,000th time today. There you are trudging through the endless family combinations, hoping it will all end soon.

How can you avoid this on your own wedding day? Is it possible to have really great family formal pictures and spend just a few minutes doing them?

I’m all about you having fun on your wedding day and avoiding the not-so-fun things like death-by-flash and overbearing in-laws. It’s your wedding day, it should be fun and low stress. Here’s how to make your wedding family formals less stressful and possibly, even fun.

1 - make a list

2 - make it a really good list

3 - have the list to your photographer a month before the wedding

The list is critical to timely - dare I say fun - family formal pictures. Don’t have your list together? Then let the slow, slow death-by-flash begin!

So what makes a really good list? Start with only including groupings that are going to be meaningful to you. Whether you do a first look or go the traditional route, you only have so many stand-there-and-smile-at-the-camera pictures in you. Make the ones you do take, count! For instance, don’t put a grouping on the list just because you feel like you have to or just because that’s what everyone else does at their wedding. Each grouping I do on a wedding day takes between 2.5 minutes (or really close to that!) and those minutes add up quickly.

“Mike, this all sounds great, but my mom and/or soon-to-be mother-in-law has a long list of pictures she wants. Oh and we have family coming in from all over the globe as well.”

I totally understand, so going back to the above question; how meaningful is that particular grouping to you? Run the “paper test” on it. Is this grouping of people something you’ll put in your wedding album? Frame and hang on a wall? Put on your desk at home or work? Or is it most likely going to live on a hard drive somewhere? If your answer is hard drive, that’s OK, we can still do the picture, but let’s move that picture to the reception. Doing it at the reception gives you a chance to relax for a few minutes, have a drink, get a little food and re-energize. Plus it will be a little more fun and relaxed picture if done during the reception. Standing around after the ceremony for too long is life draining. The reception? Life giving!

The pictures I suggest doing as formals would be immediate family and grandparents. The wedding party is completely different and I’ll cover that in a future post. Time-wise, I recommend spending between 10 to 20 minutes, but no more than 25 - keeping in mind every family is different and every family dynamic is different. The following list is to give you a rough idea of what your list could look like and by no means is the list you NEED to do.


Betty and Billy (our birde and groom) with:

-bride’s parent’s, Mary and John (it’s helpful to include everyones name and relationship)

-add siblings, Courtney and Cory

-add grandparents; Emma, Eli, Elly and Ed

-cousin Roscoe, because he was like a brother to me growing up!


-groom’s parents, Martha and Harold

-add sister, Grace

-add grandmother, also named Grace

The above six groupings would only take about 15 minutes and thereby saving you from “death by flash”! Now you have a little extra time get some great pictures with your new husband or wife, the wedding party or, and this sounds crazy… go enjoy your guests at YOUR cocktail hour.

There are a two exceptions to the rule, they are: mother of the bride and mother of the groom.

Always, always, always get your moms’ blessing on the list weeks in advance. Nothing will derail your plans more come wedding day than when you hear “Oh, what about Aunt Sue?”. Which turns into “We should also do cousin John and that new girlfriend of his.” and then the flood gates open and it’s a long, lonely walk down the we-are-going-to-here-forever road. So, make sure the moms are on-board with your shot list.

I hope you found this helpful - if you did please share it, pin it, tweet it or whatever. :)