Wedding Planning Tips

How to build a stress free family formals list

In my blog, I try to talk about all the things that happen, that maybe people don’t even know where to start planning, like how you build your stress free family formals list. 

I’ll go over both a traditional family, and a family with step-parents involved, while making sure everyone gets the family photo that they want! If done correctly, these lists can be completed in about 30 minutes.

Family Formals can be, and often IS the most stressful time of the day. Why? Because you have a lot of people moving in an out, all while they are also visiting with everyone, there are lots of people around, and everyone (or at least mostly everyone) is drinking or trying to get a drink.

The best way that I’ve found to make this easy for everyone is to have a solid list of family formals, and to make it so you are moving the least amount of people the fewest times. I also recommend that multiple generational family pictures be done later in the day, because the more people you have, the longer it will take, and someone will always be somewhere else, and you’ll stand there with 20 people while you wait for Cousin Jim to come back from the bathroom. 

Let’s start with a traditional family with no step-parents:

Traditional family – no step parents 

Creating stress free wedding formals list starts with the bride and groom.

Bride and Groom with 

  • Officiant 
  • Bride’s mom and dad 
  • Add brides siblings 
  • Add sibling’s spouses and families (this way you have a pic with just your family, and one with in-laws) 
  • Add bride’s grandparents (now you have the whole family in a pic) 
  • Grandparents only 

At this point the groom steps out 

Bride alone with 

  • Grandparents  (so your grandparents who may be less than mobile come up, get all their pictures in a row, and then are done without moving around a lot) 
  • Mom 
  • Dad 
  • Mom and dad (you have pictures with your mom, your dad and both) 
  • Mom dad and siblings (your whole immediate family) 
  • Siblings (this pic is for mom, she’ll love this) 

Back to Bride and Groom with: 

  • Bride’s parents and groom’s parents (now the bride’s family is done and can move on to the cocktail hour) 

    Basically repeat for the groom’s side
  • Groom’s mom and dad 
  • Add groom’s siblings 
  • Add siblings spouses and families 
  • Add groom’s grandparents 
  • Groom’s grandparents alone 

Back Bride steps out, so now it’s groom only to Bride and Groom with: 

  • Bride steps out, so now it’s groom only 
  • Groom with grandparents 
  • Groom with mom 
  • Groom with dad 
  • Groom with mom and dad 
  • Groom with mom, dad and siblings  
  • Groom with siblings only 

  • Bride, Groom and Bridal Party at the alter 
  • Bride and groom with flower girls/ring bearers 
  • Bride Alone 
  • Add Groom 

At this point, especially if we are in a church, I will ask everyone to move out of the church/chapel and will take a photo of the bride and groom in the aisle of the church. Churches are gorgeous, and it will also help tell the story of your day by focusing at least one photo on the bride and the groom in the church. 

Here’s what the traditional stress free family formals list looks like as a whole

A couple of extra notes that will help your family formals stay stress free.

  1. I always ask the couples if there are any special people in their lives that they’d like to add to the list, maybe God Parent’s or a favorite aunt or uncle. 
  2. I always suggest that the bride and groom show the list to their mothers to make sure there isn’t something important that mom wants. I remind everyone that the more planned this is, the easier it will be, and the happier they will be at the end of the day. If you don’t include mom, she very well may jump in and ask for 16 more photos of this group and that group etc. If we can PLAN this, it is easy to fix. If mom takes over, the bride and groom will often feel more stressed out, and that is what we are trying to avoid. <3 
  3. If mom wants to add a bunch of big group photos, I ALWAYS suggest that we do those photos after dinner and before the dancing starts. I always have my lights set up on the dance floor, and your wedding venue is going to be gorgeous as a background. And this way, we can get the DJ to help us get the people to the dancefloor for the photo with the sounds system. It goes MUCH faster, and the bride and groom has had a break from photos for a minute which can be a big deal. 
  4. And finally, I always remind my couple to make sure everyone they want to be in photos knows to stay for photos. Never assume your people know to stay. I’ve seen the father of the bride leave before photos before.

Stress Free Family Formals including Step-Parents

Adding step parents is a little trickier, because everyone wants a different picture, but it’s still pretty easy to get done.

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