Tips for Your Family Wedding Photos: A Guide for Smooth-Sailing Family Formals

August 5, 2022

Intimate Weddings, Resources

I’m going to cut right to the chase: wedding planning is stressful. And among all the things contributing to that stress, the last thing you want is for the madness of trying to take family photos after your ceremony to cause you any panic because they’re taking forever, everyone is talking over each other, and you’re trying to make sure you didn’t forget anyone in the shots. But hey, that’s what I’m here for! Your family wedding photos can be fun, relaxed, easy, and breezy! Here’s my guide for how to plan for the family formals portion of your day so that you can enjoy yourself to the fullest. 

Create a List of Family Members & Photo Combinations in Advance

This tip is going to be the absolute most important!! If you forget about everything else in this guide, don’t forget about the list. 

About 1-2 months before your wedding day, sit down with your partner and write out a list of all the family members who will be present at your wedding. Then, write down all the important combinations of photos that include the two of you and these family members! The easiest way is to write 3 mini-lists: partner 1 and all their family members, partner 2 and all their family members, and then the two of you together with each group or combination as you see fit. 

I have an example of what this might look like at the end of this post, so you can see what I’m talking about more clearly and use it as a model for your own family wedding photos list!

Keep it Short

When you’re writing out your list, do your very best to stick to no more than 15-18 total combinations. Any more than this can get hectic and stressful. Plus, you don’t want to start cutting into your cocktail hour or reception and make your other guests wonder where you are! Each photo combination typically takes about 1-2 minutes, so be mindful of this as you create your list. 

Once your list is done, be sure to share it with your photographer! We can help make sure that we’re covering all the shots you want in your family formals, and this keeps us prepared when we arrive to capture your wedding day. 

Family wedding photos of groom and his sisters outside the venue. Two vertical images of subjects laughing together.
Family wedding photos of bride, groom, their kids, and bride's parents. Black and white.

What Kinds of Shots are Taken During Family Wedding Photos?

The term “family formals” can be a little misleading — formal doesn’t mean stiff! As a wedding and elopement photographer here in Seattle, I love to take a variety of shots. Of course, we’ll get the pictures of everyone smiling at the camera, but I also love to shake things up! If your family members are pros at goofy faces or poses, we can do those too! 

I promise you that taking family photos on your wedding day won’t feel uncomfortable at all. Especially with our list made up ahead of time, I’ll make sure that you and the entire family are relaxed and having fun — and this will show in your photos too! You’ll be able to flip through these and feel good about the memory of taking them. 

During family wedding photos, bride and groom kneel down to greet child.


  • I love to see names on your list!! This is a huge help in keeping me (and you) organized day-of. Rather than writing down “grandma,” tell me grandma’s first name. This way, I can call it out and there won’t be any confusion on who I’m talking to.
  • Worried about missing someone in the family formals? I totally get it — if you have big families, 15-18 shot combos doesn’t feel like a lot. But don’t stress! Even if certain family members aren’t included in the formal family portraits part of the day, I will be taking more candid photographs of everyone at the reception, too. Chances are, you will still get photos with everyone!
  • If you have young kids or elderly family members who will be included, make sure that we do those photos first — if anyone has trouble standing for long periods of time, we want to make sure we can keep them comfortable! Plus, kids tend to get antsy if they’re standing around for too long. Photographing them first will keep them on their best behavior and avoid any meltdowns due to hunger, heat/cold, or boredom!
Group shot during family wedding photos. Couple with siblings and parents.
Bride and her mom embrace during family wedding photos.

Sample List of Family Wedding Photos

So, what family photos should be taken at your wedding? Do you include everyone, like aunts and uncles, or just immediate family? Remember, keep the 15-18 combinations rule in mind as you decide. 

Here’s a sample that can help get you started:

    • Couple with parents
    • Couple with parents & siblings
    • Couple with siblings
    • Couple with parents, siblings, & grandparents
    • Couple with immediate & any extended family
    • Partner 1 with parent
    • Partner 1 with other parent
    • Partner 1 with both parents
    • Partner 1 with siblings
    • Partner 1 with grandparents
    • Couple with parents
    • Couple with parents & siblings
    • Couple with siblings
    • Couple with parents, siblings, & grandparents
    • Couple with immediate & any extended family
    • Partner 2 with parent
    • Partner 2 with other parent
    • Partner 2 with both parents
    • Partner 2 with siblings
    • Partner 2 with grandparents
    • Couple with all parents
    • Couple with both immediate families

This sample is very comprehensive — maybe you don’t have siblings or extended family, etc. You can take this list and customize it to your specific needs! 

Feel better now?! I sure do! Family wedding photos can be one of those unexpectedly hard parts of your day if you aren’t prepared. But, it’s easy to make them more fun! I hope this resource helps you as you get down to wedding planning. And, when you’re ready for those family formals, reach out to me here! I can’t wait to be your wedding photographer. 

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