Making Your Family Formals List

Updated: Mar 30

Here's how to plan your group photo list and where these formal photos fit on your timeline.

If you’re like most couples, you might not have thought too much yet about making your family formals list. And that’s okay! I’ll bring this up with you closer to your wedding date so we are organised and able to understand how 'Formals' fit into your timeline. Now, I might be laid back about when you make this list but I am an absolute stickler for being sure we definitely do have a list before your wedding day.

Because honestly, family photos can be one of the most most chaotic parts of the day and create time drift if not managed mindfully. So let’s be prepared and get this right.

First off, understanding how your Order of The Day is coming together helps you see how much time you have to capture these very important photos;

A typical wedding timeline goes something like this:


Welcome Drinks & Photos

Wedding Breakfast

Speeches & Coffee

Evening Guests arrive

Cake Cutting & First Dance

Dance Floor opens

Evening Buffet


There are plenty of variations of a wedding day timeline so this is just a typical example.

Family photos are usually straight after your ceremony and I love kicking this off after the confetti tunnel.

These are a very exciting set of photos and a moment when all your guests get to participate. Everyone is gathered and in high spirits (usually amused by how much confetti you have in your hair and down your dress :)) So now is the perfect time for your group photos followed by your bride & groom portraits. Each of these things can take up to 30 minutes depending on the number of group photos required and the location.

The more organised we are with your Group Photos the smoother this part of your day will go, giving you more time to be with your guests.

Second, write down your groupings. Now narrow it down to 10 or less. If you can’t quite get to 10, just get as close as possible! Each grouping will average 2-3 minutes, so 10-15 groupings is 30 - 45 minutes (absolutely guarantee Uncle Frank is in the bathroom and your brother forgot and went on to the bar so someone has to go track him down, you’ll see!).

Now I am a stickler for needing a list, but I am not a stickler for sticking to it when we have extra time. For example, if I take a photo of you and your parents and you ask to take one with each of your parents individually, of course we’ll do that & they’re both already standing right there. This step is just about prioritising your groupings so that we are sure to get the most important groupings if we’re in a time crunch!

Third, take that list and order it so that we start with groupings that include small children and/or any elderly guests.

Fourth, the rest of the groupings should be ordered from biggest to smallest, with consideration given to minimising the number of times anyone with mobility issues (like elderly guests) has to hop in and out of the photos.


1. Entire Wedding party 2. Katie, Tom, Katie’s parents, grandparents, sister/brother-in-law and their 2 kids 3. Katie, Tom, Katie’s parents & grandparents 4. Katie, Tom, Katie’s grandparents 5. Katie, Tom, Katie’s parents

Of course this needs to be repeated for Tom's side of the family.

Boom, your list is nearly done!

Of course, if you have a group of friends who are unlikely to be in the same place at the same time again, you absolutely must have a photo of them. For example your Uni friends who have travelled from all over the globe to be with you, let's get that shot!

Here are a few more tips for, you know, handling family photos well.

  1. Let your photographer know if there are special family situations that you want them to be sensitive to, like divorce, new relationships, etc. If I’m your photographer, you can rest easy knowing that all this is covered on my wedding questionnaire. I’ll send it to you when you book, and we’ll finalise it a few weeks before your wedding when we’re working on your timeline. If I’m not your photographer, don’t forget about covering this important step with the person you’ve hired!

  2. Designate a guest or family member to be my list helper! Choose someone who knows all (or at least most) names/faces on the list and is loud. I’ve found that people with teaching jobs are great in this role! I usually send them the list before your day and bring a printed list on the day so they don't need to keep getting their phones out.

  3. If we’re doing the family photos after the ceremony, you can ask your officiant to announce for your immediate family on both sides to stay. Or better yet, a few days before the wedding, you can start a group text with everyone who needs to stay and have a designated person send a reminder text right after the ceremony ends. “Hey everyone, meet by the Church gate!” is much easier than your family members wandering around asking each other where they’re supposed to go. And particularly if you have certain extended family members who need to stay but others who don’t, this technique can help reduce awkwardness if someone stays who isn’t in any of the formal groupings!

You can enjoy your photos and leave the arrangements to me

As long as I have your list and you've nominated a friendly (# loud) helper to herd your groups you can relax with your brand new hubby or wifey and leave all the arranging to me. I will be as quick as I can because your day is far too special to spend it grinning at me! :))

If you want to do something a little special let me know, it might take a longer to set up.

Want to create a heart shape all around you? Got a very large guest list and want everyone visible? If you've got something in mind that's a bit tricky or different I'm always happy to find the best location and get the shot you're after.

There's usually somewhere high up I can get an above angle...

...Or some steps to put you on tier levels.

And there's always time for fun as there's a joker in every group.

One things for sure, when all your loved ones shout out a huge 'Hoorah!!' It's a great feeling!

No 'Cheese!' but lots of cheers!! ❤️

I hope you feel inspired to come and visit my little place on the internet to see if I'm that Wedding Photographer you are looking for...

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