In my very first wedding I 'agreed' to do 30 group shots - when I say 'agreed' what I should say is '24 hours before the wedding I was asked and felt pressured/guilt tripped' into doing 30 family formal shots.
I hated it. It was an awful experience. It was the middle of July, it was very hot and the guests just want to find some shade, sit down and enjoy the wedding day. The Bride and Groom were adamant that they wanted all 30 family formals doing and after the 'everyone whose surname begins with an 'S' and was born on a Tuesday' shot was done - the formals were complete.
2 Hours of people wandering off.
2 hours of the day taken away from me doing my documentary work.
2 Hours of people not being able to enjoy the wedding.
After that wedding - I knew I needed to do something different.
20 minutes. 6-8 formal shots. Boom.
My couples book me for my documentary style of wedding photography, with most of my couples not wanting to be standing around for ages having formal photographs - and because I can only be in one place at a time, if you have 3 pages of family formals it will mean I won’t be able to get the candid images of you and your guests enjoying themselves.
Family formal shots with me are 20 minutes, a small list of between 4-8 main shots which will cover all the important people who are with you on your wedding day.
I promise you, when you get past the 20-minute mark with family formals you’ll have had enough of them and the smiles will no longer look real!
My recommended 20-minute group shot list
‘Darren and Sharon's’ wedding (not a real couple – well not one I have photographed)
Darren + Sharon plus Darren’s immediate family
Darren + Sharon plus Darren’s parents
Darren + Sharon plus Daz and Shaz’s parents
Darren + Sharon plus Sharon’s immediate family
Darren + Sharon plus bridesmaids
Darren + Sharon plus Best Man & Ushers
A 20-minute list will leave you feeling happier, less stressed with the added bonus of giving you more time to have fun with your guests, drink wine and enjoy your wedding!
Group Shot of Everyone at the Wedding?
This is a tricky one and I would only suggest you do an 'Everyone' group shot if there is space at the venue for your guests to be on steps/stairs, a place where they can be layered so everyone can be in the photo, or a place where I can get high up to shoot down on the group. These photos tend to take around 10-15 minutes to get setup – so please factor this in to the timings of your day and the other group shots that you would like capturing.
Parents and Expectations
Before you confirm your family formals with me, have a quick chat, text, facetime, or Facebook message with your parents; they might like to add some suggestions for some family formals, and it’s best to have these conversations before the wedding.
If you know that there are going to be some family formals which include ‘family politics’ that’s all fine, every family has its family members who don’t get along – just let me know as best you can the people who might not get along, and we can arrange the formals so things don’t ‘kick off’!!
When do I do the family formals?
I tend to do the formal photos following 15-20 minutes of mingling after the ceremony. I tend to let you guys have 15 minutes of greeting people, thanking people and hugging people before we start the family formals.
What’s the best location?
Depends. Honestly, it does. The majority of wedding ceremonies are completed between 12-3pm often when the sun is at its highest and also its most harsh.
If the sun is very bright and you have your heart set on a particular location, it might be that we wait for the sun to soften in the early evening before we do the family formals.
If you just want to get the family formals done, I will advise you guys on the day where the best place will be unless we have gone through this before the wedding.
Rounding people up (it can be like herding cats...!)
It’s best to nominate a couple of friends who can help in rounding up the guests and it’s best to make sure that the nominated people know the majority of the people in your family formal shots. This should mean less waiting around for you guys as we can get the formals done much quicker with help.
Finally - Just enjoy the family formals!
There are going to be people looking at other people (often with mobile phones), there might be a slanted smile, there might even be a sneeze - so just go with the flow!
If you are interested in my relaxed, unposed, natural, candid, documentary wedding photography - please get in touch