The vows have been said, the drinks are starting to be poured, and everyone’s favorite part of the day is about to start… FAMILY PORTRAITS! just kidding… Family portraits is probably the most dreaded part of a wedding day but it’s also one of the most important. Everybody needs a chance to have that great picture with the newly weds. These are the photos that are going to be hung up on people’s walls, mantles, and placed in scrapbooks. So how can we make sure that these photos happen easily and quickly?? Well luckily for you, I’ve had plenty of experience with this part of the wedding day; thanks to not only the numerous weddings I’ve actually photographed, but also the half a dozen weddings I’ve been a part of. I’ve seen it from all sides: as a bride, a guest, a bridesmaid, a sister, and a photographer. Through all of this I have definitely been able to figure out the best ways to prevent family photos from going a little too long, and today I am sharing those tips with you.
So here are 7 of my best tips for how to make sure that your family wedding portraits are as easy, breezy, and beautiful as can be!
1: Create a List
A few weeks before the wedding grab your RSVP list and write down every combination of people you can think of that you would want a photo with. Start with your immediate family, then include grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and then close friends. Some people want photos with every person in their family and some people want photos with just the closest; no matter what, make sure that everybody that is important to you is included. I already have a list of go-to combinations for families that includes immediate family and some extended family(which you can see below), but if there’s anything that would fall outside of these photos it’s super important your write them down and let your photographer know before hand.
- Bride’s Family
- Bride, Groom, Mom, Dad, Siblings, Grandparents
- Bride, Groom, Mom, Dad, Siblings,
- Bride, Groom, Mom, Dad
- Bride, Mom, Dad
- Bride, Mom
- Bride, Dad
- Bride, Groom, Siblings
- Bride, Siblings
- Bride, Groom, Grandparents
- Bride, Grandparents
- Bride, Grandma
- Bride, Grandpa
- Bride, Groom, Aunt, Uncle, Cousins (repeat for each family)
- Bride, close family friends
- (Repeat with grooms family)
You can see how, even with just 8ish people included in photos the combinations can add up, which is why it’s super important to try and not go overboard. The longer your list, the longer photos will take. So keep it simple – just the photos that are most important. Try to leave any extra photos that are just “fun” to your guests phones if you can. Create your list, include everybody’s name, and send it to your photographer a few weeks before the wedding. Then, they can study it and have it on-hand to reference when the time comes!
2: Let Family Members Know Before The Wedding Day
After you’ve created your list it’s important to text everybody you included a few days prior to the wedding day, letting them know that they will be included in photos. You can’t always assume that everybody just knows where they’re supposed to be. There’s always at least one person who someone has to go track down because they weren’t aware they were expected to be a part of photos. Tracking people down is the #1 thing that slows down family photos, so the more you can try and minimize that possibility, the better. Text them before hand to let them know where they are expected to be and at what time, so there’s no confusion.
3: Assign Someone to Help With the Line Up
Or as my husband would say… “one person is in charge while everybody else just shuts up and follows orders.”… subtle Andrew 🙄. Along with the list, it’s super helpful to have a person who knows everybody in the family to call people and get their attention. Your photographer has only known your extended family members for the last few hours, so they have no idea who Aunt Lucy is or if Grandpa George is on your mom’s side or your dad’s. Putting your mom, sister, or maid of honor in charge of wrangling people and making sure the next group is ready makes a huge difference. This person should be confident, assertive, responsible, and understand that for the 30 minutes photos are going on they have a major role to play. Too many times I’ve seen this designated person get distracted with conversations with family members, or the lure of cocktail hour and snacks, which ends up putting that responsibility back on the couple. This is never what you want. So make sure that whoever you choose to be in charge you can trust completely.
4: Limit Distractions
Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, family photos are never the most exciting part of the day. There are so many other things you’d rather be doing, but sometimes these things can really end up being a major distraction and making the whole process last longer. Whether it’s someone grabbing you a drink at the bar, or being so excited to talk your best friend from high school, these distractions can slow the whole process down. Because we want to get photos done as fast as possible, limiting these distractions is crucial. And as much as it sucks (because it’s your wedding day and you should only be concerned with having the best time of your life) there will be plenty of time for all of that at the reception. As people always say, work hard play hard. Focus now and then let loose later!
5: Get As Many Photos Done As Possible Before The Ceremony
I’m sure you’ve heard it already; doing a first look will help with timelines and allow you more freedom after the ceremony. This is completely true. If you try and get the bulk of your photos done before the ceremony then there’s not much left to do later. But even if you don’t do a first look this is still possible. There are a lot of combinations that do not require your significant other that can help to cut down on the long list for later. Some combinations like: bride + parents, bride + siblings, bride + grandparents, bride + best friends (of course repeated for the grooms side). And even though we’re not specifically talking about the wedding party photos in this blog post, you can also get the bridesmaids and groomsmen photos done before the ceremony as well. Right there you’ve cut your list down by almost half! This can be super, super helpful! However, one important thing to note is that you must make sure you allow enough time for it in your timeline. (I’m going to be uploading a blog post soon about tips for a smooth pre-ceremony section of the day to help you out with this, but until that’s out here’s some quick tips: 1. always plan for more time than your think you need, 2. add a second photographer to your package, 3. make sure to be on time, if not early.)
6: Make Your Photographer Aware of Family Situations
Families are complicated, there’s no doubt about it, and every family is different. Like I mentioned before, we haven’t known your family longer than a few hours and are completely unaware of anything that might be going on. We also want to make sure that everybody has the best experience possible and no one walks away feeling uncomfortable. So things like divorce, family members passing, or strained family relationships are actually super helpful to know beforehand, so that we don’t end up making everybody feel awkward when we call your mom’s boyfriend “dad” or try to put two family members who hate each other side by side. One bad move can unfortunately affect the whole mood, and we definitely want to avoid that as much as possible.
7: “Alright, We’re Done With The List! What Photos Haven’t We Gotten Yet??”
At this point your cheeks might be a little sore and all you want to do is sit down and breathe… well I promise we are almost done! Now is the time to get any other photographs that you might’ve forgotten about when you first created your list. This can maybe include a group of your friends, all your cousins, or a niece you absolutely love. There’s always a couple combinations that come up during portraits that you realize you forgot, and this is the best time for those.
Often times, couples will try to squeeze these photos in-between shots or while they’re waiting for someone to arrive. And while that does seem like a good idea, it can actually cause a lot of confusion. As I mentioned in point #1, your photographer may already have a predetermined list, order, and method to lining people up with as little resistance as possible. When random combinations are thrown in, we can easily get lost, forget what we have done, what we still need to do, and end up missing some crucial photos. So while it may make sense to quickly say “can we just real quick get a photo with my uncle right here” try to save all those requests for the end. And I always make sure to say once we’re all done “are there any photos that we haven’t gotten that we need to make sure we get??”