Family wedding photos are an integral part of a wedding day. However, while taking family photos can be a lot of fun, the experience can also turn super-stressful, especially if the bar is open and people wander. Then, there’s always that distant family member who insists on placing themselves front and center in every photo despite no one really knowing who they are.
How do you manage all this? You want to ensure your wedding photographer captures some stunning family wedding pictures, but you also don’t want to spend hours herding family members around and fighting off overzealous aunts.
The key is organization and preparation. With planning and firm guidance, your wedding photos will look great with less stress.
Here’s how you do it.
While it’s tempting to go with the flow, when you’re dealing with dozens of family members, that just isn’t possible. You’re likely paying a hefty sum for your photographer, too, so rather than waste their time — and your money — you need to start planning your family photo session weeks ahead of the wedding.
We recommend planning the photos at least a month before the big day. Even earlier is better to ensure you avoid those last-minute panics and stressors and help the day run smoothly.
You’ve hired an expert to take photos of your special day, so start by consulting them. They will have likely already photographed hundreds of weddings and will know what is — and isn’t — feasible in the available time.
Find out how many family portrait photos they can realistically take and use this information when writing your wedding family photo list. Ask for their guidance on which family groupings to use and, if they are familiar with the location, where the photoshoot should occur.
Ultimately, your photographer is a wealth of information, so use it to your advantage.
Families can be complicated, especially if there’s a blended family or many extended family members involved. You and your partner may have different expectations regarding which family photo arrangements you want.
Sit down with your partner, discuss which photo arrangements are important to each of you, and build a list that makes you both happy. Ask the following questions:
Next, write down exactly which photo groupings you want and with which family members. This is your family photo shoot list. To make this easier, we’ve included an example below.
Don’t just stop there, though. Once your list is ready, distribute it to everyone listed. Include the photography session times for your wedding day and ask everyone to show up five minutes before the session starts so you don’t spend precious time searching for Grandpa and other wandering family members.
Doing this will help organize everyone efficiently and prevent entitled family members from taking over and demanding certain shots.
Also, don’t forget to share this list with your photographer so they know what shots they need.
Despite sending out information about your family wedding photos, you can bet your bottom dollar that someone will still have to go and extract several family members from the bar area or poke their heads into the restrooms to call out various names.
This should not be left up to the couple or the bride and groom. Rather, assign this task to one or two assertive members of your wedding party. Their job is to round everyone up and stop them from wandering.
A great tactic for ensuring everyone stays in place for the wedding photography is to start with the largest group photo first. This typically involves the entire wedding party, so it’s the perfect way to gather everyone in the right place for the wedding shots.
Then, gradually work from the largest group photo to the smallest, removing people as you go.
This is far easier than removing and adding people to shots throughout the session. Those such as the immediate family will know to stay put throughout the entire shoot and will (hopefully) not wander, while those only required in a few shots will be done quickly and free to leave.
While starting with a large group is the preferred way to get through family portraits, you must also consider anyone who will have trouble standing for a long time. For example, anyone disabled or elderly may struggle to attend an entire photography session.
Bring chairs to the shoot location so those who need to can sit. Invite parents of young kids to bring strollers and toys to keep them occupied.
A beautiful backdrop is important, but it’s not as important as having adequate space for all your family. Family wedding shoots are better if they take place outside, as there’s usually somewhere with plenty of room that can comfortably accommodate everyone.
Additionally, think about the type of terrain. If it’s a steep hill, will elderly family members be able to cope? Pick a flat, smooth(ish) surface like a patio, lawn, or terrace.
Of course, every family is unique, so this isn’t a definitive list. Think of it as a good starting point and adapt it to work for your family situation.
Here are the most popular family wedding photo groupings.
Bride’s or partner’s family:
Beyond these classic, popular groupings, add any extra extended family photos that also make sense.
Typical family photos include the couple with their parents, siblings, and grandparents. It is also customary to take photos that include extended family, too.
Have the photographer take family wedding photos between the ceremony and reception. However, if practical, you can also arrange for the photos to be taken before the ceremony.
Immediate family consists of parents, grandparents, and siblings. Aunts, uncles, and cousins are usually included in extended family wedding photos unless there are special circumstances.
It is better to take photos after the wedding ceremony, because the family will be in one spot, making it easier to organize everyone.
Weddings can be super-stressful to organize, and dealing with family members isn’t always easy. The Groom Club is your one-stop shop for all things weddings. Aimed specifically at you — the groom — we have articles loaded with advice, tips, and hacks to make your engagement, bachelor party, and wedding day go off with a bang.
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