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Alright ya’ll……I’m dropping a truth bomb on you yet again. BUT only because I would rather you know all this now, than find out on your wedding day and be stressed. The last thing I want to happen is for you to be frustrated that day, so that’s why I like to let you know about everything I have learned being a wedding photographer. And today we’re talking about family pictures.

If I said “raise your hand if your family is difficult to handle sometimes” I can literally see your hand in the air through my screen. I’ve never met one person who thought their family was easy to handle at all times. I also know there are difficult family situations that come into play, and adding that to a wedding day can make things more stressful. So that’s why I want you to know how to plan your family pictures so that everything runs smoothly and no one gets frustrated.

I’ll preface this post by saying that family pictures are without a doubt the most stressful part of every wedding day. Even when family pictures run smoothly and everyone is happy, cooperating, and know where they need to be, it’s stressful, because it’s a lot of people in one place. So on your wedding day if I’m hustling to wrangle everyone and raising my voice so everyone can hear me, please please please don’t think that it’s because your family is hard to handle. This literally happens at every wedding, which is why I like to be as prepared as possible! So lets dive in:

1. Make a detailed list of who is absolutely most important to you and your fiancé.

We’ll chat more about how much time to leave in your timeline for family pictures, but I always recommend having just immediate family in your formal family pictures because they will take 30 minutes for both of your families. If you have an aunt, cousin, or other distant relative who is also very important to you, add them to that list! But any extended family of more than 3-4 people, save them for the big group shots (which we’ll talk more about later in this post)

This is the “most common” list of family pictures that couples give me. I know no two family’s are the same, so don’t think of this as THE list, but use it as a guideline. I also ask that couples list out who they are to you (mom, dad, etc) AND their name. During family pictures I will call out names so that it gets their attention and they know I am specifically needing them. I used my own family in the list below as an example, haha!!

  • Couple with parents (Jeff & Lorrie), siblings (Austin & Carsen), and grandparents (mimi, grandpa, nana)
  • Couple with parents (Jeff & Lorrie) and siblings (Austin & Carsen)
  • Couple with parents (Jeff & Lorrie)
  • You with parents, together and separate (Jeff & Lorrie)
  • You with siblings, together and separate (Austin & Carsen)
  • You with grandparents, together and separate (mimi, grandpa, nana)
  • Couple with both sets of parents
    *duplicate this list for both you and your fiance’s family

I know that there might be step-parents involved, tough family situations, etc. When I send you your wedding day questionnaire 1 month before your wedding, there is a question about any difficult family situations. Please be as detailed as possible, and don’t feel like you have to hide anything. I will not share any info you tell me, but I will use it so no one gets upset. If you have certain family members that do not want to be next to each other, family members you don’t get along with, or any other sensitivities, tell me. I’ll make sure your family pictures are arranged accordingly.

2.Make sure family knows where to be, and at what time, for family pictures

Everyone got the invitation that says your ceremony time, but if we are doing family pictures before the ceremony make sure everyone knows what time & where! If we are missing someone, we’ll have to do pictures after the ceremony (not the end of the world! But not what you planned) If we are doing pictures after the ceremony, make sure they know to follow you when you walk back up the aisle. Your coordinator will lead you to a separate room away from cocktail hour so that everyone is in the same place and we don’t lose anyone.

I know there will be people your family members haven’t seen in a long time and they want to go catch up with them, but let them know that the faster we get through pictures the faster they can go enjoy the day! I always say “don’t let anyone talk to you” as we are moving to the family picture location, because everyone will want to hug and congratulate you and your family. You’ll have plenty of time for that later, and I pinky promise I will run through family pictures as fast as possible so you can go enjoy!

3. Plan out your big group shots

I know every. single. person. at your wedding is important to you and your fiancé, or else they wouldn’t be there! You probably want pictures with more than just your immediate family, and we will make time for that!

If you decided to do a first look (head to this blog post if you’re still torn), we will most likely be able to do any big group shots during cocktail hour. Which is honestly perfect, because the light is usually much better during cocktail hour than when it’s dark at the reception, and I can usually find a really beautiful spot to photograph you at instead of having tables in the background. On you wedding day questionnaire I have a spot that says “are there any additional big group pictures you want?”, list them out there! If it’s extended family, you can literally just write “The Short Family” and people will know if they are part of that. Usually parents are super excited about these pictures, so they’ll even willingly run around cocktail hour and wrangle everyone, haha!! You can also add sorority sisters, fraternity brothers, college/high school friends, sports team friends, etc. I’ll call (yell) them out, and we’ll get through them super quick!

Big group shots like this take time to gather everyone, so that’s why I recommend not having any big groups during formal family pictures. (True story……one time I had a couple who did a first look and wanted to go to cocktail hour, but their family formal list was so long it literally took the whole hour. I felt so bad! But you really don’t realize how long it takes to get everyone into a picture!)

If you need any help with planning your family pictures, or need any suggestions, please email me! If I think we might need more time for your pictures, we will readjust your timeline accordingly.

Oct 1, 2019

How to make family pictures run smoothly on your Wedding Day



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