Family portraits on your wedding day are a big deal. You’ve invited the people who are most special to you to share in your joy on this incredible day, and capturing photos of your loved ones is important.
We don’t typically accept “shot lists” for the key details of most wedding celebrations (first kiss, bridal bouquet, cake cutting), but we ALWAYS want a list of the family members you would like included in the time dedicated to family portraits (typically right after the ceremony).
We’ll say it again: family portraits on your wedding day are a big deal. But they don’t have to be stressful.
Here are some of our key tips for ensuring the family portrait session at your wedding runs as smoothly as possible:
1. Provide your photographer with a list of “must have” family portraits, including family member names.
You’ll also want to indicate when you would like to take them (whether pre-ceremony or post-ceremony; if post-ceremony, we strongly recommend doing these groups immediately after the ceremony, when everyone is still gathered in one common area instead of scattered throughout cocktail hour after a few drinks). Communicate with your wedding planner AND photographer to ensure there is adequate time in the timeline for the list you provide. DO NOT leave this task until the week prior or the day of the wedding; you’ll be too distracted or hurried to remember everyone you want to be included. We send out a questionnaire about two months before the big day to ensure you and your fiancé have some time to really sit down together and think about the family shots that are most important to you. Then you can hand the list over to your photographers and not panic that you may have left a grandparent off your list.
2. Keep the list as short as possible.
We absolutely want you to have photos with your loved ones at your wedding, but the smaller the crowd, the faster these family portraits can proceed (and the sooner you can get to the party).
3. Limit the number of extended group combinations you want photographed.
This is actually more important than the previous point; if you DO want a large number of extended family members included in photos, we recommend limiting the various group combinations you may be tempted to include. Consider one or two group shots and then move on; if you want individual portraits with just you and each cousin, aunt, uncle… it takes a lot of time to capture these individual shots (especially if you have a large family!), and trust us, photo fatigue is REAL.
- Bride + Groom with bride’s aunts Lisa & Sally, uncles Joseph & James, cousins Judith, Kristen, & Jackie
- Bride with aunt Lisa
- Bride with aunt Sally
- Bride with uncle Joseph
- Bride with uncle James
- Bride with cousin Judith
- Bride with cousin Kristen
- Bride with cousin Jackie
4. Designate “helpers” who are familiar with your family.
Even after providing your photographer with a list of names, ask a family member or a close friend who knows your family to help with family portrait time. We want the names of folks so we can call out the next group, but if someone is missing, we won’t know who to look for in the crowd. A designated representative for each side of the family can help track people down and ensure no one is left out.
5. Tell family members IN ADVANCE when and where the family photos will take place.
Inform any involved family of when and where they are expected to meet to be included in group portraits. If you’re planning on doing immediate family photos pre-ceremony (recommended if you’re doing a first look), it doesn’t hurt to give them a slightly earlier “call time” to accommodate people running late (as they inevitably will when it comes to the wedding day). Ensure extended family members understand whether or not they will be included in post-ceremony portraits, and ask your officiant to make a quick announcement after the end of the ceremony as a reminder for extended family to stick around for photos before heading off to cocktail hour.
6. Consider additional options for capturing a variety of photos of your guests.
Having a photo booth at the wedding is a great way to snap a ton of guest candids without scheduling time separately to take photos with them. This is NOT to say that a photo booth is a substitute for family portraits; you should absolutely still have photos with at least your immediate families. Something like a photo booth just helps get a wider variety of images of more of the people at your wedding, especially if you have 100+ guests and you know you won’t have a chance to get posed photos together with all of them.
7. Ask your photographer if he/she has a suggested “template” of family photo combinations.
More info about family photo prep!
- Advice + tips from our wedding planner friend Abby Lee (founder of Sugar Plum + Co.)
- Videographer Dave of Amari Productions shares his tips for family photos