For brides who have not yet participated in this part of a wedding day, family portrait time typically follows the ceremony and is the designated time for your family members to document the happy day with you with the photographer you hired.
Family wedding photos may not be everyone’s favorite time of day, but these images are traditionally the ones mom and dad will print to display in their homes. These photos can also make meaningful Christmas gifts for your family members in your first year of marriage (hint hint!).
In the years of weddings I’ve photographed as a lead or second photographer, I have experienced family photo time running smoothly, and I’ve experienced it creating stress for everyone involved. The latter is everything I hope to avoid, so I’ve compiled a list of four simple things you can do to plan with your photographer for a no-stress family photo time in 30 minutes or less on your wedding day.
Write it down When you think about which family members you’d like to include in your portrait time immediately following your ceremony, I highly recommend writing down a list of each person. From there, you can think through what combinations of family members you’d like captured in each photo and write them down. In the interest of time, some photographers stick to immediate family only during family portraits, so be sure to ask your photographer about his or her experience on this. For me, I don’t mind capturing one large group photo that includes any extended family members who attend your wedding. After that large group photo, I will thank extended family members and welcome them to head to cocktail hour, so we can focus on capturing all of the combinations of immediate family members that you planned for. If writing your list of family portrait combinations sounds overwhelming, I've included a free template at the bottom of this post that you can download and edit to get you started.
Communicate important family dynamics For some families, making portrait time a low-stress experience can necessitate your photographer being made aware of certain family dynamics, especially divorce, death, separation or other unique situations in the family. Because a wedding day is such an important and emotional day to most, feelings can run high and create unintended hard feelings or awkward situations. However, giving your photographer the need-to-know facts can help him/her achieve the family portraits you want. For example, if I were photographing Jim and Pam’s wedding (from The Office), I would know to avoid standing Pam’s parents next to one another because of their recent separation while still capturing a photo of Pam and Jim with both of Pam’s parents. It may not be a photo either parent will treasure, but it may be important to the bride (and I'm always #TeamBride)! Because you've talked with your photographer to explain what you want from family photo time, communicating your photo list and family dynamics to your photographer before the big day allows your photographer to take on that responsibility when the photo time comes, so you can just focus on how great it feels to be standing next to your new spouse!
Give them advance notice Whether you have a family group chat or you put someone else in charge of notifying family members to stay close by after the ceremony for photos, giving them a heads up before the big day can help everyone be where they’re supposed to be, when they’re supposed to be there. Some weddings help rally the family for photos by asking their pastor or officiant to make a brief announcement after the ceremony recessional for immediate family members to remain in the church or ceremony venue for photos. I have had to make the announcement myself as guests are making their exit, but it’s always much nicer when the officiant can include it at the tail end of the ceremony.
Designate a bridal party member In case a family member slips away to cocktail hour, having a non-family bridal party member who knows both your families can help you recover any family who may be needed for photos. Believe it or not, even with giving advance notice, family members can still wander away from the ceremony before portrait time!
Including these four items in your wedding planning can help make it a very positive family wedding photo experience for everyone involved. With these plans in place, your photographer is better equipped to breeze through your family portrait time in 30 minutes or less!