I’ve got a pretty smooth system down for taking family photos at your wedding fast and painlessly. The catch is, it works best if everyone is prepared for the process beforehand.
Family photos run amok at your wedding can eat into your photos together as a couple and cause a lot of stress, which is the last thing you want on your wedding day. Here are my top tips to make sure that family photos at your wedding are as smooth and simple as possible.
There’s a balance to be had here. It’s probably rare that so many members of your family are all here at the same time, so you might feel like you need to get as many photos of everyone as possible. But, keep in mind, family photos at your wedding is one of the most time consuming parts. Gathering up the right people for family photos, arranging them, posing them, finding out where Aunt Susie went, waiting for the one person who inevitably ran off to use the bathroom…. Each grouping will be eating up time that could be spent enjoying your wedding!
Additionally, most guests do not enjoy taking large family photos at your wedding. You will probably be able to spend more quality time with them when you see them at the reception. You want to make sure the photos you choose are worth the effort! When choosing groupings, think about which photographs you will actually look at and cherish in the future. Your guests (and you!) will thank you for it!
I always start with the largest family photo at your wedding, and whittle my way down to the smallest group. This means we get the hardest family photos out of the way first, and it means we can start dismissing people to go enjoy cocktail hour as we finish up with their shots. Depending on your family situation, it might be a good idea to make exceptions for the elderly or small children. Often I will make sure I take those photos first so they can be released to the reception quickly.
If there are family members or friends who want a quick photo just one-on-one with you guys, I always tell them they are welcome to stick around until the end of family photos and I will take one-on-one photographs with those who want them then.
These are the family photos I typically take at weddings. I’ve noticed that these are the images most couples will still find meaningful, even years later.
Immediate Family Members (Siblings, parents, nieces/nephews, and grandparents)
Parents and Grandparents
Any one-on-one photos with family or friends
Want to know the number one reason family photos take longer than they should at weddings? Your parents. Understandably, your parents are also very excited to see so many family members here at their child’s wedding. But, unlike you, they don’t go over a family shot list with your photographer before hand. So when the wedding day comes, they jump into panic mode and insist on taking all the groupings they can think of in the moment to cover their bases.
You can prevent this on-the-spot-chaos by having a conversation beforehand. Ask what family photos are must-haves for them, and explain that you’re trying to keep your list as short as possible. Your parents are a lot more likely to respect the final shot list you land on if you include them in the process and assure them you’ve put thought into what family photos ultimately made it onto the list.
You’ve had a chat with your parents where you asked what family photos are going to be a priority for them. Don’t forget to also set an expectation for what that will look like! Let your family members know that once you’ve decided on your list, your photographer will be sticking to it. Ask them to respect the choices you’ve made, and explain that you’ve allotted enough time only for the photos that are going to be the most precious to you.
If there are still photos your family is insisting on that you don’t want to take time for, there are always opportunities at the reception. If those photos will really be meaningful to them, let them know they are free to gather and arrange their own grouping once open dancing has begun, and the photographer will be happy to swing by and take a photo (as long as there isn’t another event going on to photograph.)
A great way to clearly lay out the expectations for family photos at your wedding is to print out the list you’ve decided on and hand it out. People are a lot less likely to insist on extra shots when they see your list has been set in stone like this. Not only that, but with everybody on the same page, there’s a lot less confusion about who needs to be there and when. Print out your list and give a copy to your parents, your fiancee’s parents, and your point person.
Gathering the right people for the right photos is the most time consuming part of family photos at weddings. Assigning someone as the family photos helper can make the gathering process a lot simpler. Ideally, you would pick a person who is familiar with both sides of the family. Your photographer can rely on them to see who is missing, or to go and find someone who’s walked off.
If you’ve chosen to add a second shooter to your photography package, then they can really come in handy for this! I frequently use my seconds to gather up the next family group and have them ready to go. The process speeds up so quickly, and you have even more time to enjoy your reception!
Allot at least 30 minutes to family photos at your wedding (this is not including any bridal party photos). If you have a large family, or if you are wanting many groupings, you may need more time. If you’re worried about how much time family photos will take for you, ask your photographer about your specific situation! And it’s always a good idea to plan some buffer time here to make sure your wedding day stays on track.
Look into my timeline planning guide and get help on how much time to allot to photos throughout the day!