Wedding Tips

Tips for Stress-Free Family Photos at Your Wedding

Family photos at wedding

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This week we wanted to tackle a topic that can become a huge wedding-day stressor if not handled properly.  And believe it or not, that topic is taking Family Photos at your wedding.  

Unfortunately, without a solid plan in place, family formals can get very chaotic, very quickly.  It can easily throw off the timing of the rest of your evening (leading you to potentially have to forfeit other important photos) and tends to also lead to more stress, arguments and frustration than any other part of the day.  This in turn, unfortunately, then sets the tone for the reception.

We know that family photos are some of the most important wedding images for a lot of us. (I mean, it’s not every day that we get to have all our loved ones in one place and all dressed up!)  So, the last thing we want is for you to look back at the portraits of you and the people you love most and only remember the stress and frustration that took place.

It’s important to us that your entire day remains focused on what matters most; you marrying your best friend and celebrating that commitment with your closest friends and family!  So over the years, we’ve continued to refine our process. Ensuring that this part of your day not only runs on-time and as smoothly as possible, but is also fun and focused on all the right things!  This way, when you look back at these images the only emotions and memories you have are those of love and joy.

If that’s what you want for your wedding day, then you’re in the right place!  Keep reading for our advice on the best way to achieve this.

Here are our top tips on how to get amazing and stress-free family photos on your wedding day:

1. List out your family groupings

If photos with your loved ones are extremely important to you, the last thing you’ll want is to wake up the next morning and realize you forgot to take a photo with Aunt Susie and Uncle Bill. Or forgot to get that one photo of just you and your mom together.  There is so much going on during a wedding day and it all moves so fast! It’s incredibly easy to forget those “must-have” shots in the moment.  So, writing them down in advance and sharing that list with your photographer is a great way to help reduce the chances of that happening.

Another reason why this is important is, depending on the size of the group, family photos average around 3 minutes per grouping.  So, it’s important to list out all of the groupings in advance and count them up to be sure that you’ve set aside enough time to capture them all!

Bonus tip:  Need help figuring out more of the timing of your day?  Check out our guide to the Ultimate Wedding Photography Timeline!

Family photos at wedding in Malibu

2. Decide on the order of your family photos before your wedding day

You might think this is insignificant, but I promise you that it isn’t.  Small kids are often hungry, tired and impatient after the ceremony; so it’s best to plan any portraits with little kiddos first.  Also, out of consideration to elderly family members, family photos with them should also be planned at the very beginning.

Aside from that, a great way to structure them is by starting with your biggest grouping first and then slowly removing people into smaller and smaller groups from there.  This not only ensures that everyone is there, but is usually the most efficient way to work down through the rest of your list.

3. Designate a point-person (or two)

Having said that, while we do our very best to ensure we’ve gone through your list and have captured everyone… the truth is, we typically don’t get to meet your family until the moment we’re photographing them. And we just don’t know what everyone looks like.  So, having 1 or 2 people there who know both (or either) of your families well and can take on the responsibility of rounding everyone up and checking off the list as we go is massively helpful.

I can also assure you that it’s very common for family members to wander off during this time. They get called over to talk to someone, they want a drink, need to change their shoes, they get a phone call, want to sit down or go inside, etc.. The list goes on and on…  and when it happens, you’ll be thankful you have someone who is able to quickly and easily round them back up again. Or simply help prevent them from wandering in the first place!

Wedding photos with family at Biltmore wedding

4. Communicate with your family 

It’s very important that you let everyone know, in advance, that they will be part of the family formals.  Share the list with them, so they know how many photos they’re expected to be in. Let them know the location if you’ve decided in advance. Otherwise, make sure your officiant announces it right after the ceremony so everyone knows where to go. And let them know what time they need to arrive by.  This will help avoid a lot of confusion on the wedding day.

5. Decide on the location for family photos at your wedding

Let your wedding photographer know in advance if you have a specific location you would like to have your family formals taken.  An indoor location might require the set up of additional lighting, so it’s important to plan ahead.  This way you can also let your family know in advance where they need to meet you.

If you’re unsure of where you’d like to take them, talk to your photographer!  They should be able to give you the best location suggestions based on the timing and lighting.

Still looking for the perfect Wedding Venue? Click here.

6. Take some (or all) family formals before the ceremony

Traditionally, family photos take place right after the ceremony.  And while we respect traditions, we don’t always think they make the most sense.  Waiting to take all of your immediate & extended family, wedding party and couple’s portraits until after the ceremony severely limits the number of images you’re able to take and tends to make things feel very rushed.  

Cocktail hour simply isn’t a lot of time to capture all of these portraits.  And it certainly doesn’t leave much time to relax and enjoy these special, joyful and fleeting moments with your friends, family and husband/wife… instead it can start to feel like an obligation. One that you need to rush through so that you can get to your party quicker and so you aren’t starving or boring your guests – especially the ones at cocktail hour.  And that is NOT what should be going through your head during these precious moments!

So, one easy way to reduce this stress is simply to reduce the number of family photos you have to take after the ceremony. And, instead, take some or all of them right before.

This can be done in 1 of 2 ways:

  1. If you’re not intending to see each other before the ceremony: you can plan to do immediate family photos with your respective families, separately.  For example, just the bride with her parents and siblings.  And then completely separate, the groom with his parents and siblings.  (This also works well with wedding party images!  Bride + Bridesmaids or Groom + Groomsmen photos taken pre-ceremony.  Then you only have to worry about the big group photo after the ceremony!)
  2. Or, if you are intending on having a First Look (which always gets our vote, if you’re curious why – you can read all about that HERE): then you can actually plan to do the majority of your family and wedding party photos pre-ceremony!  This way all that’s left afterward are maybe a few extended family photos. Then you have tons of time to focus on photos with your new husband/wife and are able to get to your party quicker!
Fun wedding photos at wedding in DFW
Montclair Wedding Venue in Colleyville, Dallas-Fort Worth

Bonus: Use our sample family formal list to get started!

Below is a sample list that will help you start to plan out your own family photos for your big day:

• Bride & Groom + Bride’s Entire Family
• Bride & Groom + Bride’s Grandparents
• Bride & Groom + Bride’s Grandparents + Parents
• Bride & Groom + Bride’s Parents + Siblings
• Bride & Groom + Bride’s Parents
• Bride + Bride’s Parents
• Bride + Bride’s Siblings
• Bride & Groom + Bride’s Siblings
• Bride & Groom + Both Bride & Groom’s Siblings
• Bride & Groom + Groom’s Siblings
• Bride & Groom + Bride’s Parents and Groom’s Parents
• Bride & Groom + Entire Family
• Bride & Groom + Groom’s Grandparents
• Bride & Groom + Groom’s Grandparents + Parents
• Bride & Groom + Groom’s Parents + Siblings
• Bride & Groom + Groom’s Parents
• Groom + Groom’s Parents
• Groom + Groom’s Siblings

Family photos at your wedding don’t have to be stressful! With a little planning, you can get incredible family photos while still enjoying every minute of your special day!

Logo of Stefani Ciotti Photography, a Fort Worth Wedding Photographer

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