Have you ever been to a family member's wedding where the family photos took FOREVER, and you couldn't wait to just get to the party already?

If not managed well, family formals on a wedding day can quickly become chaotic and time-consuming.

So let’s talk about how we can make it easier for everyone involved. Efficiency and communication are key to making this part of your day run smoothly! Here are a few tips on how you can get the best family photos on your wedding day.

Decide who to include

First, figure out who needs to be in the photos from both your and your fiance’s families. This is NOT the shot list yet, this is just a list of who will be included. The shot list will come later.

The easiest way to do this is to open a word document and list out each household. Since I create a family portrait shot list for each of my clients as part of our services, I have them format their family tree for me as shown in the example photo below: 

This format helps me understand who's related to who, so that I can build a shot list that is both efficient and ensures that I put the proper people together. 

Decide on Simple or Detailed Groupings

Next, Consider which photos you want or need. Some families just want ONE large photo of everyone, while others want each household to get its own photo with the bride and groom. Consider your family's needs and the amount of time you have available on the wedding day in order to decide what’s best for you!

how to get the best family photos on your wedding day

Strategic Organization

When I'm building a family portrait shot list for my clients I want to make sure it is a seamless experience so that everyone can get back to enjoying the celebration as quickly as possible! 

One way to do this is by limiting the number of times I have to call back the same person in multiple photos. Moving people in and out repeatedly can be time-consuming, confusing, and frustrating for your family. Instead, I plan my lists by building up the groups from small to large and then breaking down the groups. 

I try to anticipate who might need to be done with photos quickly, and prioritize them when it comes to building the list.

For example: Let's say you have an elderly maternal grandmother who has a hard time getting around. The shot list could look something like this:

Bride & Groom + Grandma
Bride & Groom + Grandma + Parents
Bride & Groom + Grandma + Parents, Aunts Uncles Cousins

Bride + Grandma + Mom

Do you see how grandma can just stay in place while we take care of all the photos she has to be in? Additionally, since mom is in three of these shots, we're not moving her in and out a bunch either. Once finished, grandma can head to the bar and start enjoying the party - all her photos are done!

Another Example: You have young nieces and nephews with a short attention span - they'd much rather go play than stand for big group photos! The shot list could look like this:

Bride & Groom + nieces/nephews
Bride & Groom + Siblings & spouses + nieces/nephews
Bride & Groom + Parents + Siblings & spouses + nieces/nephews
Bride & Groom + Parents + Siblings & spouses + nieces/nephews + Grandparents & Extended Family

Again, the kids can stay in place for these four shots, and then they're free to go! Multiple other family members also get to remain in place for a few shots. This makes the process run smoothly and quickly.

How to organize family photos for your wedding day

Plan for Enough Time

Consider your timeline and communicate with your wedding planner and photographer so that everyone is on the same page. I usually suggest about 2-3 minutes for each photo grouping depending upon the size of the group. Remember, it’s always better to have a few extra minutes than not enough, so err on the side of more time when you're planning. If the photos end up being finished early this is a great chance for you to catch your breath before the reception starts!

If you're getting married at a church, keep in mind that there may be additional time constraints to consider if they have certain rules or other weddings and services coming in after you. 

How to get the best family photos on your wedding day

Communication is Key!

Your photographer and planner are not the only people you need to communicate with. Make sure you let your family members know ahead of time when and where they need to be for their photos.

It’s not a bad idea to send out the final family shot list to each household in the photos so that they can keep track of when they are needed!  

Your officiant can make an announcement after the ceremony reminding family where they need to be and letting the guests know where to go (so that they're not in the way of the photographer).

Having one non-relative friend on hand who knows the family well can also be a big help in rounding up the next group while your photographer is taking the photos. If everyone is prepped and ready to go this will ensure that you don’t end up with any time delays!

If you follow these simple guidelines, you can rest easy knowing the formal family portrait part of your wedding is well organized and efficient so you and your guests can get back to the party as soon as possible!

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