Magically Organize Family Portraits on Your Wedding Day

If you’re reading this then you won’t be a bit surprised to know that organizing your family portrait list is second in stress levels only to the seating arrangements.  You will be completely in love with the creative and amazing photos your photographer takes — but don’t be surprised when your parents and relatives go immediately to the family portrait section FIRST.

And if you’ve somehow missed an important photo?  Well. That can really complicate things.

Whether we want to believe this or not — family portraits at weddings are REALLY important.  So many couples have come in and said to me – -we don’t really care about the family portraits — they’re not a big deal…or there’s lots of family drama they just don’t want to face…or they don’t have time for them…the list of reasons goes on and on and on.

But in the moment, under all the delight of details and vow writing and dress shopping — the thing to pause and realize that weddings are really about FAMILY — either the one you’re born with or the one you choose for yourself.

Here’s another way to think about it:  how many times will everyone who loves you be together in one place, at one time?  And happy?  And dressed up?

The answer?  Probably not that many.

A huge part of the reason of why family portraits are stressful is complicated family dynamics.  But trust me when I tell you that EVERY family has some.  There is no reason to be embarrassed or worried.  The best advice I can give you is to just be as HONEST as you can with the photographer so that he or she (or I) can make sure to manage the situation for you.  That’s what your photographer is there for — we WANT to help make things go as smoothly as possible.  There have been times when I’ve had a quiet word with a potentially upset person and smoothed things over so the photo moves forward without much effort.  And a quick joke or funny comment can also completely lighten the mood.  And then?  You’re done!


So.  What’s the MAGICAL formula?

Here are the 6 things you can do to make this process work quickly and painlessly and magically:

  1.  MAKE A LIST  I can’t stress this enough.  Make a list.  Make sure you consult BOTH sides of the family.  Make everyone agree  that yes.  THESE are the photos we want to end up with.   Family portrait time is a hot spot in the day — everyone is like…OK LETS GO DRINK AND PARTY.  ::laughing::   You want this list to make sure that the photographer knows when each photo is accomplished and which people  can be released for fun!
  2. REMEMBER YOUR POOR PHOTOGRAPHER  I am NOT a mind reader.  I DO NOT KNOW who is important to you.  I can guess that if someone is wearing a flower they need to be in photos but don’t leave it up to us to make decisions about who is important.  I had a family come in to meet with me and the father of the bride spent some time ranting about how at his other daughters wedding the photographer didn’t do family photos and I was like…wait wait wait…did you make a list?  answer:  no  me:  well…you can’t actually blame the photographer.  Getting the photos you need is BOTH of our responsibilities and we are bad at guessing.  So help us help you. 
  3. EDIT THE LIST  Think about how much time you have allotted for family photos.  Depending on the number of people in each photo — each variation can take 2-5 minutes.  And if someone has wandered away that time can increase exponentially.  Generally, if you aren’t doing a first look and are trying to squeeze it all into cocktail hour — plan on 30 minutes — 40 if you have big-ish families.  Prioritize by which ones HAVE to be taken right after the ceremony.  Can you do cousins at the reception?  Probably.  But your 80 year old grandparents will tire early — so manke sure everything with them is done sooner rather than later.
  4. TELL EVERYONE WHO IS ONE THE LIST THAT THEY ARE ON THE LIST I can’t tell you how important this is — because there’s a MAD rush to get to the cocktail party.  Key people leave and then it’s a little chaotic while everyone tries to regroup.   That way your chances of everyone staying and expecting to be in photos rises exponentially.
  5. PHOTO CAPTAINS WILL SAVE YOUR TIMELINE Assign one person from each side — I tell my couples to choose people who know everyone and have BIG VOICES (there’s always someone lol).  They can be INVALUABLE to the photographer to help them gather particular people together and let us know when everyone is present.  #weddingtimesaver  Not kidding.  This one really IS magical.  
  6. MAKE A B LIST  This list is the one I tell my couples to add the portraits they want but might not get during the first most important round of photos.  At the reception — this list can happen in a more organic way.  Friends from college?  B list.  Cousins?  B list.  Workmates?  B list.   


Despite the stress and work involved with this part of your day — remember that you’re going to WANT these photos to look back and remember all the incredible people who came to celebrate with you on your amazing wedding day.  These memories of your family are ones you never want to LOSE.





Posted byTammy Swales