Organizing family portraits on your wedding day can get stressful simply because you have all of your loved ones in one place and want to make sure you get each combination and capture every person. Between all of the parents, grandparents, siblings, and future in-laws, it can feel daunting to call off combos in the moment. Instead, I want you to focus on hugging your family and toasting to your new marriage. The good news? There are a few things you can do before your wedding day to make sure that family photos are fast and easy, and ensure you don’t miss a single combination!
Make A List Ahead of Time
The number one tip for making sure you get every combo you want and you don’t stress on your wedding day, is make your list of combinations ahead of time. Sit down with your soulmate and come up with a list of each separate combination you each want. Thinking through this ahead of time gives you the space to determine what photos are most important to you and which people you most want individual portraits with. For this list, focus on immediate family only. Limit this set of photos to parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, and grandparents. If you have an aunt or cousin who you’re incredibly close to and you couldn’t imagine not getting a photos with, include them as well. Otherwise, leave the large groups of extended family off of this list. Ideally, you’ll want a list of 6-10 combinations for you and another 6-10 for your soulmate.
2. Share The Family Portrait List With Your Photographer Before Your Wedding Day
You want to make sure that you’ve not only thought through your list and written it down, but that it is safely in the hands of your wedding photographer before your wedding day. On your wedding weekend you’ll have enough things to remember to bring along, without needing to worry about printing a list of family combos. I send a wedding day details questionnaire to each of my couples two months in advance of their wedding. It can be completed in multiple sessions online as they finalize the final details of their day and one of the most important questions it includes is the family combo list.
This way, when they’ve submitted the questionnaire, I have instant access to their family combos and can download them and arrange them to flow in a way that makes the most sense (and has family members hopping in and out as little as possible). I then review it with my couple the week before their wedding to make sure I know each family member’s name, clarify my understanding of each combo, and can ask about additional combinations they may have forgotten. Then I print out two copies, bring it with me on their wedding day, and have my second photographer check off the combinations as we go right down the list. During their family photos, my couples get to hug their grandparents, snuggle with their mom and dad, love on their nieces and nephews, and never worry about what combinations we need to get.
3. Tell Your Family What To Expect
As your closest loved ones, your family cares about the family photos too. They’ll want to know that all the combinations are going to be taken and they’ll want to know where to be and when they need to be there. Let them know you’ve made a list and that your photographer has it so they don’t worry about missing a photo. Then, in the week leading up to your wedding and at your rehearsal, let family know where they need to be for family portraits and tell them exactly when they’ll be happening on the day.
If the family photos will happen directly after the ceremony, make it clear to all family members involved that they need to hang back or meet up somewhere and NOT head directly into cocktail hour. Once you lose a family member to cocktail hour it can take a while to get them back! If you’re doing a first look and including family portraits in this time before the ceremony, it’s always a good idea to ask them to arrive 10-15 minutes prior to the actual time you’ll start taking the photos. This way, everyone can freshen up and even if they’re running a few minutes late, they’ll be right on time.
4. Extended Family Portraits
There are a two times when I suggest taking larger group photos. First, if you’ve done your family portraits with immediate family during your first look, then consider asking extended family to meet up briefly directly after the ceremony for a couple quick large group photos before you send them into cocktail hour. This way, no one gets lost in cocktail hour and you don’t have to try and round people up while chatting with the rest of your guests in the middle of the cocktail hour space.
The other great time for extended family photos is during your reception. You can work with your photographer and DJ or band to call your extended family onto the dance floor toward the end of dinner. This way, everyone will hear the announcement and you’ll have the whole dance floor open for arranging the large group of family. The bonus in this scenario is that after the last combo is photographed, the band can start the dance music and you’ll already have your dance floor filled with people! For all of the reasons above, waiting until the end of dinner when the band is ready to open the dance floor is also a great time to call up your group of high school friends or your teammates from college for a group photo.
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