If you ask the internet, it's hard to tell who dislikes wedding day family portraits more--the family or the photographer. But don't listen to the internet. Family portraits rock. They're super important! Everyone knows that weddings are when your family pulls out all the stops and makes the effort to be there and dress to the nines. Some folks come from miles away and it's that one chance you have to snag a picture with your beloved grandma before... who knows.
So here's my secret flow to how to make the all-important family portraits happen smoothly and awesomely.
In my example flow below, we've used the ideal wedding photography timeline to take care of the wedding party photographs before the ceremony -- one big fish is already caught. And my rule of thumb for wedding day family portraits is to allow 5 minutes for each listed group, no matter how small. That way, if someone's lost at the cocktail hour or has slipped away to the powder their nose, we don't end up rushed and frazzled.
Here's my wedding day portrait flow for a BIG family:
b&g w/groom's parents b&g w/groom's parents & siblings b&g w/groom's parents & immediate family (adding spouses & offspring) b&g w/BOTH sets of parents & immediate family b&g w/BOTH sets of parents, immediate family, & extended family (ALL THE PEOPLE!) b&g w/bride's parents & immediate family b&g w/bride's parents & siblings b&g w/bride's parents
Total time: 40 minutes. Pretty darn good for a huge family, eh?
And here's what it looks like if you've got a SMALL family:
b&g w/groom's parents b&g w/groom's parents & immediate family b&g w/both sets of parents & immediate family b&g w/bride's parents & immediate family b&g w/bride's parents
Total time: 30 minutes. Perfect and painless.
What this flow does is that it allows me to dismiss groups of people to the cocktail hour or reception as we go. It's much more pleasant than having people hang around aimlessly in the hot sun, or shivering when it's a tad too chilly.
And the best thing of all? This flow is flexible.
Have you got extended family with tiny children who can't stand waiting around? Great, well rearrange it to shoot them first.
Got a grandparent in a wheelchair? No problem, we'll plan photos around their mobility and make them first priority.
Does someone in the formal photographs have other wedding duties? Holler! I can make it so they can get to where they need to be on time, too.
Lastly, here are some things I'd like to add that really help things go more smoothly:
- Find a cat herder. Finding stray family members can bog things down, and the last thing we want to do is send someone in the formal photos to do the job. A friend or extended family member is the best choice here.
- Communicate in advance. Decide on a location for family photos with your photographer (and if you're outdoors, a backup location too). Tell everyone who you want to appear in your formal photographs the time and place they're supposed to show up, and that they're supposed to show up dressed and ready.
- Air your dirty laundry. Your photographer needs to know about any guests or family members who can't (for whatever reason) be photographed together. It might seem uncomfortable to talk about, but it keeps things from getting especially awkward when everyone's supposed to be partying.
By far, the biggest thing you can do to help things go smoothly is to R E L A X.
It's your day. It's beautiful. Let's celebrate!