Rockin' out Family Portraits on Your Wedding Day

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Through my journey of photographing weddings, I've gotten better and better at helping my clients through the process of wedding planning and finalizing details (or at least I hope so!).  And as I sat with one of my brides last week, sipping iced coffee while finalizing her timeline and family portrait list, I thought to myself, "I should blog about this .. in the beginning, I had *no* idea what I was doing."  So, here I sit, to help you (as a bride or a photographer) with Wedding Day Family Portrait Lists.  And by the way, yes I'm going to get you coming down the isle, yes I'm going to capture guests, and details, and lots of other things throughout the day -- we're talking specifically about Family Portraits - that are usually held immediately after the ceremony.  Here we go...

  1. Plan ahead.
    Brides - trust me (pretty please?). I know it adds another thing to your to-do list right now, but on wedding day, when there's a whole bunch of people and a whole lotta ruckus, you'll thank me for asking, having my list ready, and not making you think about a thing. And, I'm here to help you, so it's going to be super easy =)
    Photographers - take this off your brides plate. Ask for, and confirm the family portrait list ahead of time. This will help you tremendously and make things run smoother all around. Having a list from the bride and groom will help you get the process done quickly and efficiently, and give you a list to resort back to when things get off track and every auntie wants us to take a photo of her clan ;) (See #5)

  2. Think Details
    Brides - give me details!! All of them! Family relationships, specific groups of photos, and the names of everyone in them! If you want an official family portrait with someone, nows the time to list it! When I was planning my wedding, I had no idea what I was doing, and as much as I loved my photographer, a family portrait list wasn't something that she asked me for. Somehow, throughout the crazy day, I didn't get a picture with just my dad (other than our father-daughter dance). I don't know how it happened, but it did, and I didn't even realize until it was too late. And, between my husbands side, and mine, our daughter had 14 grandparents at our wedding. I remember thinking during wedding planning how cool it would be to have a photo of her with all of them, but when the moment came, I hadn't communicated it to anyone (grandparents or photographers), our grandparents left to the reception venue, and it just didn't happen. So, give me the details, lovelies. I want to know what's important to you so I can have it on my list, and we can try our very hardest to ensure it happens. And on your list, I want to know your loved ones names! With their names, my second shooter will be able to call out to them and get them "on deck" to help things flow smoothly. And, on the other hand - if you *don't* want a photo with someone, let me know that too. Mom and dad have a tense relationship? Sister just started dating someone and you'd like to take a group photo with and without him? I get it - let me know and we'll adjust accordingly. The more I know, the more I can help! =)
    Photographers - Get the details! The more you know, and the more detailed list you have, the better off you're gonna be. Knowing the dynamics of the family, what the bride and groom specifically want captured in that moment, and who is who - is going to help you navigate those slightly chaotic moments with grace and ease.

  3. Think about Time
    Brides - With above said, we also need to think about time. Generally, I say each combination takes about a minute, so 20 combinations? About 20 minutes. (And I ask for 20 minutes with wedding party, and at least 20 minutes with the two of you - so ideally we'd have at least 60 minutes between the end of the ceremony and your grande entrance to the reception, depending on location, etc.)
    Photographers - Only you know how long you can group a family and get 'er done. Communicate with your couple so you all are on the same page!

  4. Communicate
    Brides - I always suggest to my couples that they communicate that they want certain people to stick around after the ceremony for some quick family portraits, possibly at the rehearsal dinner, or at some time before the wedding day. Tell each and every person specifically / announce it when everyone can hear you, so *they know* that you want them there. This helps them to know not to head to the restroom, hotel room, car, etc - and to be ready and in the area when you two are ready.
    Photographers - See above. Suggest to your couples. ;)

  5. Stick to the list
    Brides - Remember that detailed list I asked you for? Here's the best part - if we have done our prep work, and we stick to the list, all we have to do it move people around a bit and bam, we're done!
    Photographers - Now that you've gotten the list from your bride, you have a bit more prep work that will help you later. I prefer to do large groups first, and pull people out as needed. For example; start with the large family group, then pull out Grandparents, Aunts, and Uncles, and you'll still have the immediately family in place because you put Mama right by the Bride. So, I list the portraits that way as well. Once I have the list I simply rearrange it how I think it would flow best, and then print multiple copies so that my second shooter is ready to rock, and it's easy on her as well. Having a list will also give us the "out" when your bride is giving you the slight head shake and eye balls that are screaming "No! We're not taking individual pictures with each of my 47 cousins right now because my aunt wants me to!" You can kindly say, "Actually Auntie Suzie, we have a specific list that the bride and groom have asked us to complete, but if you find me during the reception and I'd be happy to take some more family combinations for you!" (Along with a genuine big smile!) However, if your bride forgot to add that she wanted a photo of her and all 47 of her cousins together, and she asks you for it in the moment - well by golly, you do it. The bride is always right, duh.

  6. Rock it out
    Brides - I know, it's probably hot, and you're squished in the middle of a group of people, but you look gorgeous, and you made this list in your normal-not-so-hot mind, so we're going to rock it out for you. And, I'm happy to tell you that I'm going to try my best to keep you in the shade, get it done quickly and easily, and super soon after you'll be able to have a moment alone and snuggle with your new spouse, and it's going to be amazing!
    Photographers - You've got this. It can often feel like one of the hardest parts of the day, and you've got a lot of eyeballs on you, but you've got this. Have a game plan, keep a smile on your face, and you'll be just fine. =)