Wedding Weekly ~ Family Portrait List

One thing a photographer needs to help a wedding day run smoothly is the list for family portraits. Family portrait time is one of the many parts of a wedding day that can easily run way longer than scheduled. Need a scenario?

(groom with his new father-in-law; groom with dad and brother; groom with dad)

Aunt Beth and Uncle Richard had no idea that they'd be needed for pictures, so it takes the mother of the bride twenty minutes to find one fixing her hair in the bathroom and the other enjoying the appetizers at cocktail hour. Then when everyone is gathered, the ring bearer has a meltdown because he doesn't want to wear his suit coat and tie anymore. And then (heaven forbid!) the photographer doesn't realize that Grandma Marge isn't married to Grandpa Harold anymore, and a family feud ensues.

Exaggeration? Maybe. Maybe not. Better to avoid the entire situation, right?

Here are my tips for keeping the family portrait time running smoothly and on schedule:

  1. Make a list ahead of time. A short list. While it sounds nice to take a picture with each aunt and uncle separately, it takes a really long time. Thirty minutes of family portraits works out to 12-15 groups. It takes a minute for everybody to get lined up in good sight of the camera, and then the photographer has to take several pictures to make sure there is one with good smiles and open eyes. Uncle Carl might be a really good blinker.
  2. Keep everyone informed. Any relatives that are needed for the pictures need to know where to be and when. Pick a location that's close to the ceremony site for everyone's convenience. Brides and grooms who choose to do a first look might want to get some or all of their family pictures done before the wedding ceremony, so relatives need to arrive extra early.
  3. Tell your wedding photographer about the family dynamics, whether it's a divorced couple, a young child who might get restless, or a cousin's brand new boyfriend who really shouldn't be in the picture.
  4. Keep it simple. Many sample family portraits lists include every possible combination - bride with mom, bride with dad, bride with mom and dad, bride with mom and dad and sister, bride and groom with mom and dad, bride and groom with mom and dad and sister. If you allot 2 minutes for each group idea, these shots alone will take 12 minutes. One easy way to cut those pictures in half is to put both the bride and groom in every picture (except for bride with mom, bride with dad, etc).
  5. Start big and work down. It might seem obvious to start family portraits with the bride and her parents, but the longer it takes to get to the big family groups, the more likely it is that someone will wander off. When family portraits start with the bride's entire side of the family (or the groom's if his side is bigger), the extended family can be finished with pictures and off to cocktail hour quickly. I start my portraits with one entire family, then cut out aunts, uncles, and cousins. Then I pull out the grandparents and get the bride and groom with parents and siblings. Then just siblings, just parents, and just grandparents. And boom! They're finished and off to the party!

The goal of family portrait time is to be quick and painless and get people off to the party. It's not an impossible goal. It just takes a bit of advanced planning.