One of the biggest stressors of a wedding day is usually the people closest to you, your family. These stressors can develop in a variety of ways, a lot of times it revolves around the family photos. I want to share a few practical tips to help make family photos a breeze!
Decide who you want in your family photos. I send a sample list to my couples but it can be customized to fit your wishes. Are you super close with your extended family? Are you not super close with your extended family but want them in photos anyway? What about Aunt Sally who is not really your aunt? Think about who is important is your life that you’d want a formal photo with. If you aren’t totally sure or don’t really care, ask your parents, they’ll already have an idea.
Tell your family they are in the photos. Sounds silly but this is often a detail that is forgotten. Couples tend to assume that their family will know they are going to be in a photo but a lot of times, especially with your extended family they don’t know that’s the case. It’s important not only to tell them, but to tell them again and again. Send an email, talk about it at the rehearsal dinner, have your parents tell them, put a note in their invitation, etc, etc. Pick three and do those.
Have your officiant make an announcement at the end of the ceremony that whoever was previously told they are in photos to stay put. Instruct them to not leave until they have been dismissed. It sounds strict but we have a short window for formal photos after the ceremony. The longer we spend tracking down Cousin Billy who ran off, the less time we’ll have for important things, like hanging out with your guests, or couple’s portraits. My family list is very efficient but sometimes I jump back and forth between groups so it’s important that no one leaves until they are dismissed.
Delegate a family member or close friend from each side to wrangle people if we lose them or the missed the memo. Delegate this person ahead of time and make sure they are comfortable in this role. I don’t know all of your family members so this really helps me to know if someone is missing.
Recess and hide! If you hang out while we are getting set up for photos, everyone will talk to you. It’s not ideal to have an accidental receiving line when we had other things planned. Think of hiding as 5-10 minutes you have totally alone right after the ceremony! You get to take in all that just happened with just the two of you.
Share with me your family dynamics. Do you come from a blended family? Are your parents going through a divorce? Any passings? This helps me to make a plan before the day to avoid stress and any awkward situations. We can discuss if mom will get offended if we do photos of dad and your stepmom first, if your parents should be in a photo together at all. My parents got divorced when I was very little. I get it, don’t feel embarrassed to tell me. We will figure out the best solution for everyone.
Plan and let go. With all planning it’s important to do work beforehand and then on the day of, let the plan play out. If the plan doesn’t play out, go with the flow. No matter how much prep work we put into this, something will usually still go wrong. I know this, that’s why I put in an extra 15 minutes every time I shoot family formals. I tell you all of this to be mentally prepared, because I already know what to expect. My tips seem very strict and rigid but if we seriously have to chase down Cousin Billy, it’s not the end of the world.
You really don’t have to apologize. After every family formal session the couple apologizes for their crazy family. Apologies are rarely warranted. Like I said, I’m used to this, I too have a crazy family. I appreciate the thought, but it’s not needed, promise. Even though our families are crazy, we love them, and that’s why we do this.
Bonus Tip from a MSP Bride!
“I come from an incredibly blended family (blended to the point that people need a map to understand). As much as I love my family members, there are numerous dynamics in play and that added to the stress of my day. I had thought about organization of family members, photos, seating, etc from early on in the planning process and it was such a relief to have a basis from Maria regarding compilations for pictures. As much as wedding days are for other family members too—coming together and celebrating—it helped me and my stress to think about what my husband and I *wanted* and not everyone else. That’s not to say that I dismissed everyone, but I thought about what we wanted and would want to cherish in pictures. And that’s what we did. Sure, did it upset a family member that we didn’t include someone estranged? Yupp. Do I regret it? Nope. Having a list of people decided ahead of time and being able to partly blame it on Maria helped though. And talking about it was family members ahead of time—-get all the hurt feelings out before the big day!”