Family Photo Woes

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!

Tip #1

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.

Tip #2

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.  

Tip #3

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.

Tip #4

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.

Tip #5

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.

Tip #6

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.

Tip #7

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.

Tip #8

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!”

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Cleveland Botanical Gardens Proposal with Sam & Stephanie

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The Importance of a Great Timeline

I love a good plan. If you are on my calendar with a date, time, and place, I’ll be there. I don’t mind planning very far in advance or figuring out what I’m having for dinner while eating breakfast. I’m always thinking ahead to the next thing so that I’m prepared and ready to go. The same goes for weddings.

About two to three months before a wedding, I’ll send my couples a questionnaire. From that information I make a rough timeline and we discuss it. The timeline isn’t simply when things are starting, or the order of events- it also includes a list a family photos, any special photos of note, the couple’s priorities for the day, addresses, and contact information. Basically, all the information I need on a wedding day can be found on one or sometimes two sheets of paper. The week of the wedding I go over the timeline again for a refresher and to make sure no changes have been made.

When discussing the rough timeline with my couples I also make sure there is enough time to accomplish everything that they want done. If you want to go to three different portrait locations around the city and we only have one and a half hours for portraits that’s not super possible. In that situation I’d recommend picking your favorite spot and maybe moving some other things around so we have two hours for portraits instead.

I value timelines for several reasons. The first being that the couple most likely will not have the start and stop times memorized. You guys have a million other things on your mind and don’t really care that family photos need to be finished by 3:30pm. I need to be aware of what’s going on for the day so I can keep things moving and on track. Planning ahead allows you to schedule in buffer time. Things will run behind, this is a given, that’s why buffer time is so essential. With a first look timeline, I usually photograph the details before the ceremony as well. If prep runs long, I know ahead of time to cut a few minutes out of details and add it to portraits. If family formals run really behind, I know we can cut extended family and do those at the reception. If a clear schedule was not in place I wouldn’t know how much time I had for x, y, and z and we’d be flying by the seat of our pants.

Sometimes we just have a tight schedule, no room for buffer time, little time for portraits, etc. This is also very important to discuss. If everyone knows we are on a tight schedule we will be mentally prepared for that and act accordingly. It also helps to prioritize so if we run out of time for something, it’s not as big of a deal.

I thrive off of organization and a good plan, so if I’m at my best, I can service you in the best way possible.

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