Making Family Formals less like a drag

You love your family but sometimes they can be a bit rumbustious. They mean well but can get distracted easily. Straight up, taking family photos at a wedding is akin to herding cats. Everyone is excited about the wedding. They are thirsty. They are getting hangry. They are attracted to shiny things. All they want to do is get to the party.

Without some instruction and gentle but firm guidance family photos can take forever. Thankfully they don’t have to. These tips are what I tell all of my couples to do in order to make family photos painless and more importantly QUICK!

Make a list with names– I provide all my couples with a template that they can fill out. It is a complete game changer when I can bellow specific names during family portrait time. Instead of saying “Molly’s Aunt’s & Uncle’s, you are in this photo” I can instead call their name so their is no confusion. If there is more than 1 person with the same name I highly suggest putting a last initial after their name. (Ex: there are 4 different John’s in your family. You could denote John S, John Jr., John L., and John W- or you could denote their nickname, if they have one)

Talk to them before the wedding– You can do this the week of, month of, day of wedding or at the rehearsal. Proper prep work ahead of the wedding makes all the difference. If you are doing more than immediate family (parents & siblings) then it is the most beneficial to give those extended members a heads up before the wedding day. It decreases the time so much when we don’t have to send out a search party for “Aunt Susan” because she didn’t know to stay put. All it takes is “Hey, we are taking some family photos immediately after the ceremony. If you could just stick around in your chair after the ceremony our photographer will make sure he/she gets them done as quickly as possible so that we can get to the party.” Boom, done.

Let your photographer know any sticky situations between families– Are there any divorces, passings, squabbles in your family that your photographer should be aware of? This helps avoid awkward situations when the photographer says “let’s now photograph the brides grandparents” when all grandparents are passed. You don’t necessarily want to be reminded of that and your photographer doesn’t want to feel like a bozo for saying it. It is also helpful to know if your mother does not get along with one of her sisters so that you can split them up a bit in the photo. Thankfully, I have had a bit of practice with realigning some people in why we are taking photos. This is not their moment it is the bride & grooms and all I ask is 20 seconds of them standing there looking at me.

Help your photographer know who goes with who– In order to make sure there aren’t a smorgasbord of couple’s pairings, help a photographer out and make sure that your aunt and uncle are together or your mom and step dad are paired. Your photographer and their assistant don’t know your family like you do and it is a huge help to point out when people aren’t with their boo (or kids.) You get to look at these photos forever and you want to make sure that you aren’t asking “Why isn’t Aunt Mildred standing next to her hubby?”

Assign a bossy type bridesmaid– Childhood friends, Sisters and Sisters-in-law are perfect for this. They can tag team it for when they are/aren’t in the photo. They know the family members and what pairs belong together and aren’t unabashed at yelling across the church “MOM! You’re in this photo!” Holla to all you Type A gals, you’re the real champs. I always love it when I can literally hand over my list of family names and know that the sisters/b-maids are lining up the next grouping. It usually cuts down the family photo time to about half.

Just keep looking at the photographer– Literally, no matter what craziness is going on behind your photographer or even right next to you just keep looking at the photographer. This is especially true when there are children in the photo. As adults make sure that you are looking at the camera and smiling and let the photographer make the weird noises to get your babies attention. It always happens that the mili-second your baby looked at the camera is when you are looking at the baby. Channel your inner Dori and “Just keep looking. Just keep looking.” Ask your family to refrain from taking any photos with their phones until the very end. This goes back to prepping them ahead of time. Remind them that you have hired a professional and will be receiving the high quality photos after the wedding. Having your family leave their phones/cameras in their purse helps keep distraction at a minimum so that the photographer you hired can have all eyes on their camera.

Now you are well equipped to make this part of your wedding smooth and painless! Go you!

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