Wedding Strategy Series: Best Tips for Family Photos

Family photo time can be one of the biggest pitfalls of the entire wedding day, and I’m going to share a few tips for helping you navigate this necessary wedding day event so that you stay on schedule by managing this brief and potentially challenging period of time effectively.

Have a specific plan

I usually recommend family photos take place immediately after the ceremony. Why? Because everyone is already there for the ceremony, gathered in one spot.  You will want to communicate to the family members who are to be photographed exactly what is expected of them: where they will meet, and when they should be there.

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Family photos should take place away from cocktail hour and the rest of the guests

In a perfect world, right after the ceremony, all the guests will be directly ushered to another part of the property to enjoy cocktail hour, while the bride, groom, and their immediate families stay behind to be organized into family photos.  Diverting the traffic away will help ensure that family photo time runs smoothly without the constant interruptions of well wishers that will take up precious scheduled photo time. Believe me, everyone will want to come up to the bride and groom to congratulate them, so it’s important that guests make their way to cocktail hour.  A good caterer will also provide appetizers and drinks for the bridal party during photos, so no one will feel compelled to go searching for a drink… because if the father of the brides goes off in search of a drink he’ll get sidetracked by other guests and then we’re all standing around, unable to do the photos because Dad is missing. So then brother Ryan runs off to try to find Dad, and……. boom, he’s missing too. It’s like a horror movie where people run off and never come back.


Limit Family Photos to Immediate Family Only

I would strongly suggest limiting family photos to parents, step-parents, grandparents, and siblings. Other extended family groupings can always be photographed during the reception. The larger the groups and the more complex all the various groupings and numerous combinations, the higher risk for utter chaos, and you end up with a lot of people standing around waiting for their turn to be photographed, rather than enjoying cocktail hour and mingling with guests.  I am always very happy to accommodate all family requests during the reception, and this is a great time to photograph alllllll the cousins.

Ask yourself: What will I actually do with all these family photos of innumerable combinations?  If it’s not something that you genuinely think you’ll be printing or gifting to others, then your time could be better spent on gorgeous bride and groom portraits. Often I am given a very specific and short amount of time, one little hour,  to accomplish all the family photos (first), bridal party photos (second), and bride & groom portraits (which sadly gets the scraps of whatever time is left in that preciously short hour), so the important thing to remember here is: PRIORITIZE and budget your time wisely.fitzpatrick mcquaide_094

Designate a Coordinator with a Loud Voice

It’s important to have someone who knows who everyone is who can help organize the groupings. The photographer is unlikely to know who everyone is, and therefore it’s a huge help to enlist a family member who can call together groups by name. Even having someone with a loud voice to call out the list is a huge help, rather than have the photographer try to manage everything at once.

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I hope you have enjoyed these tips about how to make family photos run smoothly. The main takeaway here is that there will never be time enough for every single combination of family members that you’d like to do, so please prioritize and consolidate as much as you can. Bearing in mind that a wedding is about the bride and groom, and not a barbecue family reunion, will ensure that a proportionate amount of attention is placed on family groupings while mainly leaving lots of time for the bride and groom portraits that so much has been invested in (venue, wedding gown, suit, hair and makeup, flowers).


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