Family Formal Portraits: let’s be honest and say that it’s not the most fun part of anyone’s wedding day BUT in my opinion, essential. It’s important that these portraits take as little time as possible, but still preserve your family’s legacy.
Follow these 10 points and your family portraits will get you back to enjoying your wedding day without loosing any momentum.
1. Will you two see each other before the ceremony?
Yes, we’ll be doing a First Look.
- Then we might be able to get the family portraits out of the way before the ceremony. You will get more time to enjoy being recently married with your guests at cocktail hour.
- This depends on family members arriving at least a hour before the ceremony so we can get these done. If someone arrives late then it might keep us from shooting these until the complete group is there. So it’s probably not the best option for large families & groups.
- Then we will do family portraits after the ceremony, usually during cocktail hour.
2. Where are we going to shoot the group formals?
If you’re getting married at a church I strongly recommend we shoot these portraits inside the church, at the front by the altar. With approval from the church of course, I will need to use a single light on a light stand. Rain or shine and any time of year we know we can have a nice backdrop in a controlled setting. It also helps to keep the whole group focused. Everyone seems to behave better while in a church!
A popular option for any sort of wedding, whether at a church or not. I look for nice shady spots and most of the times the church steps outside are the best place to shoot these. The steps allow for arranging large groups. If not church steps then a bank of trees works well. BUT we will need shade and sometimes the church steps are in full sun and that won’t work. Weather conditions can also negate this option, too hot, too cold, rain, etc…. This is where we might move inside as a plan B.
3. How do we make these go quickly?
The best way to make the portraits go fast is to prepare everyone that you want to be in the photos. Get your parents and siblings’ help in spreading the word. Send out a big email and remind people at the rehearsal dinner. Make sure they know to arrive early OR stick around after the ceremony. Appeal to their importance in the group and that their attendance is a must! They’ll understand they have a role. **Don’t go to the car, don’t go to the bathroom, don’t head to the reception. If one person is missing it could mean that the group is incomplete and we’ll have to take it later.
We want to get these done fast. Kids get fidgety, adults want to get a drink, everyone wants to get on to the party. Once we’re in reception mode it’s tough to get people to refocus into formal portrait mode.
4. How long is this going to take?
That depends! Taking the pictures is fast, but people-wrangling is the hard part!!
- So keep the groups as small as possible.
- Keep the number of groups as few as possible.
- Think of what pictures will actually get framed. Let’s not take more variations than we need to.
- Make those people involved aware that they need to be there.
For most I would recommend blocking out 20-30 minutes to get these done.
Once we have a list pulled together we can better approximate how long it should take.
5. Who is going to be in these photos?
If I were to come up with a typical structure and order it would be:
Bride & Groom (almost always together, in the center of the photo)
- with Bride’s Parents
- with Bride’s Immediate Family
- with Bride’s Immediate Family & Extended Family
- with BOTH the Bride & Groom’s Immediate Families
- with Groom’s Immediate Family & Extended Family
- with Groom’s Immediate Family
- with Groom’s Parents
6. YOU define who is included in YOUR Family Portraits
All the time people ask me, who should be in their family photos. I’d say keep the VIP list as small as possible without regretting leaving anyone out. What photos will you frame?
- Immediate Family: Parents, Brothers & Sisters, Siblings’ families, Grandparents, Great Grandparents
- Extended Family: Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, etc…. maybe super close family friends too
Are there people that you’d like to include in these photos that don’t fall into these categories?
Do you want variations? Those might include:
- a photo with your siblings?
- with your siblings’ families?
- with (and without) your sibling’s new significant other?
- just parents without your new husband/wife?
- other groupings that make sense to your families?
7. Your Family is Unique. Whose Isn’t?
If we can avoid it I don’t want to put my foot in my mouth, make anyone feel out of place, left out or make you step in to sort it out. It’s your wedding day so let’s make a game plan. I want to get a crash course on:
- who is divorced
- who shouldn’t stand next to one another
- recently passed family members
- who has mobility issues
8. Regarding Divorced Parents
I want to be delicate and thoughtful. With your help it’ll go off smoothly. Questions that run through my mind when I’m grouping families together….
- Should I add step parents (or parent’s partners) into the photos?
- Should we do with and without step parents?
- Who stands next to their child?
- Should we do variations of one parent standing next to their child and then switch to the other? It’s going to add to the list of photos but I don’t want to slight anyone.
9. Beyond the Family Formals
This is just one part of the day and there are a lot more photos to be taken. I encourage you to have two lists.
The family formals & a secondary list of photos that can be taken informally at the reception.
Usually these are groups of college friends, etc… Sometimes if time, logistics and location permit I’ll pull together a group of everyone at the wedding for a large group shot.
10. Involve Your Families
Talk about all of these things with each other and then get the opinions of your parents.
They’re likely to have the strongest opinions as to who is included in these photos and I do want them to feel satisfied with the photos we end up with.
In my experience if family groupings are not discussed with your parents in advance, we’ll be rushing around trying to organize a very unorganized situation. Herding Cats? Yup, it’ll feel like that.