Everyone knows how much I love weddings. Seriously I love weddings. The personal details, the quirky moments, the sweet hugs and kisses, all that family. However, with all that family comes taking photos of that family. It's a very important part of the day. Sometimes it's been years since the family has been all together. Everyone wants those precious group shots. Although, speaking from experience this can be the most difficult part of the wedding to organize for everybody involved. Not just for the photographer but for you and your family as well. Weddings are supposed to be fun! So I thought since I'll be planning out this portion of my own wedding soon (!!!) I would throw out a few tips on how to make this process as seamless and smooth as possible for everyone involved.
#1 Make a detailed list for your photographer and yourself. This is something that your photographer should always recommend you do several weeks before the wedding. But if you want to avoid stress, start thinking about this sooner rather than later. Write down all of your close family that you would like formal portraits of. Mom and Dad are usually a given, but think outside your immediate family too. Aunts, uncles, cousins. Maybe a close family friend that is like family. It is important to just start off listing them to give yourself an idea of who will be involved. Once you have written that list out, start grouping them together. For example, Grandma, Grandpa, and you and your new spouse. Aunt and Uncle Smith and the Smith Cousins.
#2 Make all family members that are going to be in the photos aware. Once you've created the original list, let your family know! I am always going to recommend you let them know before the day of. If you have a wedding website post the list there. Send out a group email. It is best for everyone to be aware so they don't disappear right at the time everyone is gathering to take pictures only to find them when its all over and have them say "Oh, I didn't know I was supposed to be in pictures!" Also give them detailed instructions on where to be and when. Are the family photos right after the ceremony? Let them know that they can't just run off to the cocktails. They may try it anyway but at least they can't claim ignorance.
#3 Have a family liaison able to find family members quickly and efficiently. Let's be honest, you will be busy being in most if not all the photos. You don't have time to run off to find people. That will only stop the whole production dead in its tracks. If someone is missing, it's best to move on and have someone else go hunting. Do not, I repeat do not choose someone who is also likely to be in more than one photo. Do not send your mom or someone equally as close to you. You need to choose someone who knows who people are but maybe is only in one photo group. Avoid as much disruption as possible. You can always choose two, one for each side of the family.
#4 Keep the list as short as possible for efficiency. Look down at your list. How long is it really? Question whether you need all the groupings you chose. Keep in mind that this part of the wedding can take some time and it takes away from something else, like the reception or the cocktail hour. Trust me when I say you will want it to be over as soon as possible. Just so that you can stop smiling so much and massage your face. Do you really need a photo of you and your cousins, then another of you and your spouse and your cousins, then another of you and your cousins and your aunt and uncle then another of you and your cousins and your aunt and uncle and your grandparents? Would it be fine to just do one of all of you together? If you really want all those individual photos then go for it, no one knows your family like you do. But if thats the case, then we'll move onto my next tip.
#5 Set aside enough time in your schedule for family shots. Depending on the size of your family and the number of shots you would like, you are going to need to set aside enough time. 40 different groupings in 15 minutes is just not realistic! You don't have to take a wild guess at how much time you need though. Communicate with your photographer. Different variables will change the amount of time you'll need, such as whether your photographer has an assistant to speed things up. Always account for unforeseen circumstances such as weather or missing family members.
#6 If possible, have a place set aside for family to immediately congregate after the ceremony to stay separate from guests not in photos. Once everyone gets jumbled up it is hard to find people that you need quickly. By keeping everyone separate till the photos are done, you cut out a lot of unnecessary hassle. Have someone make a quick announcement with a microphone if possible to herd the right people in the right direction.
#7 Keep in mind the needs of your family members. Any elderly family or young children should be photographed first so they can leave or sit down. Children lose focus quickly. Your mom and dad can always go last since they'll likely stay the whole time anyways to watch.
#8 If you want to throw in any extra groupings not on the list last minute, wait till the list is complete to avoid confusion. Usually the photographer will be working off of a list and crossing things off as they go. it is just easier to add on at the end instead of in the middle so no one loses their place and people get confused.
#9 Keep people out of the way and avoid guests milling around taking their own photos. This part of the day is about quality and efficiency. It will always take 3 times as long if 3 extra family members need to take the same photo the photographer just did. Plus people get confused at who to look at when and it takes even longer. Let your family know that they will have access to the pro's photos and that they can just sit back and relax. It keeps everything moving much smoother. It is also important to keep people mostly out of the way. It is tedious to be constantly shifting people out of the shot. Most of the time the photographer is forced to raise their voice to be heard. Nobody likes that.
Simplify, simplify, simplify. This is the most tedious part of the day for everyone involved. But it can also be fun and if you put a little thought into it before hand, everyone can leave with a smile on their face.