Hi, we're Hunter and Sarah, a husband-and-wife, luxury wedding photography team. We’re also educators, helping other photographers build profitable and sustainable photography businesses.
If you’re engaged and planning your wedding, it’s most likely the first wedding you’ve ever planned, but it certainly isn’t ours! Over the years we’ve worked on dozens of weddings, and have learned exactly how long each aspect of a wedding day takes – from getting ready photos to your husband and wife sunset portraits. We’ve also learned a lot about when things should happen, and in what order, and ways to make them go as efficiently as possible.
This summer, we’re continuing to share some secrets and advice when it comes to building your perfect wedding photography timeline! Today we’re talking about another important area of planning your perfect wedding schedule: formal family portraits.
When it comes to family photos, there seems to be an unspoken assumption that many of our couples have when we first sit down to talk about their wedding: family photos have to include everyone. However, we want to challenge that assumption. Of course, if the giant family photos IS important to you, this is a no-brainer. But if you aren’t that close with your extended family or aren’t bothered by the thought of going through your wedding day without a photo of your second-cousin, once-removed and her husband who you’ve literally never met before, then keep reading.
On your wedding day, every single moment will count. Capturing portraits with the people who are nearest and dearest to you two is one of the most important parts of our job as your wedding photographers. But we also don’t want you to spend your entire wedding day smiling for photos. We want to take just enough time to get the essential photos, and then release you to spend the as much time as possible enjoying the day, taking it all in, and actually spending time with those loved ones and friends, rather than just posing with them.
It’s for these reasons that Sarah and I always recommend keeping Family Portrait Time to just immediately family. Parents, siblings, grandparents. That’s it. Why? Because we’d rather spend that 30 minutes getting tons of different combinations of these people, rather than spending all that time organizing one or two giant photos that will never make it into your album or onto your wall. We know from experience that no one has ever ordered a print of the 35-person photo with aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. However, wouldn’t you love to have a photo of just you and your mom? What about just you and your dad? Then you, your spouse and your parents together? Time to add in your siblings? Then you with each of your siblings individually, then all of you together with your spouse? I think you see where this is going.
Of course, if that big group photo is really important to you (or to your parents), great! We can absolutely build it into your timeline (like we mentioned in Part 1, we build a custom Recommended Wedding Photography Timeline for each and every one of our couples). But we don’t do it by default because oftentimes, if that photo is important to your aunts, uncles, or cousins, then one of them will just pull us aside at the reception and ask to take the photo, which we’re more than happy to do! What we don’t want is for that extended family time to take away from portrait time with your dearest loved ones if you aren’t excited about it.
After all, the day is about you and your soon-to-be-spouse, and what you two desire for your day. Don’t let what’s “tradition” or “expected” influence your day without asking yourself if you like that tradition or would enjoy whatever it is that’s expected. We issued that same challenge in the first segment when we talked about the first look! Sometimes, breaking tradition can be well worth it.
If you do decide to add the extended family photo into your timeline, or even if you just have a large immediate family, we always recommend that each family has a “point person” who can assist with gathering all the right people. A sibling or close family-friend usually works great for this position, since they already know who needs to be in each photo and what each person looks like.
The reason we ask to find someone else is because we don’t want you running around searching for Uncle Steve when we could be knocking out other family portraits, and you certainly don’t want to have to listen to us read off of a list with absolutely no idea who Uncle Steve is or what he looks like!
Once you’ve decided who you want to be in your family photos, the only decision left to make is when to do them. Like we mentioned last week, doing a first look allows for a lot more freedom with your timeline. Since you two will have seen each other before the ceremony, you have the option of doing family photos right before the ceremony! This allows for your family to enjoy more of the cocktail hour, and especially if you’re keeping family photos to immediate family only, they’ll certainly be there early anyway!
We always recommending leaving any larger family photos for immediately following the ceremony. This way, your officiant can simply announce for all family to stay behind, and once the other guests exit the ceremony site, we (along with your pre-determined helpers) can begin organizing photos right away!
If you’d like to chat with us about your own wedding day, or learn more about our Wedding Photography services, click here!
Wedding Photography & Photography Education
Charlottesville, Virginia and Beyond