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Planning Your Family Shot List For Your Wedding Day

There are so many different parts that make up your wedding day, and over the years I’ve learned what parts can feel chaotic or cause delays. One of those parts is family photos, which is why I have a system in place to make sure it goes as smooth as possible and is an enjoyable experience.

Family photos are one of those things that can feel like an absolute nightmare for some couples or it’s a total breeze. Of course this might be dependent on the size of your family but nonetheless, if you’re working with me, I can promise you it will be fun and easy.

Here is how we make that happen!

First off, I like to ask my couples how big their family is and what their expectations are for family portraits. Is it important to you that we take photos with your aunts, uncles and cousins? Will your parents want photos that maybe you didn’t consider? Before we plan a shot list, we first need to communicate expectations. If large group photos are something you desire to have captured on your wedding day, that is totally doable, we just need to make sure we allow for the right amount of time so no one feels rushed or stressed out. I typically suggest one hour for family photos because this part of the day takes longer then couples usually think. If we finish family photos early (I typically find we finish anywhere around the 30-45 minute mark, but sometimes we do require the full hour pending on your family photo list)- it just gives you more time for your own portraits, or time for you and your spouse to relax on the wedding day without feeling so go-go-go. I LOVE creating cushions in the timeline so your day doesn’t get put behind.

I find for large group photos, it makes sense to do that right after the ceremony because we can typically use the chairs from the ceremony and have people sit down vs. having a large group of people standing in one big line. When you’re working with large groups of people, it makes it much easier to fit everyone in if we have people in front sitting. It also helps the photo look more refined. Ensure to task someone (either a wedding day coordinator, or ask if the venue coordinator can help, or assign a family member or friend) to help move chairs for this.

If you decide you want extended family members in your family photos, then depending on whether you do a first look or not may determine when we take those photos. I always recommend starting with your immediate family members first incase time is cut short! We always want to start with the photos that are most important to you.

Once you know WHO will be in the family photos, we want to start creating a list. I send out a wedding questionnaire a few months before your wedding that includes a place for you to fill out the family shot list. This keeps everything in one place for me so I am able to easily access it on your wedding day. On my own wedding day, I never ended up getting a photo of me and my mom together (and she’s one of my very best friends!). When I got into this business, I vowed to never let that happen to one of my couples. Hence why I require all of my couples to provide me with a family shot list prior to the wedding. I don’t know family names, or family dynamics to know who’s important to you. Your mind will also likely be in a MILLION places on the wedding day, and it is easy to forget or overlook certain photos if you don’t write them down.

I also recommend formatting your family shot list a certain way. Divide the list between each partners side of the family, and if you want some photos with both sides of the family together (often times people will do a shot with the wedding couple and all the parents), put those in the middle. Essentially, we want to get through an entire family first, so then that side can be free to go once we get through those shots. I usually recommend putting the family with the youngest children first, so the kids can get done with photos then go play. Start with larger groupings first (entire immediate family), then work down into smaller groupings from there. This helps things be as efficient as possible. Here’s an example family photo list, but please customize this to the needs of you and your family:

Large Group Shot (optional)

Brides Side:

1. Bride & Groom with Brides Immediate Family (Sandra, David, Matt, Lacey)
2. Bride & Groom with Brides Parents (Sandra & David)
3. Bride with Brides Mom (Sandra)
4. Bride with Brides Dad (David)
5. Bride and Groom with Brides Siblings (Matt & Lacey)
6. Etc – continue and add your own groupings to this list

Both Sides together:

1.) Bride & Groom with all parents (Sandra, David & Kelsey, Eric)

Grooms Side:

1. Bride & Groom with Grooms Immediate Family (Kelsey, Eric, Amy, Danny)
2. Bride & Groom with Grooms Parents (Kelsey & Eric)
3. Bride with Grooms Mom (Kelsey)
4. Bride with Grooms Dad (Eric)
5. Bride and Groom with Grooms Siblings (Amy & Danny)
6. Etc – continue and add your own groupings to this list

Having a family photo list keeps things organized and easy for me and my assistant to see the names and relation to the bride or groom and allows us to work our way down the list with ease. My assistant will cross groupings off as we go to ensure we don’t miss any photos you are wanting. It helps if you designate one person from the brides side, and one person from the grooms side at your wedding that knows all of the immediate family. They can help gather family for photos so that when my assistant roll calls from the list, we ensure everyone is there and ready for photos. Make sure your assigned helpers have a printed copy of the family photo list so they can assist in gathering everyone. When I have a list of family members, I have their names but I may not know everyone’s faces. Your designated helpers can ensure we collect everyone we need for these photos so we can easily and efficiently move through the provided shot list.

One more quick tip, is to make sure you communicate with your family what time family portraits will be taking place. If your family photos are taking place after the ceremony, make sure they know not to wander off, but to head straight to where they need to go.

I hope this was helpful! As usual, please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions about family photo planning!


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