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Family First: The Importance of Family Photos at Weddings

April 14, 2023

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Families! In all their complexity, beauty, and uniqueness, they are a huge part of many weddings. And so follows how to go about family photos at your wedding!

If you choose to have your family, in whole or in part, at your wedding, creating space to share special moments with them and get those lifetime memories in your wedding photos is a must!

**Side note: Let me be the first to assure you, that if you have certain family members that cause you stress or distress, you are not obligated to invite them to be in your family photos or even invite them to your wedding. This is YOUR day and you deserve to have a perfectly amazing one!**

When it comes to knowing what family wedding photos to capture, when to have them, and who to include, just getting started can be somewhat difficult. But don’t worry! I’m here to help you with all that and more, so you won’t be left wondering if you missed something important at the end of your wedding day. 

Let’s get into it!

Image of large family standing all together with the bride and groom for family wedding photos.

Why Take Family Photos at Weddings?

Assuming you’ve invited family to your wedding, these are people who have shaped and supported you throughout your life and will continue to do so during your marriage. 

If you choose to invite family to your wedding, it’s a time when everyone is together, celebrating the creation of a new family — yours! It’s likely one of the only times everyone will be together and dressed up, so take advantage and get some great wedding family portraits!!

Image of a bride and groom with the grooms family surrounding them! Showing the importance of family photos at weddings.

When Should We Take Family Photos on Our Wedding Day?

If you are having a first look (see reasons to do so in my First Look Blog here), I recommend having your immediate family wedding pictures after your wedding party photos and before the break preceding your ceremony.

This allows your family members who are not in your wedding to show up as late as possible, while also allowing them and you to enjoy your social/cocktail hour after the ceremony rather than having to skip to take group family pictures.

To limit the number of people arriving to your wedding early, extended family photos can be done immediately after the ceremony. Typically, couples choose to do 4 groups — one for each parent’s side of the family — to keep it simple and efficient while planning!

If you choose not to have a first look, do as many family photo combinations as you can before your ceremony, and then save the combined family photos for immediately after the ceremony. I’d also recommend limiting the number of family photos after the ceremony to the absolute essentials. Trust me, you and your family are going to want to get to the party and the rest of your guests!

Image of a bride with groom and they are standing with the brides parents and 4 brothers. Showing an idea for wedding poses for family photos at weddings.
Image of a bride and groom with grooms 2 siblings and parents beside them.

How to Prepare Your Wedding Photographer for Your Family Photos

Someone is going to capture your family photos — your wedding photographer! Make sure you work with them to provide them a photo shot list of who will be with both you and your partner on your wedding day. 

You should also let them know about any unique or uncomfortable family situations BEFORE your wedding day. Trust me, if your parents are divorced, I don’t want to find out about it when I place them next to each other in your photos and they give me a weird look…not the type of memories we are trying to create, amiright?

Also let your photographer know if anyone has any difficulty getting around so they can choose a place for photos that is accessible, safe, and comfortable for everyone! 

After letting your photographer know who will be there and any special circumstances, make a preliminary list, and consider your photographer’s advice for any additions or rearrangements in the order of the list (see more below)!

Image of a family posing for wedding photography!

How to Create Your List of Family Photos at Weddings

While understanding that everyone’s family has a different makeup, dynamic, and history, I’d like to give you a starting point on making your family photo shot list. 

Let’s start with the immediate family!

Image of a bride and and mother of the bride showing an idea for beautiful family photos at weddings.
Image of the groom standing with the mother of the groom as an idea for wedding poses of family photos at weddings.

Immediate Family — typically before the ceremony

Immediate wedding family photo list typically includes:

  • Parents (biological, step, honorary)
  • Siblings + partners
  • Niblings (nieces, nephews)
  • Grandparents (biological, step, honorary)
  • Your own kids, if you have any

To create a list, write down all the people attending your wedding who are in your immediate family.

I like to begin with larger groups peeling off people as we go. If you are lucky enough to still have grandparents, consider getting them in there first so they can chill and not be moved around so much. The same goes if you have any other family members who have a harder time getting around for group family photos.

Make sure to get photos with just your household family (parents, siblings), just your parents, just your siblings, and any individuals that you might want. Don’t forget to include your partner in these photos as well! Your family is their family now! 

When you have all the combos you think you want, try to arrange the list for the least amount of moving people around (easier said than done, sometimes!).

Image of bride and groom with their entire family, there are a total of 13 people in this family and they're all standing side by side at this outdoor wedding.

Immediate Family — Example

Let’s go through an example! This reflects a particular family, but you can use it as a guide to start your own list and know what kinds of groupings to consider as you build yours. Here we go!

Our couple’s names will be Logan & Madison.

Logan’s immediate family: Mom, Dad, Brother + Sister-in-law, 2 niblings, 2 Maternal Grandparents

Logan’s Notes: none

Madison’s immediate family: Mom + Stepmom, Dad, 2 Sisters, 1 Brother, 2 Maternal Grandparents, 2 Paternal Grandparents

Madison’s Notes: Parents are divorced, but amicable

Given this list, here is what I would recommend to Logan & Madison for family pics:

Logan’s Family

  1. Logan, All Logan’s Family (add Madison)
  2. Logan, Grandparents (add Madison)
  3. Logan, Parents, Brother + SIL, Niblings (add Madison)
  4. Logan, Parents, Brother (add Madison)
  5. Logan, Brother (add Madison)
  6. Logan, Parents (add Madison)
  7. Logan, Mom
  8. Logan, Dad
  9. Logan, Niblings (add Madison)

Combined Family

  1. Logan, Madison, All Parents
  2. Logan, Madison, Logan’s Mom and Dad, Madison’s Mom and Dad
  3. Logan, Madison, Logan’s Mom and Dad, Madison’s Mom and Stepmom
  4. Logan, Madison, All Siblings + Partners, All Niblings
  5. Everyone, everyone

Madison’s Family

  1. Madison, All Madison’s Family (add Logan)
  2. Madison, All Grandparents (add Logan)
  3. Madison, Maternal Grandparents (add Logan)
  4. Madison, Maternal Grandparents, Mom, Stepmom, Siblings (add Logan)
  5. Madison, Paternal Grandparents (add Logan)
  6. Madison, Paternal Grandparents, Dad, Siblings (add Logan)
  7. Madison, All Parents, Siblings (add Logan)
  8. Madison, Mom, Stepmom, Siblings (add Logan)
  9. Madison, Dad, Siblings (add Logan)
  10. Madison, Siblings (add Logan)
  11. Madison, All Parents (add Logan)
  12. Madison, Mom, Stepmom (add Logan)
  13. Madison, Mom
  14. Madison, Stepmom
  15. Madison, Dad (add Logan)

Now, there is certainly more that could be added, like individuals with each of Madison’s siblings, should they want those. However, this list generally covers all the important groupings and includes the new spouse in the family on each side! 

Image of a bride and groom standing with the brides grandmother for family photos at weddings.
Image of a bride and groom with their siblings on either side of them all smiling at the camera!

Other Things to Keep in Mind

Prepare Your Family

Let anyone and everyone who you would like to be in a photo when and where you would like them to be. 

If you, like many, have perpetually late family members, consider telling them photos are earlier than they really are so that you can get started on time with little to no stress!

For those post-ceremony extended family photos, remind your immediate families that they are included in those as well. Also, ask your officiant to remind the extended family to stay behind at the ceremony for those photos, or to meet in a certain place. 

Arranging Groups

For the most part, your photographer should be arranging wedding family photo groups. That being said, family can help out by staying as a unit so they are not separated from their own partner or kiddos!

Be Calm, Be Flexible

Especially when there are small kids involved, be ready to have some photos where maybe not everyone is smiling or looking at the camera. While you may not have the most “picture perfect” family photo with a screaming or defiant toddler, those moments are still worth having and looking back on! Kids will be kids, ya know?

Image of bride and groom are standing with the grooms entire family, there are 11 people in this image all smiling at the camera.

In Conclusion for Family Photos at Weddings

Like everything else with your wedding day, preparing ahead of time will help everything on the day of your wedding go more smoothly. Be ready to delegate finding your missing Uncle, and be ready to let it go if he’s not findable. 

Your wedding photographer will be instrumental in making sure that you not only have the appropriate list for your unique day, but that the process of taking the photos is efficient, fun, and 1000% worth it! 

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