family wedding photos

Photo: Hunter James Photography

There’s a reason finding the right photographer is so high on the wedding planning to-do list: Your wedding photos are the memories you’ll cherish for the rest of your lives, so you want those details and moments to be well-documented. But have you ever thought about what goes into making sure you get all of the pictures you want? If you’re like most couples, the thought of taking a chunk out of your day for family wedding photos might sound like a drag (you will be missing part of cocktail hour, after all!), but it doesn’t have to be.

Here’s how to make those family wedding photos fly by, easing the stress and making sure you get to enjoy as much of your party as possible.

Make a List

Even if your photographer is known for his or her ability to capture candid moments, your family photos shouldn’t be taken on the fly. “Set aside a night, open a bottle of wine, and think through the combinations of people you really want to get,” says Kina Wicks of Kina Wicks Photography in Chicago. “Prioritize the family wedding photos you know you won’t be able to get as candids, like one with your brother or all of your aunts and uncles.” But remember that other pairings, like a shot of you and your favorite cousin, will be easy to get on the dance floor later, so leave it out. “I recommend about 20 combinations of people total, which covers all of the important groupings,” Wicks says. And don’t forget to actually include people’s first and last names!

Give Family a Heads-Up

Your family may expect to be included in pictures, but they won’t know where to go unless you tell them. “I ask all my couples to make an announcement at the rehearsal dinner, telling their family where and when family photos will take place,” says Wicks. “They’re much more likely to listen to the bride or groom than even the planner!” And remember—your planner and photographer don’t know what your family members look like, so telling them where to be will make gathering everyone infinitely easier the next day.

Take Intimate Groupings Early

Those one-on-one shots with your mom? Take them earlier on in the day—even before the ceremony, right after you’ve gotten dressed—so you don’t have to add them to the list later. “It’s important to get those individual shots, and it’s helpful to do them beforehand to keep family wedding photos moving along,” Wicks explains.

bride and mom

Photo: Michelle Lea Photographie

Time it Well

“I try to convince my clients to do family wedding photos immediately after the ceremony, whether that’s at the ceremony location or once everyone has arrived at the reception,” says Wicks. This way you’ll be able to get the pictures done without having to hunt down anyone during cocktail hour.

Start Big

Getting dozens of people to listen when there are drinks and hors d’oeuvres a few steps away can be tough, so get those huge groupings done quickly. Start with your entire extended family, then slowly release people. Let your second cousins go, then your aunts and uncles and cousins, then finally your grandparents—leaving you with your immediate family at the very end. “As you get those big shots out of the way, it gets quieter and more relaxed,” says Wicks. “Deal with the stressful part quickly!”

Encourage Your Photographer to be Bossy

This is the one time of day when you want your photographer to be seen and heard, so let them know if your family needs instruction or extra wrangling. “Family wedding photos are when I let my personality show,” Wicks says. “I might tease someone if they aren’t paying attention, or talk a little louder to make sure everyone can hear me. I’m respectful of course, but you’ve got to be bossy, too.”

Stay Calm

Being surrounded by so many loved ones can be overwhelming and stressful. Embrace your inner yogi, because the more calm and focused you are, the faster it will go. “Take a deep breath and stay present. You’ll look your best when you’re relaxed and happy!” Wicks says. And if you need a break, tell your photographer! Step aside for a moment, relax your cheeks (all that smiling can make your face sore!), and then step back into the picture feeling refreshed. “Your photographer is on your team to create something beautiful, so use him or her to your advantage,” says Wicks.