April 18, 2013

Wedding Advice: { Family Portraits on the Wedding Day }

Family portraits are a natural part of every wedding, some more prevalent than others. Being Asian, I can relate to the "importance" of family portraits at a wedding, to the extent where your parents may mandate that a picture is taken with every possible guest configuration. The list would potentially look something like this:

Jane + John + Jane's Parents
Jane + John + Jane's Parents + Jane's Grandparents
Jane + John + Jane's Parents + Jane's Grandparents + Uncle Tom and Aunt Sandy
Jane + John + Jane's Parents + Jane's Grandparents + Uncle Tom and Aunt Sandy + Uncle Willy

You get my point. The portrait list may end up to be several pages now, require 2 hours of your photographers' time to shoot, and 2 extra assistants to help corral people and keep things somewhat orderly.

For most weddings, it honestly is not realistic to have a formal portrait taken with every guest, unless your guest list is extremely small. I respect my clients' (and their families') requests, but it is also my responsibility to provide practical, realistic advice for them. Normally, at one of our status meetings closer to the wedding, we would discuss the family portraits amongst other things, to be sure we plan everything out ahead of time. I'd like to share some tips for planning out the portrait list for your wedding:

1. If possible, keep it to immediate family only. Once you add extended family members in, the list can quickly get out of control, and you may run into the "family politics" issue.

2. Bring your photographer into the discussion! Certain photographers actually have rules against long family portrait lists as they feel it limits their creativity and prevents them from shooting the actual wedding. Most will work with you on what is realistic though, given the venue, overall timeline, and logistics. 

3. Decide on the location with your photographer ahead of time. There are lots going on during the wedding day, so it's best to map out such details beforehand. If your wedding is outdoors, your photographer may want to scout out the best shaded area for family portraits. When scouting, it would be wise to go around the same time as when the portraits would actually take place on the wedding day, so he/she can understand sun direction and lighting.

4. If your family portrait list is short, and you are open to seeing one another before the ceremony, it's best to do the family portraits pre-ceremony, as that would allow you to join the festivities of the cocktail hour. Guests really loosen up and the energy is fantastic during that hour, so you probably wouldn't want to miss that!

5. Shooting the family portraits is actually the easy part. Counting on people to arrive on time, and corralling them is usually the more challenging task. Keep in mind if portraits are done after the ceremony, it's even harder to corral people as they get so busy mingling with other guests and are often eager to dash off to the cocktail hour. You should assign 1 family member from each side, who knows everyone on the list, to help with this task. 

6. Lastly, set realistic expectations. Everything can look good on paper, but how it actually executes on the wedding day may be a different story. If you are not working with a planner, be sure to work closely with your photographer to plan this portion of the day out carefully! 

We are not, by any means, discouraging family portraits on the wedding day. One of our favorite parts of the job is actually getting to see the families come together for the celebration! We just want to help our clients be realistic in every aspect of the planning, and the family portraits are just one small piece of the gigantic wedding puzzle we're piecing together. :)

Who says all family portraits need to be stiff and serious? | Photo by Gary Ashley

Photo by Gary Ashley

Photo by Lisa Lefkowitz

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