So, you're counting down the days to your big "I do," and let's be honest—there's a million and one things on your to-do list. While you're ticking off flower arrangements and tasting cakes, there's one often overlooked detail that can make a world of difference: planning your wedding photos. I get it, it might not sound as exciting as choosing your first dance song, but hear me out. A well-thought-out photo list can be your saving grace on your wedding day.
Why? Because a planned list takes the guesswork out of your photos, letting you focus on soaking up every magical moment. No more last-minute scrambling to gather groups or missed shots with your fave people. You've got it all mapped out. And trust me, when you're wrapped up in the wedding whirlwind, you'll be so glad you took the time to plan ahead.
1. Write it Down: Your First Step to Wedding Photo Success
Wedding planning is a whirlwind, but trust me, you don't want your forever photos left to chance. Whether you're into pen and paper or live for spreadsheets like Google Sheets, the point is to write down your must-have shots. It keeps everyone on the same page and helps avoid those last-minute "Did we get a photo with Aunt Sally?" panics. So go ahead, jot down that dream list of photos—it's your first step to making those memories truly unforgettable.
2. Beyond Family: Include Your Tribes
Sure, family photos are a given at any wedding. But what about your college pals, your work buddies, or even your yoga class tribe? Your wedding is a celebration of all the relationships that make you, well, you. So don't limit your photo list to just family.
Adding other important groups to your photo list brings a fuller story to your wedding album. It's also a nod to the different chapters in your life. So go ahead and expand that list to include the co-workers who've seen you through tight deadlines and the friends who've been your support system. Trust me, you won't regret it when you're flipping through your wedding album years from now.
3. Delegate to a Close Relative: Take a Load Off and Make Someone’s Day
So you've got your initial list, but hey, you've also got a zillion other things to plan. Why not delegate this task to a trusted relative, like a mom or mother-in-law? It gives them a special role in your big day and crosses one thing off your to-do list.
Just one heads-up: make sure to give that list a final look to ensure it matches your vision. Think of it as curating your own art show—you wouldn’t let someone else pick all the pieces, right? Delegating doesn't just lighten your load; it's also a meaningful way to involve the people who love you in your wedding prep.
4. Appoint Family Wranglers: Because Herding Cats is a Real Thing
Let's be real: as your photographer, I don't know what your Uncle Bob or Cousin Sarah look like. That's where a 'Family Wrangler' comes in. Assign a go-to person from each side of the family to help gather people for group shots. This person should know the fam well enough to quickly grab Aunt Jane when it's her turn to shine.
It makes the photo-taking process speedy and ensures that no one—especially not you—has to stress about rounding up relatives when you could be enjoying your big day. Trust me, having a wrangler or two is like having backstage passes. Everything just runs more smoothly.
5. Give a Heads-Up: Be Photo-Ready and Keep Things Flowing
The key to smooth sailing on your wedding day? Prep your guests. A quick heads-up that they'll be in group photos not only helps them be photo-ready but also keeps everything moving smoothly.
For a unique twist, consider the numbering game one of my couples used. They assigned numbers to different groups for photos and called them out during the group photos. It made organizing photos a breeze and added a fun, anticipatory element to the day.
Another smart move? Have your officiant make a quick announcement at the end of the ceremony, asking family to stay behind for photos. It's an efficient way to round everyone up without causing a post-ceremony scramble.
6. Timing the Family Photos: Before vs. After the Ceremony
The timing of your family photos can set the pace for your entire day. If you opt for a "first look," taking family photos before the ceremony can be a major win. It means you get those formal shots out of the way early, giving you more freedom to enjoy your cocktail hour and reception. Plus, your makeup and outfits are fresh, ensuring everyone looks their best.
However, if you're a fan of tradition and want the first time your guests see you to be as you walk down the aisle, post-ceremony photos are the way to go. The advantage here is that everyone's already gathered, so you won't have to pull people away from their conversations—or their cocktails. Plus, the post-ceremony euphoria can add a special glow to your photos.
Either way, the choice ultimately boils down to your wedding day vision and how you want the day to flow.
The Basic Family Photo List Guide: A Great Starting Point
First off, let's be clear: every family is unique and beautiful in its own way. This is a starter guide to give you an idea, but feel free to mix it up to match your own awesome family dynamic!
- Couple + Parents
- Couple + Siblings
- Couple + Grandparents
- Couple + Extended Family (aunts, uncles, cousins)
- Couple + Parents & Siblings
- Couple + Grandparents, Parents, & Siblings
- Couple + Parents, Siblings, and Close Friends
- Couple + All Generations (grandparents, parents, siblings)
- Couple + Parents & Pets
- Couple + Siblings & Pets
Individual Family Units:
- Partner 1 + Their Side (parents, siblings, extended family)
- Partner 2 + Their Side (parents, siblings, extended family)
- Partner 1 + Their Friends (work, college, childhood)
- Partner 2 + Their Friends (work, college, childhood)
- Couple + Joint Friends
- Couple + Colleagues or Co-workers
Want to go deeper? I've got an even more comprehensive list in the Google Sheet I share with my clients. It's filled with ideas to help make sure we capture everyone who's special to you on your big day.
Remember, this list is just a foundation. Build on it, tweak it, make it your own. Because when it comes to family, there's no one-size-fits-all.
Why Planning Ahead is a Win-Win
Let's be real—weddings can be hectic. But with a well-planned photo list, you're setting yourself up for a smoother, stress-free day. Not only does it make sure everyone you love gets their moment in the spotlight, but it also helps keep things flowing. No more scrambling to find Uncle Bob or wondering if you got that pic with your college crew.
So go ahead, jot down those must-have shots. It's your wedding, and with a bit of prep, you can make sure it's captured just the way you dreamed.
If you found this guide helpful, you'll definitely want to check out my other blog post: "Beyond Family: Why Your Wedding Photos Should Include Friends" It dives deeper into the importance of capturing not just family, but all the important people in your life. Trust me, you won't want to miss it!