wedding tips & tricks | family photo shot list

Ianne & François with Ianne's Immediate Family, including spouses and children, at Miami Beach Botanical Gardens

Ianne & François with Ianne's Immediate Family, including spouses and children, at Miami Beach Botanical Gardens

Weddings can be complicated. When it comes time to put together your official family photo shot list, it can get even more complicated.

"Who should I include? Am I supposed to take photos with all my cousins? Will they be upset if I don't take a formal photo with them?  What about my father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate?"

If you're like me, you love to make others happy. You want everyone to feel good and loved when they're around you. The thought of making anyone feel unwanted or of hurting someone's feelings sends you into a downward spiral of despair and shame until you're rendered completely useless, sobbing on the floor and eating your weight in Butter Pecan gelato straight outta the carton.

That's what everyone does...right?

Okay, even if you're not an overthinking kook like me, you probably still want to do the right thing when it comes to putting this list together. Your wedding family photos will be treasured forever by everyone in your family, so you want to get this part right.

Well, never fear: I've got some great tips and tricks up my sleeve to make this part of the day go as smoothly as possible. Let's tackle this, step by step:


Traditionally, family photos are completed immediately after the ceremony, during cocktail hour. This puts us in a bit of a time restraint, especially if you must also take wedding party photos and couple's photos within this time frame. So, it's absolutely crucial to work out a list beforehand and to keep this list as short and sweet as possible.

Many couples may choose to do a first look and complete some or even all of these photos before the ceremony. This not only alleviates some post-ceremony stress, but will also give you the opportunity to either have a relaxed couple's photo session, spend time with your guests at the cocktail hour, or even sneak away for some much-needed quiet time with your other half before the reception. All good things.

Chat with your photographer well beforehand to decide what's best for you. For my clients, I recommend discussing this right at the time of booking, since this will determine the flow of the day and will have a bearing on what time your ceremony will be scheduled.

Kevin & Victoria with both sides of their family and wedding party at Little River Studios

Kevin & Victoria with both sides of their family and wedding party at Little River Studios


I always recommend limiting the formal family photo list to immediate family and grandparents only. If you have siblings that are married, you may want to include their spouses and children as well. I know you may feel  a lot of pressure to take a photo with every aunt, uncle, and cousin; but trust me on this. After years of experience, I've learned that long photo lists result in the following:

Trying to keep everyone together and tracking down anyone who's wandered off  is chaotic, stressful, and wastes time.Wrangling a crowd of 30+ people after the ceremony is crazy! Uncle Steve's in the bathroom because he didn't get the memo about taking photos, Great Aunt Eunice has made a beeline towards the bar, your new father-in-law's blood sugar is dropping and needs food, like, NOW, and your second cousin is bawling his head off (I mean, he's two. Give him a break).

You WILL get sick and tired of taking photos.Your face will literally ache from smiling. After the ceremony, you have a lot of shots to get thru besides family photos, and you don't want to tire yourselves out. You want to be feeling great when it comes time for photos of just you two so you have fantastic portraits.

It simply takes too long. Time is most definitely not on your side after the ceremony- the sun's going down, your tummy's rumbling, and you just want to get to the best part of the day - your party! In many cases, you may only have the cocktail hour to take family photos, wedding party photos, and photos of just the two of you. Including extended family into this small time frame and still having sufficient time for amazing portraits is not realistic. You want the best possible photos of you two, and that requires time and a relaxed state of mind.


Okay! I hear you! I agree that this is a great time to take big group photos since everyone is together and lookin' all fancy on your wedding day. You may even have family that have traveled very far to be there and you must have photos with them. No problem! I recommend putting together a separate list of extended family/friends that you want to include. Give a copy of this list to not just your photographer, but the DJ too. At an appropriate time during the reception, have the DJ call up these groups for a quick group photo. This gives your photographer the chance to quickly and easily capture large group photos - and since it's a more relaxed setting, it's much happier process for everyone!

You may want to take the extra step to reassure your extended family ahead of time that they will be scheduled for photos later in the evening- they'll feel much better knowing that you've made a special arrangement for them and that they are an important part of your wedding day.

DJ and Sarah with their college buddies on the dance floor!

DJ and Sarah with their college buddies on the dance floor!


Put together each group you'd like a shot with. When you create your list, be sure to include each person's name. When I can call up family members by name, it not only helps us move thru the list quickly, but it's a much more pleasant experience for everyone. An example would look like this:

Bride + Groom with The Smith Family: John, Mary, Sarah, and Mike

To make this process go off smoothly, be sure to inform your photographer of any special or sensitive family situations (divorces, deaths, etc). The very last thing your photographer wants to do is ask for a deceased loved one, or pose a set of divorced parents together that just can't get along. Chat with your photographer beforehand about what's best for you, and inform any family members of the plan, if necessary. This will ward off any awkward moments and keep your family smiling and happy.

You may have an elderly or disabled parent or grandparent that needs special attention during this time. Many find it difficult to stand, or may need to head over to the reception sooner than later. Let your photographer know about their situation, and put them at the top of the photo list. This way they won't have to wait a long time and will be comfortable for this process.

Once your list is complete, send it over to your photographer before the wedding day. This will give you both a chance to make any adjustments needed and will enable the photographer prepare their timeline. I personally like to go over the list a few times the night before to get acquainted with everyone's names and get a feel for the family dynamics.

In addition, inform all family members on this list to stick around after the ceremony or to meet at the designated time and place for photos. You may even consider having the officiant make a quick announcement to remind immediate (and extended, if applicable) family to stay behind after the ceremony for these photos to be taken.


Still not sure how to put all this together? No worries. I've got a sample list for you to review:

Bride's Side:

•  Bride + Mom •  Bride + Dad
•  Bride + Bride's Siblings
•  Bride + Bride's Parents
•  Bride + Groom + Bride's Parents
•  Bride + Groom + Bride's Siblings
•  Bride + Groom + Bride's Parents + Siblings
•  Bride + Groom + Bride's Parents + Siblings + Grandparents
•  Bride + Groom + Grandparents
•  Bride + Grandparents

Groom's Side:

•  Groom + Mom
•  Groom + Dad
•  Groom + Groom's Siblings
•  Groom + Groom's Parents
•  Bride + Groom + Groom's Parents
•  Bride + Groom + Groom's Siblings
•  Bride + Groom + Groom's Parents + Siblings
•  Bride + Groom +  Groom's Parents + Siblings + Grandparents
•  Bride + Groom + Grandparents
•  Groom + Grandparents

Both Sides:

•  Bride + Groom + Both sets of parents
•  Bride + Groom + All Siblings
•  Bride + Groom + All Immediate Family

Of course, you don't have to hit every shot on this list, nor do you have to stick only to these shots. This is just a basic example to help get the ball rolling.

Brandon & Yesenia with her brothers

Brandon & Yesenia with her brothers


Here's the takeaway from this longwinded and (possibly unnecessarily) comprehensive article:

Decide on whether you want to take your family photos before or after the ceremony. Pre-ceremony family photos would require scheduling a first look. Chat with your photographer as soon as possible to discuss and choose the best option for you.

Select who will be included in your family photo list. In the interest of time, convenience, and your peace of mind, it is strongly recommended to keep this group to immediate family and grandparents only.

Write down the list and send to your photographer well before the wedding day. Be sure to include everyone's names, each grouping you want captured (see example list above), and take into consideration any special situations in your family (deaths, divorce, etc) as well as any elderly or disabled ones that need special accommodation. Inform all family members on this list to stick around after the ceremony or to meet at the designated time and place for photos.

I hope this handy guide can help make this very important task easy and fun! Happy wedding planning!

-Love, Moriah