Monday, March 25, 2013

The Experience: Wedding Family Portraits

Three days before our wedding, I sent out the following email:

Dear Wedding Party,

Here is some important info for making this THE BEST DAY EVER:

First, know where you are going. Here is the address to the wedding venue: 
6 Herndon Ave, Annapolis, MD 21403. 

Second, know who to call if you need help:
Courtney, the wedding coordinator, for wedding related events - 555-555-5555
Nancy, Anna's mom, for any other issues - 555-555-5555

Third, know where you need to be and when:
  • Wedding party (bridesmaids and groomsmen) need to arrive at the venue at 4:15 so that you are ready for pictures at 4:30
  • Family members need to arrive at the venue at 4:30 for pictures at 4:45
  • Ushers - please arrive by 5:00 to make sure you are down with the seating plans and are ready to seat any early arriving guests by 5:15.
  • Wedding party can wait in an upstairs room and take care of any last minute beauty needs from 5:30-6:00.
If you have any questions about who you are and when you are supposed to be somewhere, please let me know by the end of the day tomorrow. We cannot wait to see all of you!!!

Ben and Anna

I wasn't taking any chances on someone calling me on my wedding day, wondering what time they needed to be somewhere. That was the only day of my life that my phone has ever been separated from my person (let's talk about separation anxiety) and there would be nothing I could do to help if someone had tried to call me anyway. 

We opted to do all of our family portraits before our ceremony, which meant that if anyone was running late, there would be a delay and our ceremony might not start on time and probably be in the dark, since it was scheduled exactly for sunset. I should probably also note that all of the times I listed in that email were at least 15 minutes before I actually needed them to be there (and in my sister's, I made it a full hour, because we all know that she operates by a different clock than the rest of the world). It was important to my mom that we leave some time to get pictures of our families, and I didn't want to be missing my cocktail hour.

To your parents, your formal family pictures are probably the reason you hired a wedding photographer. These are the photos that live on in a frame on grandma's side table for years, a proud display of a beautiful family. And truth be told, it may be one of the only times in your adult life where your entire family is together for a picture and everyone looks their best (or tried to anyway). So maybe your parents aren't so crazy in wanting you set aside time on your wedding day to make these pictures happen. Here are some tips for making them run as smoothly as possible:

1. Timing // When you're planning your wedding timeline, it's a good idea to plan for family pictures to take place right before or right after the wedding ceremony. This is when most of the people who need to be IN the pictures are close by, and in a lot of cases, the ceremony setting provides a wonderful backdrop for the photos. If the bride and groom are open to seeing each other before the ceremony, taking pictures of families before the ceremony gives everyone more time at the cocktail hour to visit and party, however this is totally a personal preference. Otherwise, family pictures usually take place first thing after the ceremony, during the cocktail hour. Usually a half hour is enough time to capture all of the requested groups (yep, that means you - or your parents - get to pick who you want in your pictures), but if the groups are very large or there are more than ten groups to photograph, additional time should be allotted.

2. Choosing groups // At some point before you set up your timeline, it's a good idea to consult your immediate families to get a consensus on who needs to be in these formal photos. While you might not be too concerned with these photos, your mom or your groom's mom might want a say. But keep in mind, unless you want to be standing posed all night with a smile plastered on your face and your cheeks feeling the burn stronger by the second, the fewer the groups, the better. In most cases, there are probably only four or five essential groups per side of the family that need to be included. 

Bride's Parents
Bride's Siblings
Bride's Grandparents
Bride's Immediate Family + Grandparents
Groom's Parents
Groom's Siblings
Groom's Grandparents
Groom's Immediate Family + Grandparents

Of course, blended families can require an additional grouping or two or be more complicated (tell me about them…I know), and that is exactly the situation that may involve a little more time. In that case, it may also be beneficial to note who absolutely CANNOT be in a picture together to avoid any awkward or unpleasant situations. And, while it may be important to get a picture with just your sisters or a favorite aunt or family friend, those pictures can certainly be captured more candidly during the cocktail hour or reception - to give your smile a well-deserved break.

3. Rallying the troops // Aside from selecting the groups for photos, the biggest challenge is keeping everyone on deck which plays a major role in keeping the photos within the allotted amount of time. And when they go over the allotted amount of time, it can derail everything from the time the ceremony starts to how long we have for pictures of just the two of you. But it's so tempting for family members to go party when there's a cocktail hour happening…places to go and people to see. There are a few things we can do together to make this easier. First, let everyone who needs to be in these pictures know ahead of time when they will be taken, what time and where to meet. Assure them that they will have time to grab a cosmo or a scotch as soon as the photos are done. Second, knowing names makes it much easier to call groups, so providing the names of the people in the group with the list of groupings is super-de-dooper helpful. Third, I will try to make it as painless on everyone as possible by doing all of one side of the family in one fell swoop - so that when they are done, they can head over to the party. 

So there you have it…how to have quick, pain-free, and timely group portraits on your wedding day. Next week's tricky task simplified…planning your timeline.

PS. Yes, you may borrow my awesome email to send to your wedding party. Consider it a favor.

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