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tips and advice

Formal Family Photos on Your Wedding Day: A Guide

March 24, 2023

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 Wedding RO PHOTO guide
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Amour house Lake forest family portrait

Family photos are some of the most important images we capture for our couples on the wedding day, and often become preserved heirlooms that are cherished for generations to come. Because we value them so highly, we believe planning them out is incredibly important, and have some advice that will make them go more smoothly once your day comes. 

Tip 1:

First and foremost, talk about the expectations for family photos with your partner and both sets of parents to make sure you are all on the same page. Allow your parents to see the list you’ve made, and if possible, ask them if they feel anything is missing. It is much easier to pre-plan for a photo they want and add it to a list than it is to try and fit it in to an already solidified and packed timeline on the day-of, so taking the time to go over your list with them and set realistic expectations for what can be covered within the allotted time can go far in making the day run much smoother for you, and will go a long way in making sure your parents and new in-laws feel included. Trust us, we all understand that family dynamics can be complicated, and the last thing we want to see on your wedding day is ruffled feathers over something as simple as a photo. Planning out the groupings in advance will help everyone stay on the same page.

the Langham hotel chicago family wedding portrait

Tip 2:

Second, please make sure the list is customized to your family’s unique needs, and that your photography team is aware of any considerations that need to be made. For example, are there any divorced parents that would prefer not to be photographed together? Do you have elderly grandparents that are not able to stand or move around who will need mobility help or a chair? We want to make the family photo process easy and comfortable for everyone, and knowing these things ahead of time is very helpful.  You’ll also want to plan ahead to accommodate small children and pets, if you’ll be including them in your photos. Planning accordingly will ensure a smooth process for everyone, and get you the most beautiful results.

Tip 3:

Lastly, consider the location. If you are doing family photos indoors, it is highly likely we will need to budget additional time to set up professional lighting equipment. Outdoor locations might require a small walk. We love natural light when planning for any photos, but even natural light can come with challenges – for example, we don’t want you and your family looking directly into the sun and squinting, and prefer to find areas that are softly back or side lit, or in open shade for the most flattering natural light. Churches and some venues may have tight time constraints that will only allow you to be in the space for a limited length of time post-ceremony, so it’s important to budget your time wisely and map out a shot list in advance that will ensure you’ll get the best possible images in environment, lighting, and time desired.

Want a peek into the exact lists we encourage our couples to use as the building blocks of their family shot lists? Here you go!

Traditional Family Photo List: When all the photos are happening immediately after the ceremony, we use the following list, and have couples work with their family to edit it in a way that reflects their unique families, budgeting around 1-2 minutes per grouping, depending on the size of each grouping.

  • Bride & Groom with the Bride’s Immediate Family 
  • Bride & Groom with Bride’s Siblings 
  • Bride & Groom with Bride’s Parents 
  • Bride with her parents 
  • Bride with Mom
  • Bride with Dad
  • Bride & Groom with both sets of parents
  • Bride & Groom with Groom’s Immediate Family
  • Bride & Groom with Groom’s Siblings
  • Bride & Groom with Groom’s Parents 
  • Groom with his parents 
  • Groom with his Mom 
  • Groom with his Dad

Alternative Arrangement: When the couple opts to not do a first look, sometimes it is necessary to split photos up. In those cases, we often recommend having each side take care of their separate immediate family photos earlier in the day, and leaving the shorter, combined list for later: 

Grouping one: Bride’s Family Only – Before the Ceremony

  • Bride with her immediate family
  • Bride with her siblings 
  • Bride with her parents 
  • Bride with her mom 
  • Bride with her dad 

Grouping two: Groom’s Family Only – Before the Ceremony

  • Groom with his immediate family
  • Groom with his siblings 
  • Groom with his parents 
  • Groom with his mom 
  • Groom with his dad 

Post-Ceremony Photos together:

  • Bride and Groom with Bride’s immediate family
  • Bride and Groom with Bride’s parents 
  • Bride and Groom with both sets of parents (Bride’s and Groom’s)
  • Bride and Groom with Groom’s immediate family
  • Bride and Groom with Groom’s parents 

Did these tips and list come in helpful when planning your day? We hope so, and we would love it if you would share this post on social media and on Pinterest! Have a question or want to know how you can work with Rachael and her team for your wedding? Reach out to us via the Contact tab above, or send us an email directly to

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I'm Rachael and I'm so happy you're here. This blog a journal about our lives, travels, fashion, and style. Stay a while and say hello!

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