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5 tips to get the best Wedding day family photos

black and white wedding photograph of wedding couple and family having fun mel waite photography

There’s nothing worse than stiff, boring and uncomfortable family photos on your wedding day. It can be a stressful half hour – rushing in and out of the family photo line-up while trying to enjoy a drink with your guests, and feeling awkward as you try to keep that smile on photo after photo. 

Today, I’m here to talk about my five favourite ways to make wedding day family photos fun – as they should be! I want the whole process to be enjoyable, engaging, and (most importantly) I want you to have images you want to display on your wall, your parents wall, or show off in a snazzy new photo album! Family photos make the perfect gift to the parents. (Handy hint – it’s a great way to please the new in-laws at Christmas!).

1. Planning your wedding day family photos
A little bit of time spent planning goes a long way when it comes to family photos. I always suggest to couples that they sit down and write a list of the different family and friend groups they want posed photos with. It’s best to try and keep this list to around 10 groups – the perfect number to get through in half an hour. Why 30 minutes, you ask? That’s usually the time allowed in a wedding day schedule. It’s also usually the maximum amount of time you’ll want to spend doing them! However – it’s your wedding day! So, if your priority for the day is to get great family photos, go for an hour instead. Or if you’d prefer more candid and creative photos, just snap a few in 15 minutes. 

A handy hint here – choose someone from each side of the family to help wrangle people for the photos. We all have one family member who loves bossing people around – so let’s use those skills to our advantage! This way I can focus on capturing photos, and you two don’t need to keep running off to find people.

Finally, it’s best to warn your guests in advance that they will indeed be required to stick around for photos. This can be as easy as having your MC make an announcement on the day. Having a large board with a photo list so everyone knows what’s needed of them is also a great idea. 

2. Make sure there are plenty of drinks and snacks for your wedding day family photos 
No one is happier than when they’re well fed and watered! It’s a wedding, and there’s no better way to celebrate post-ceremony than with a glass of bubbly and some delicious canapes. Family photos are typically taken right after the wedding ceremony too, so best to keep your groups near the food! If you haul them away from the food and drinks, two things will happen. People will get grumpy and hangry (hungry + angry, it’s a real thing). And then they’ll wander off to get said food and drink, which means they’ll miss the photos or hold up the process.

If you’re wanting to take photos away from the main guests, have a chat to your caterers and see if they can bring a few treats down at regular intervals. Nothing makes people smile more in photos than the arrival of a platter of snacks!

3. Choose the best location to have your wedding day family photos
Spend some time checking out your wedding location. Chat to your venue host about their recommendations for family photos, and ask your photographer where they would recommend too. We’re experts at predicting the best light and backdrops for the day, whatever the weather. I’ll usually include this in my pre-wedding day chat with you, and give you a few options if it’s a location I already know, or talk you through picking the best spot. Handy hint – choose a large, wide open space close to the food! Shady spots are best, especially for hot summer days, and they also usually offer shelter from that classic Wellington wind.

4. Keep your wedding day family photos, quick relaxed and fun 
I believe it’s better to have relaxed, happy people that might not be perfectly posed than stiff, uncomfortable people who are in perfect formation! Let’s keep your wedding day family photos fun, smiley and casual. It’s best to power through the photos quickly so people don’t get restless, or melt under the summer sun. When it’s time for close family photos, I like to play a few games to relax and lighten the mood! One of my favourites – when I have parents and siblings all together, I will ask who the naughty kid was growing up, or who the goodie two-shoes was, and get everyone to point to them. It’s quick, fun and gets everyone laughing, every time! Other times I will ask everyone to pull their silliest face – you would be surprised, often it’s the grandparents that pull the best ones!  

5. Be prepared to be flexible and change things up during your wedding day family photos
Okay – this is probably the most important one after planning. I have shot over 300 weddings, so believe me when I say very rarely do weddings run on time or go 100% as planned. This particularly includes the family photos. Often things are already running a little late by the time family photos start. There is almost always at least one person who can’t be found, and one group you have forgotten to include, or your mum has just let you know she really wants to be captured. 

Just roll with it! There is no point in getting stressed or frustrated when things don’t go to plan. A good planner or photographer will have already built contingency time into the schedule to allow for things like this. Trust me again when I say the stress will show on your face in the photos – the last thing you want. Just relax,and enjoy your wedding day and family photos, whatever happens. 

Keep on scrolling to check out some of the fun family photos I have taken on some truly memorable wedding days. Don’t forget you can find out more about my wedding photography here, see what I have been up to here.