Taking formal wedding family photos can often be one of the most unorganized parts of your wedding day. The ceremony is over and your guests are ready to celebrate! Some will want to head straight for the bar. Others will need a bathroom break. And others may try to get into every single photo you take.

So how do you avoid utter mayhem during this part of your wedding day? All you need is an experienced photographer and a little bit of preparation. And I’ve got you covered there! 

Let’s talk about the family photos, and then I’ll give you some basic tips to help you prepare for your session.


What Are Wedding Family Photos?

They’re exactly what you’re thinking: formal portraits of you two (the bride and groom) with your families on your wedding day. 

These are the photos you probably grew up seeing from your parents’ and grandparents’ wedding days, and they’ll likely be the ones your family will look back on decades from now.

These photos are usually taken right after the ceremony during the first half of your cocktail hour.

Realistically, this is no one’s favorite part of the day… but it is a great opportunity to get some more formal photos with the people who mean the most to you. Especially since your family is all in the same place, dressed up, and happy! How often does that happen?


Who Is In The Family Photos?

Typically, it will be your immediate family and your new husband’s immediate family. Parents, siblings, and even your grandparents. You can add or subtract people based on your family dynamics and your guest list. 

Since you’re having a destination wedding, chances are your guest list is smaller than it would be if you had your wedding back home so this portion of the day should pass by pretty quickly.


Do You Need a Shot List for the Family Portrait Session?

To be honest, probably not… But it totally depends on your own taste, personality, and style.

If the family portraits are extremely important to you, and you prefer to be organized as possible, then you may want to write out a shot list. This will help make sure no one is forgotten. (But keep your list short and sweet!)

If you’re more laidback about formal wedding family photos, you can skip the list altogether. We’ll always organize some family portraits with the must-have shots (you know, to keep mom happy) so you don’t need to worry about a thing.

Note: You do not need a shot list for your entire wedding day. Your photographer will capture moments as they’re happening and will get all of the most important shots from the getting ready to the reception.


Creating a Shot List for your Wedding Family Photos

If you are the type of bride who prefers to be as organized as possible, then a shot list for your family portraits may help you feel more relaxed during this part of the day. But where do you even start? Depending on the size of your guest list, deciding who will be in your family portraits may seem like a daunting task.

There are a few questions you can ask yourself to make this process easier.

  • Which family groups are truly important to you, not simply expected?
  • Will you be disappointed if you leave out a certain family or group?
  • How much time are you willing to spend taking family photos?
  • What’s more important to you: posed family photos or romantic couple’s photos with you and your new husband?
  • Which photos will you frame or want to see in your wedding album?

This should help you decide who are the most important people that you simply cannot miss. Remember this is your wedding day so you get to decide who makes the cut.

Now keep this in mind:

You can have 50 different combinations with every aunt, uncle, and second cousin  – but you will spend all of your free time looking into a camera. You won’t actually be able to spend quality time with these people or even have conversations with them. You’ll lose out on time enjoying your wedding day.

Instead, I recommend a smaller, more selective list. Typically 5-10 group shots is ideal. I don’t recommend any more than 15. You should have a good balance between the time you spend taking family photos and the time you spend taking couple’s photos. Really, your main focus should be on fully enjoying your wedding day. 


Recruit Help from your Wedding Party

Your wedding party is there to help you. So let them help!

Recruit one or two of your bridesmaids – who really know your family well – to help direct people during your family session. You can give them a shot list with each group and they can work directly from the list. This way you can ensure that nobody gets missed.

Why is this better than giving the shot list directly to your photographer? Well, your photographer doesn’t know your family tree or understand your family dynamic. It’s harder to organize people when we don’t know who is who. 

Your bridesmaids can do a way better job rounding up each group and can work with the photographer to make this process as smooth as possible.


How Long Does it Take for Family Wedding Photos

At most beach weddings in Punta Cana, you’ll have about 15-20 minutes for your family portraits. However, if you have a bigger family or several different combinations of photos you’d like to take, then the session may take longer.

Let your photographer know what photos matter most to you as well as how many people will be involved and they can help you determine how long your family wedding photos should take.

Now let’s take a look at some simple tips to help you prepare for this part of the day.


Basic Tips for your Wedding Family Photos

When the time comes to take family portraits at your wedding, you’ll need to feel prepared. This helps keep the day running smoothly and will keep you and your groom calm and relaxed. Instead of grabbing each person you see to jump into a photo together, consider who are the closest family members that you’d like to have a formal photo with. But let’s remember a few key points:


Keep it Simple

You don’t need to take individual photos with every single guest you’ve invited to your wedding. Try to group families together and fit as many people into one photo as possible. I recommend having no more than 5-10 groupings. This way you can get your family photos done quickly to head to the reception to celebrate your new marriage!


Choose your VIPs

Parents, grandparents, siblings. Start there. If someone else is super special to you (like an aunt who raised you or something along those lines), then you may want to add them in the formal wedding family photos too.


Notify Your VIPs Ahead of Time

Before the wedding day, let your VIPs know that they should stick around after the ceremony to get these photos taken. This will help to keep things moving right along and will avoid them from wandering off, saving precious time.


What About Extended Family?

Your reception is a great time to grab photos with your extended family. The same goes for photos with your friends (if they’re not in your wedding party). This way, you can get more candid, funny, or natural photos without the same formal pose and background as in your family portraits. Plus, everyone’s loosened up after a couple of drinks anyway.

To be honest, couples rarely frame or include photos with their extended family in their wedding albums, so while you might think you need these photos, (or you’re receiving pressure from your parents to take these) it’s probably not necessary.

Decide what photos are really important to you. It is your wedding day, after all.


Avoid Splitting Up

Occasionally a couple will ask me about taking family photos separately, with their individual families first and then again with the bride and groom together. This is something I’d strongly advise against. You’ll take up a lot of extra time… And it’s your wedding day! You and your groom should be together as much as possible.

Plus, you’ll get more individualized photos during your getting-ready sessions. That’s the best time to get a one-on-one photo with mom, grandma, and your MOH. 


Remember: this day is all about you and your new husband (hooray!)

The more time you spend taking family photos, the less time you’ll have for your couple’s photos… And the less time you and your guests will have to enjoy the day. We want to get through family photos as quickly as possible so you can truly enjoy your wedding celebration.


How to Enjoy the Family Photo Session

We try to keep this session as relaxed as possible. The goal is to keep the atmosphere light, fun, and fast-paced. We want to keep things moving so you can get on with the celebrations.

Now I’ll admit:

It’s hard to stay totally relaxed when you’re standing frozen with the same smile plastered on your face. You’re basically taking the same photo over and over again, just switching out the characters. And chances are, you’ll be thinking about the reception and the next part of the day. After a few minutes, you’ll probably be ready to move on.

If you follow the tips I’ve listed above, then you should be able to enjoy your session to the fullest.


Keep This in Mind On Your Wedding Day

When you’re taking group and family photos, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. You’ll be surrounded by your closest family and friends, and everyone is so happy! You’ll want to take one “quick photo” with each person. I know it can be tempting. But fight the urge! 

One quick photo easily turns into a dozen. Or two dozen. Or more! And before you know it, your wedding planner is herding the group to the reception location for dinner, and you haven’t had the time to take the couple’s photos yet.

Stick to your list of VIPs. Take care of those photos first, and if you have any extra time leftover, you can always grab photos with your other guests. Then you know you’ve captured the photos that are most important to you. Anything after that is a bonus!

Remember you’ve set up a cocktail hour specifically for your guests to enjoy while you and your hubby take photos. So send your guests to the cocktail hour so they can get the party started. You’ll be there to celebrate with them soon enough.