In preparation for the new year I’ve been digging deep into my planning process and thinking about how to help my couples plan stress free weddings. The most obvious place to begin for me was the family portrait checklist! I could write a whole book on the things I wish I had known about coordinating family members for my own wedding. I’m going to skip the typical family shot list for this post and discuss the areas commonly overlooked. Here are my tips for the perfect family portrait checklist-

wedding family portrait with parents(Believe it or not this shot wasn’t actually planned. We ended up with extra time before the ceremony and had the chance to knock out mostly all of the family groupings, which saved time at the reception)


  1. Keep it simple. I can’t stress this enough. If you aren’t ever going to actually view the photo again, don’t do it just to say you did. I used to photograph tons of huge family groupings that took a lot of time and added a lot of stress to the couple. These days I often advise against it unless it’s a family tradition or maybe the only time many family members will all be together.
  2. Appoint a helper, or two. I always, always love it when couples assign an outgoing (loud) family member to help me call out names during family portraits. Instead of me saying “hey you in the yellow shirt,” they can call out “aunt sara please look over here.” It speeds things up tremendously.
  3. Communicate. Often times couples just expect family members to know where to be or what to do. This isn’t the case. Before the wedding it really helps to take some time to either call or email everyone and explain the pre and post ceremony plan. For example if you will include a recessional and you want all family members to exit the church, but swing back around for photos – make sure to tell them. Or if you want everyone to meet pre-ceremony for photos instead of just saying meet at 1:00, try adding in some extra details like – please meet us in the hotel lobby by the front desk at 1:00 sharp. Feel free to grab a drink at the bar if you arrive early.
  4. Location. Location. Try to think about different times in the day when family will already be together vs. trying to round everyone up. For example if you decide on a first look, it might be easy to take all of your family portraits before the ceremony. Typically, most of my couples decide to quickly photograph everyone right after the ceremony because everyone should be present at that time.

I hope these tips helped to redirect your thought process for family photos beyond the standard shot list. You should now be able to master your family planning. If you found this useful you might also like my post on authentic storytelling, to give you more ideas about incorporating family and special moments into your day.