How To Create a Wedding Family Photo List

In the whirlwind of wedding planning, organizing your wedding family photo list is a crucial yet often overlooked task. Ensuring you have a well-prepared list can streamline the photography process on your big day, allowing you to capture all the special moments with your loved ones seamlessly.

In this blog post, I’ll walk you through the process of creating a wedding family photo list while offering valuable tips and insights along the way.

Let’s get started!

wedding day family photo by the ceremony arch

Family Photos During Cocktail Hour

The most common time to do wedding day family photos is after the ceremony (during cocktail hour). Odds are, your family is excited to enjoy some food and beverages during cocktail hour but it’s important to do this immediately after the ceremony ends because otherwise, it will be difficult to round up family members who are scattered around the venue.

Communication is key here. The natural tendency for your family members is to follow the rest of the guests to cocktail hour. Be sure to communicate with your family members (the ones who are on the photo list) beforehand so they know to stay near the ceremony space. It’s also very helpful to ask the officiant or DJ to announce it during the recessional as a reminder.

P.S. You don’t need to have a family photo location in mind. Unless you have a specific spot where you want pictures taken, your photographer will be able to identify a location with adequate lighting and a nice backdrop.

Pre-Ceremony Family Photos

Another scheduling option is to do them before the ceremony. This can be a little more tricky and will require more coordination but will allow you and your family members to enjoy much more of cocktail hour. For this option, you’ll want to do a first look with your partner since you’ll need to be together for the family pictures.

For more information on first-looks, I’ve created a helpful blog post covering everything you need to know about having a first-look wedding.

Communication is also essential for family portraits before the wedding ceremony. Let your family know to arrive at least an hour before the ceremony commences so there’s adequate time for all the portraits.

The tricky part is that if family members are running behind it may not be as smooth as if they were taken after the ceremony. Again, communication is key! If you anticipate your family members being late, ask them to come extra early so they arrive just on time.

wedding day family portrait in a Leesburg field

Creating Your Wedding Family Photo List

It’s important to note that every family is different. So, when putting together this list, keep in mind any family complications that could arise, and also communicate with your photographer so they are aware of any potential issues. For non-immediate family members and friends, your pictures with them can be taken anytime during the reception. This part of the day is reserved mainly for immediate family members.

Family members to consider adding if applicable/appropriate are parents, grandparents, siblings, siblings-in-law, nieces, nephews, and children. Also, for this list, adding the family member’s first name would be very helpful in making the process efficient e.g. B + G + Mom (Sarah) + Dad (John) + Siblings (Jim, Charlotte, Dylan).

It’s important for the bride and groom to be paired in each photo. This further emphasizes joint family connection while also allowing family members to enjoy cocktail hour sooner.

Lastly, to manage time effectively, it’s ideal to keep this list at no more than 15 pairings so there’s adequate time for the wedding party photos and couples’ portraits. Each pairing will take on average 1.5 – 2 minutes to coordinate, arrange, and photograph.

Bride’s (B) Example List:

  • B + G + Mom + Dad
  • B + G + Mom + Dad + Siblings
  • B + G + Mom + Dad + Siblings + Spouses + Kids (nieces/nephews)
  • B + G + Grandparents

Groom’s (G) Example List:

  • B + G + Mom + Dad
  • B + G + Mom + Dad + Siblings
  • B + G + Mom + Dad + Siblings + Spouses + Kids (nieces/nephews)
  • B + G + Siblings

Combined Family:

  • B + G + Mom and Dad (x2)
  • B + G + Mom and Dad (x2) + All siblings + All spouses + All kids (nieces/nephews)

Pro tip: Assign a family member who is organized and knows all the family members to round up people quickly (having a loud voice helps too).

Real Example

Kaleigh’s List:

  • Kaleigh + Jacob + Chuck (Dad) + Mary (Mom)
  • Kaleigh + Jacob + Chuck + Mary + Cammi (Sister) + Bailey (Sister)
  • Kaleigh + Jacob + Chuck + Mary + Cammi + Bailey + Curtis (Cammi’s fiancé)
  • Kaleigh + Jacob + Cammi + Bailey
  • Kaleigh + Jacob + Harriet (Grandmother)
  • Kaleigh + Jacob + Francis (Grandfather) + Martha (Aunt)

Jacob’s List:

  • Kaleigh + Jacob + Dan (Dad) + Tonette (Mom)
  • Kaleigh + Jacob + Dan + Tonette + Vona (Sister) + David (Brother)
  • Kaleigh + Jacob + Dan + Tonette + Vona + David + Nate (Brother-in-law) + Landon (Nephew) + Jordan (Nephew)
  • Kaleigh + Jacob + Vona + David
  • Kaleigh + Jacob + Landon + Jordan

Combined Family:

  • Kaleigh + Jacob + Chuck + Mary + Dan + Tonette
  • Kaleigh + Jacob + Chuck + Mary + Dan + Tonette + Cammi + Bailey + Vona + David
  • Kaleigh + Jacob + Chuck + Mary + Dan + Tonette + Cammi + Curtis + Bailey + Vona + David + Nate + Landon + Jordan
  • Kaleigh + Jacob + Chuck + Mary + Dan + Tonette + Harriet + Francis + Martha + Anthony + Shirley
wedding day famliy portrait in a field

“We have big families… why is it preferable to keep the list to no more than 15 pairs?”

For the family list, I generally suggest keeping around 15-18 pairings because each photo will take about 1.5 – 2 minutes to coordinate, arrange, and photograph. Keeping the family photo list a reasonable size will allow ample time to knock out the remaining formal portraits (typically the wedding party and couples photos) without going over the allotted time. I personally also factor in some buffer time in the event things run behind for any reason.

With that said, family is important and your photographer should happily take as many different photos as you’d like. Just keep in mind the time per photo and the remaining images to take afterward. People also tend to get a little grumpy if they wait around too long for their picture to be taken. “Are we done yet?” syndrome is a natural byproduct of an enlarged family photo list which can negatively impact the wedding experience.

“What about friends, cousins, kids, etc.?”

Just because someone is not an immediate family member doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have your picture taken with them. I’m all for getting formal photos with college friends, cousins, kids, and anyone else!

While these photos are just as important, they can definitely be taken later in the day. A great time for these shots is with whatever remaining cocktail hour time is left and even reception.

Table shots (when the bride and groom walk around to every table and take a group picture with each guest at the table) are one way to make sure everyone’s photo is taken at least once; however, table shots can be pretty time-consuming so you’ll want to speak with your coordinator to help pull this off.

A more efficient option would be for you and your partner to go to the middle of the dance floor (or any designed spot) and ask your guests to come to you for a group picture. The DJ can announce each table to walk up to you and have your “table shot” taken that way. This is a more efficient option since you can tremendously cut down on the amount of walking time between tables. For this to be done right, you’ll want to speak with your DJ and coordinator to help plan for this in the timeline.

“When is the family list due?”

I ask my couples to have this completed at least a month before the wedding date. This allows me time to review the list and follow up with any questions I may have. Additionally, I’m able to rearrange the list in a way that maximizes efficiency and cuts down on waiting time.

wedding day family photo

Family Is a Gift

Family is a vital part of all our lives. It’s important to honor them while also keeping in mind the flow and schedule of the wedding day. By having a schedule and list in order, you’ll be able to take timeless family portraits while also minimizing stress and maximizing fun on your wedding day.