Ick. Could there be a worse name for this? Family formals. It just sounds so, well, BORING. And that's the LAST thing family portraits on your wedding day should be! Think about it. You've gather all your loved ones from around the country if not the world to join with you as you marry. It's a day of celebration, happiness and excitement and your family is a HUGE part of that! Why then would you want a a stiff collection of family formals? Shouldn't your family portraits be ones filled with joy!?
But it's hard being in front of the camera. People often tend to stiff up. They are unsure of what to do and just look, well, awkward. And that really is not the best scenario for relaxed and natural images! Over the years though I've learned that are a few things you can do to ensure that your images are more like the kind you envision: joyful, happy, and fun!
1. Communicate. Simply put, tell your family it's ok to relax! Communicate with them the vibe and feeling you want to achieve in your family portraits. Make sure they know that they can let loose, have some fun, joke around, and just enjoy each others company! Your family members should feel free to be themselves in front of the camera. As your photographer it's my job to help people feel natural, but having the right attitude to start goes a long way in creating fun and memorable family portraits! This is especially important for the older family members. They are used to more posed and stiff photography so communicating with them beforehand will help them envision what to expect on the wedding day!
2. Organization. Stress can be a huge factor in how successful the wedding portrait time is. Part of what can make this time stressful is lack of organization. It can be hard trying to rally up 30 plus people for your family portraits. Being organized ahead of time can go a long way to ensure that you are stress free and that your family knows exactly where to be and when on the wedding day. I send out a questionnaire to all my couples as well as consult with them before the wedding day. This helps to start the organization process early and gives them the tools and information to communicate to their family. The less you have to think about, the less you have to worry about!
3. Relax. People are going to feed off your energy. If you're happy and relaxed, then most likely those around you will also be happy and relaxed. But if you're stressed, well, guess what, that will unfortunately translate to those around you as well. It's all in your attitude. Allow me to take care of gathering people together, organizing the groupings and directing people. It's your job to just ENJOY yourself and hug and kiss your family! If you do find that you're starting to get anxious then, take a deep breath, remember that you love your family and remember the purpose of the day: each other!
4. Numbers. Family formals take about 30 minutes. Because we've communicated before hand there are really no guessing games as to who will be in what groupings and generally people know where to be and when. I try to make the family portraits quick and fun so that everyone can get back to what they really want to do: PARTY! That being said, I always advise couples to be aware of the amount of combinations that they TRULY want. Organizing and gathering people does take time. Allowing people to relax takes time. The more people we have to photograph the more time it will take to do so. And that means the less time you have to enjoy the day! So as your planning out who you'd like photographed on your wedding day, remember to be realistic as to how much time you have and how many people you want in your portraits.
Below is a basic combination list that I start with all my couples. Of course every family dynamic is different so this list will often change. Couples can add or remove combinations from this list and we work together to create a family portrait list that fits their needs as well as their timeline!
Bride and Mom
Bride and Dad
Bride with Mom and Dad
Bride and Groom with Mom and Dad
Bride and Groom with Mom and Dad (add siblings)
Bride with Mom and Dad (add siblings)
Bride and Groom with Grandparents
Bride and Groom with both sets of parents
Bride and Groom with both sides of families
Groom with Mom
Groom with Dad
Groom with Mom and Dad
Groom and Bride with Mom and Dad
Groom and Bride with Mom and Dad (add siblings)
Groom and Bride with Grandparents
Groom with Mom and Dad (add siblings)
In all honesty, family portraits don't require a lot of creativity. But to me family portraits are not about being artistic and creative. It's about documenting family units. It's about documenting the bond that each family shares. It's about preserving family history. Being able to watch families have fun together and capturing that that in an image is what I love! Ultimately I want you to enjoy the time with your loved ones and to be able to remember them through your wedding day for years to come!