Your wedding pictures are so important. They're capturing your memories of the day. But, they can be really chaotic if you have a big group of people. And, they can take up a lot of your day. Here's some tips from a wedding planner's perspective to make the process go smoother.
1. Work with your photographer:
If you did your research and hired a strong wedding photographer, you're going to be in a great shape. They do this for a living. They work weddings all the time and have great tips to share with you. Listen to their advice and work with them to create your shots list and timeline. Ask them what they've found works the best. They might have a great system in place that will help make the process go smoothly. Ask how long they suggest scheduling for pictures for your size of a group.
2. Make a List and Prioritize:
Your photographer will have some great advice, but they can't decide on what group pictures you want. They might have a list that's a good starting point, but they don't know what relationships are special to you. Make a list of pictures you want. Start by listing the biggest group and narrow down to the smaller groups. If you want pictures with your extended family, start there then narrow down to parents, siblings and grandparents. Then just grandparents, or parents, or siblings. Decide what pictures are most important to you. Do you want your family pictures to take up the most time or do you want more pictures of you as a couple? If you're running late, what pictures could you live without?
3. Be Realistic About Timing and Schedule it in your Timeline:
Photography can take a long time, especially when you have a big group. It can be really hard to keep track of people, get the picture set up, and then finally take the shot. If you know you have a big group and there are lots of pictures that you want, plan time in your timeline. Be realistic. Two extended families of 20+ people can't finish their pictures in 15 minutes.
If you're traveling to different locations for pictures, plan enough time for people to get on and off the bus. Plan in bathroom breaks. Plan for travel time. I always suggest giving yourself a buffer in your timeline. Keeping your guests waiting or holding up dinner can cause the wedding day to go from fun to long and drawn out. Guests may want to leave earlier and may not stay to dance if you spend 2 hours in between the ceremony and reception on pictures while they snack on crackers and cheese.
4. Be Prepared with a Plan if your Timing is Thrown Off:
If you're running behind schedule, make a plan ahead of time. Knowing that you have a backup plan can help keep you calm. When you're putting together your schedule decide how many pictures you can do pre ceremony when the guests aren't waiting. If you're set against a first look, that's fine. But could you get your individual family pictures done?
If you schedule an hour for family pictures and portraits after the ceremony and you only get through one family in 40 minutes, decide what you want to do. Use the priority list that you made above. Would you be fine with having dinner served before you arrive? Or could you have guests seated and at least start on their salads? Could you run 10 minutes late to finish up family pictures and then sneak away for portraits after you eat quickly? Talk to your caterer and find out what happens if you're late. Will the food be sitting out too long and get cold? Make a plan that works for everyone.
5. Assign a Point Person for each Group:
Putting together a list of names for each group shot is wonderful. It's so helpful, but your photographer isn't going to know who the people on the list are. So, pick a person that knows everyone in that group and ask them if they'll take charge and organize the group for pictures. I suggest that your point person be someone in the big group picture, but who won't be in the smaller shots. Maybe a cousin on your dad's side, a cousin on your mom's side and your personal attendant for your wedding party. Ask them to make sure everyone is present when your photographer is ready for the shot. That way you're not running around trying to find people or your photographer isn't searching for someone they don't know.
6. Make your family a schedule and lay down the expectations:
Making your family aware of the wedding day schedule ahead of time can take the picture process from stressful to calm. Share your list of pictures with your parents and ask them to alert each cousin, uncle, and grandparent of the pictures. Then, pass out schedules at rehearsal and give them expectations on the wedding day. If you want them stay in a specific area after the ceremony, let them know. If you're okay with them grabbing a drink or running to the bathroom while they're waiting, give them a specific time to be back. The most time consuming part of group pictures is making sure the group is all present.
Your wedding pictures are a treasure for you to keep for years down the road. It's so important to make sure you get all the shots that you want, because you can't redo the day. Staying organized and making a plan help to keep you on schedule!