Should a Sibling's Long-Term Boyfriend or Girlfriend Be in Your Family's Wedding Photos?

Should the lack of a marriage certificate dictate who gets to say "Cheese!"?

Photo: Charlotte Jenks Lewis

Family wedding photos can be a tricky portion of the day to navigate, especially if you're dealing with divorced parents or half-siblings you barely know. But when that's the case, a diplomatic wedding planner or photographer will be able to keep everyone on track. A more complicated problem? Deciding whether or not a non-married or -engaged sibling's significant other should be in the snapshots—ultimately, it's entirely up to you to make a decision, and it's a situation that can easily cause hurt feelings if not handled properly. Should you be a stickler and make whether or not they've said "I do" be the deciding factor? After all, no one wants every group photo to be tarnished by the presence of a person who's no longer part of the family, but if they do tie the knot down the line, you've left them out for no reason.

Tricky, right? To help you navigate this dilemma, ask yourself the following questions.

How well do you know them?

If your sister has been with her boyfriend for 10 years and he attends every family function, would you exclude him from the photos because they're not married? What if they had children together? Would you ask your sister and the kids to pose but not him? Then think about this: If your sister just got engaged after a brief romance, you'd include her fiancé in the shoot even if you've only met him twice and don't remember his last name. Don't base your decision on someone's title—boyfriend, fiancé—but rather on how much they're part of the family.

Do they consider themselves married?

Some couples have a fully committed relationship—even referring to each other as husband and wife—but prefer to keep the government out of it and never marry. If that's the case with any twosome in your family, they will likely be hurt if you decide to banish the non-legal "spouse" from photos.

Does taking photos with them and taking some without them sound viable?

Group shots are actually pretty flexible and the cast of characters ever-changing, so adding and subtracting people shouldn't be a big deal for a professional photographer. Say you want a photo of your siblings: First, your photographer will take a shot of just the siblings, then take a shot of the siblings with their spouses, fiancés, fiancées, and non-engaged partners.

Should you consider including dates?

Your concern should only be long-term relationships. Casual dates shouldn't be in family photos, and we're certain that they—and your siblings—would agree.

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