It's essential that you carve out enough time for these important snapshots.
jennifer tobias wedding bridesmaids on garden steps
Credit: Bottega53

Once you're ready to sit down and craft your wedding-day timeline, you should have a chat with your photographer about logistics. Of course, there's plenty to talk through in a general sense, but the formal family photos can be a big question mark for many couples. Is an hour too much time? Is 15 minutes far too little? You don't want to underestimate your time taking photos, as this is a part of the event that can fly by quickly. Here's everything you need to know about how long family portraits really take.

Create a shot list.

In order to take the guesswork out of timing, create a shot list for formal portraits. Do you want photos with each side of the family as a large group, or just in small groups? It's important to think through these details prior to the wedding so you're not stuck spending time coordinating the photos rather than simply posing for them. Once your shot list is finalized, share it with your photographer to get the most accurate time estimate.

Wedding planner Rebecca Marín Shepherd of The Wildflowers says, "The shot list will help your photographer be able to give you a more accurate time estimate for family portraits, since all photographers work differently and may or may not have assistant photographers."

Speed up the process by including names and relationships in your shot list.

In the moment, a shot list can serve as a document that speeds up the process. Shepherd says, "The shot list is great for your photographer because he or she can call out individual names, which helps speed up the process."

Allow yourself a window of time for flexibility.

While each shot list has different time requirements, Shepherd says, "If you're planning to have portraits of just close family after the ceremony, allow about 30 minutes. Once those photos are done, I always schedule 20 minutes of alone time for the couple before their reception announcement so they can relax, take it all in, eat a few appetizers, and enjoy some time together. It also serves as buffer time."

Consider a first look to speed up formal photos during your reception.

Shepherd says, "If you're stressed about not having enough time for family portraits post-ceremony, consider having a first look and completing all the portraits before the ceremony. That way, you have more time to enjoy the wedding reception." You can also split the formal shots so you have photos of the two of you as a couple pre-ceremony and family photos during cocktail hour.

Plan to assign a close friend of the family to round up guests.

If there's someone on your guest list who knows your whole family by face and name, ask if they wouldn't mind being around for formal photos. This way, if anyone is missing while you're taking group shots, this person can head into the crowd to track them down so that less time is wasted.

Be cautious about scheduling too many portraits.

Shepherd says, "Taking a lot of photos on your wedding day can be exhausting and take time away from spending time with the ones you love. Don't worry too much about not having enough time for portraits, and instead enjoy the real, fleeting moments. You can suggest your photographer take more candid photos throughout the night rather than focusing excess time on posed shots. Those are the most beautiful, anyway."


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