A Guide to Organized Wedding Family Photos + Family Photo Shot List

May 18, 2021

Wedding Day Family Portraits have the potential to be a spark of unpleasantness and a kick-start to frustrations.

It shouldn’t be that way! So let me break down how family photos can go off track.

Setting the scene

Family photos happen right after the ceremony. You (and everyone else) have just had a massive rush of emotions and all the chemical overload that comes with it. Some are elated and giving hugs and talking excitedly with family they are so happy to see!

You, your groom and the bridal party are usually a little fatigued from standing and everyone is starting to get thirsty in the heat. The Bride’s family is starting their family groupings, but someone realizes Uncle George is missing. A runner is dispatched to get him. The photog skips that photo set and starts reorganizing the group. Transitioning groups is starts taking too long as people aren’t sure what do…and some missed their name being called.

Little nieces that started out so well are now looking to be out of here!

Some family members were pulled out of the photo set and then wandered off not knowing they were needed again in the next photo grouping.

It’s been 40 minutes and family photos is dragging down the timeline and turned into a bit of a mood killer.

Oh, and we still have full bridal party and bride and groom photos yet to do.

So with a little bit of chaos mixed with some fatigue, you have a recipe for frustration and bad attitudes to surface.

Does that sound like how you want to spend your first moments as wedded couple? Certainly not!

So here is what I can promise you. If you can follow my family photo planning tips…I can have family photos done in 15 minutes. Both sides. They will be done smoothly, efficiently and with a few light-hearted jokes.

Read on…

A happy family poses for a family photo after the wedding

Right After The Ceremony

I love seeing the hugs and tears that are flowing freely after the ceremony. Take time for a brief period after the ceremony to hug, chat and celebrate. These are beautiful, happy wedding moments so allow yourself to enjoy them! I don’t mean this point casually.

My planning tips are intended to reduce the number of wedding day decisions so that you are free to set those other cares and burdens to the side and fully embrace the day with your groom, family and friends together. The timeline, the family photos…they are all secondary to the wedding day joy.

Oh! One last thing! Use the time after the ceremony to open a drink cooler and allow everyone to hydrate.

The One Right Way to Prepare a Wedding Family Shot List

Prepare a shot list with FIRST names

Group names like ‘Bride’s Sister’s Family’ are helpful for organizing your family on paper, but your shot list is what we’ll be using to organize your photo groups that day. Nothing gets prompt action out of a group of people like using their names. And for wedding family photo times, it makes a big difference!

Example: Bride & Groom + Bride’s Sister’s Family (Jennifer, Michael, Sarah, Tim, Joseph and Rena)

A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language

Dale Carnegie

Dismiss family members when their photos are complete.

When your family members are pulled out of a photo set we tell them to stay close by for the next photo. Add a prompt to your shot list that dismisses family members when their photo portions are complete.

This has a double benefit of being efficient with your guest’s time and also keeps them nearby listening closely for when they are released to the reception.

Groupings should be organized from Large to Small

It’s easier to pull people out of a group than it is to add them in. When doing wedding family photo groupings, start with the largest combination and have subsequent photos get successively smaller.

Bride & Groom + Groom’s Parents + Groom’s Siblings + Grandparents + Aunt’s/Uncles

Bride & Groom + Groom’s Parents + Groom’s Siblings + Grandparents

Bride & Groom + Groom’s Parents + Groom’s Siblings

Bride & Groom + Groom’s Parents

This is getting complicated

Don’t worry! I’ve got some helpful tools and templates for you at the bottom. And honestly, a wedding family photo list will take you less than 30 minutes to put together. Keep on reading!

Getting Everyone Together

Get everybody to the family portrait location (no missing uncles!) If someone in your shot list is known to be especially chatty or the wandering type. Make sure they know how important it is to you that they are prompt for family photos on your wedding day.

When talking to groups of people, simple communication is good communication. Once you’ve made your family shot list you now have a list of people to communicate with. Use your list to deliver a simple message. “Immediately after the ceremony, please find the Bride and Groom and join us family photos. Please be prompt.”

Another option is to have the minister make an announcement to the seated guests right after the recessional.

And remember, you don’t have to tell them WHERE the family photos will occur. You usually aren’t going to know that until the day of the wedding anyway. Your family members just need to know that as long as they are WITH YOU after the ceremony then they are in the right place.

Group Shots That Matter

Decide What Combinations Are Important

Be intentional about your group shots. Take some time BEFORE the wedding and thoughtfully approach which group shots are important to you. Neglecting this in the planning stage, usually means a ton of group shots with ALL the family combinations. And while many of them will be cherished by your family, others will have been unnecessary.

A good test to know if a combination is important to you…is to ask yourself:

  • Will it go in a photo album?
  • Will it go on a wall?
  • Will it be shared on social media?

If none of those are the case, then maybe it’s ok to pass on that group photo.

Minor Variations

Sometimes I see shot lists that are essentially the same group photo, but with one person removed.

Neither of those photos are wrong! But after talking with my brides, the reason those minor variations are often in the family shot list is because they have a hard time deciding or they don’t want to offend someone by leaving them out. So they do both!

If that happens to you, I have a suggestion that I think will help!

After you get your essential family group shots, spend less time on large additional groupings (because large groups take more time!) and instead emphasize close connections!

Emphasize Close Connections

If there is a grandfather who is very dear to you. Consider doing a photo of just the two of you together. A large wedding family group photo (or multiple group photos) with Grandfather is not the same kind of photo as just the two of you.

Other special connections might be ‘All the sisters’ or ‘Three Generations’

If a lot of these appeal to you, or you want to do ‘all the cousins’…don’t forget that we can always get more photos of you and your family members later at the reception.

What not to worry about

It’s very common for family members ask to have a photo of just their family (without the Bride and Groom). And we happily oblige. I don’t recommend planning these groups into your shot list. We just work these in as we have time. Either during family photos (with my second photographer) or later on during the reception.

The Little Ones and the Grandparents

I can promise that my husband and I will be very attentive to the needs of your family. And that goes double for all the little ones and your elderly family members.

When building your family shot list, I encourage you to do the photo sets that have elderly family members and small children first. Prioritize their photo sets so they can break first and rejoin the reception.

If you have both, small children and elderly grandparents, the ones you dismiss first really depends. And I can’t guide you on this part. Consider for both the age of the little ones and the health of your elderly family members.

Tools That Will Help

If that all sounds like a lot. Don’t get overwhelmed.

I have some templates and tools that will help you in your family photo planning.

And even if plans go awry, my husband and I have shot weddings without any family shot list and still managed the event quite capably. You’re in good hands.


Six weeks before the wedding day I will email you a questionnaire that I will use to make sure that I’m aligned with your wedding day photo priorities. And we’ll go over any family situations that you want me to be aware of. When your guest list is close to finalized, that’s when you’ll work on putting together your family shot list.

Template for Wedding Day Family Photos

Linked below is a Google Doc that you can use as a template for building your own Family Portraits list. You can’t edit the document directly, but you can make a copy of your own and edit that directly in Google Docs.

Template for Wedding Family Photos

Example List of Wedding Day Family Portraits

All families are different and there is no ideal group list. I’ve started an example list below that will hopefully be a helpful foundation for you to expand or refine as you see fit. Remember, if it’s an important photo to you, then it’s important to me.

And even though the list below is 23 groupings, it is entirely possible to capture every one of these photo sets in under 15 minutes…with minimal chaos!

Bride’s Family

Bride & Groom + Bride’s Parents + Bride’s Siblings & Families + Grandparents + Aunt’s/Uncles

Bride & Groom + Bride’s Parents + Bride’s Siblings & Families + Grandparents

Bride & Groom + Bride’s Parents + Bride’s Siblings & Families

Bride & Groom + Bride’s Parents + Bride’s Siblings

Bride & Groom + Bride’s Parents

Bride & Groom + Bride’s Father

Bride & Groom + Bride’s Mother

Bride & Groom + Grandparents

Bride + Grandparents

Bride + Bride’s Mother + Bride’s Grandmother (Three Generations)

Bride + Individual Siblings

Both Families

Bride & Groom + Bride’s Parents + Groom’s Parents

Groom’s Family

Bride & Groom + Groom’s Parents + Groom’s Siblings & Families + Grandparents + Aunt’s/Uncles

Bride & Groom + Groom’s Parents + Groom’s Siblings & Families + Grandparents

Bride & Groom + Groom’s Parents + Groom’s Siblings & Families

Bride & Groom + Groom’s Parents + Groom’s Siblings

Bride & Groom + Groom’s Parents

Bride & Groom + Groom’s Father

Bride & Groom + Groom’s Mother

Bride & Groom + Grandparents

Groom + Grandparents

Groom + Groom’s Father + Groom’s Grandfather (Three Generations)

Groom + Individual Siblings

Anything else?

Actually, we do have a few more tricks for making wedding family photos go smoothly. But they aren’t for you to worry about.

Enjoy your wedding day. Live in the moment. We’ve got the rest.




Inquire Now

check our availbility —

Inquire Now

I book a limited number of weddings each year. It's not uncommon for spring and fall weekends to book up early. 
 If you're looking for a Wedding photographer in Lakeland, Tampa, or Sarasota please don't wait to secure your wedding date.

Inquire now
Check My availbilty 

Looking for a Lakeland Wedding Photographer?