Because I want my clients to be as relaxed and stress-free as possible, I’m creating a series of bridal guides to feeling stress-free on your wedding day. In Part One, I shared tips on how to create fun, beautiful, and laid back getting ready photos.  In Part Two, I shared my thoughts about the first look. Part three is all about your friends, family, and the best part: your ‘I Do’s!

Family & Friends Portraits

While the majority of the wedding day coverage is focused on capturing emotion and unplanned moments, I realize that family photos can be just as important, and I take them very seriously.

As we get closer to your wedding date, we’ll chat and come up with a list of who you want at the photos, but I recommend limiting yourself to 10 groupings for family formals. I know it can sometimes be difficult to get your list down to 10 groups, but I’d encourage you to think ahead and save yourself time and stress later. Consider what arrangements are most important to you and make a list ahead of time. After all, family photos are often the most exhausting part of the day, and you don’t want to tire yourself out before you even get to the cocktail hour and reception! You can spend more time with them there anyway—and I’m always sure to get candid moments along the way at the party. 

Both Bridal Party and Family Photos Work Best Prior to the Ceremony

Corralling everyone during cocktail hour can often be difficult—whether you’re losing Grandma in the crowd of old friends or the best man to the open bar. You don’t want to spend that time stressing and chasing people down, so I’d recommend scheduling time before the ceremony, when everyone is already in place to prepare/decorate/get ready, for the bridal party and family portraits. With everyone all together, it’s so much quicker and less stressful.

Less is More

When it comes to group photos, having a clean, simple background is best. Even if you’re getting married in a gorgeous location with a stunning backdrop, I’d recommend doing family photos in front of a grove of trees or against a clean background. Trust me—we’ll have plenty of time to showcase your venue and to show off your beautiful choice in location, but it’s most important for family photos to have soft, even light and a clean backdrop.

Ceremony: Lighting is Key

This is the big moment, the whole point of the big day. But while it’s easy to get caught up in the location and views and disregard the lighting, you’ll want to take lighting into considering to make sure your photos turn out the way you want them too. There’s nothing worse from a wedding photography standpoint than spending hours planning the perfect outdoor ceremony overlooking the mountains, desert, or forest . . . only to have your ceremony pictures come back with harsh shadows streaming across your face and blinding sunlight making you squint in every shot!

Backlight or Shade

If you must have a midday ceremony, backlighting and shade is essential. This means setting up your ceremony so the sun is behind you, your fiancé, and your officiant—with your guests facing the sun. You could also find an epic tree to shade you or a building that keeps you out of the blinding daylight.

If your ceremony is in the afternoon or close to sunset, your guests should be facing west (toward the sunset). For morning ceremonies, your guests should be facing east (toward the sunrise). 

Sunset is Best

With few exceptions, I plan portrait sessions and bride and groom photos right before sunset, because the lighting is the most beautiful that time of day! It’s softer, golden, and straight up gorgeous.

That same light is just as important for your outdoor ceremony, which is why I recommend doing outdoor ceremonies about 2 hours prior to sunset, allowing time for bride and groom photos as well as potential delays or other timeline emergencies. Summer months can make this more challenging, but as long as the sun is on the way down, you are in a better situation.

Keep all these things in mind, and I guarantee you’ll be less stressed once the family photos and ceremony roll around!