How to have all the family photos you want without upsetting the relatives

June 2019

How to get around family politics and keep everyone smiling

When I speak with couples about the family group photographs they would like, I am often witness to them trying to sort out family politics. This can cause stress and discomfort and that’s the last thing you want thinking about your wedding day. I have come up with a few diplomatic ways to keep everyone happy.

Typical scenarios you think might
upset your relatives

Scenario: One set of parents are divorced

The parents of the bride (or groom) are divorced and do not like to talk to each other. However, the bride would like a photo with both mum and dad in one photo. How do I make this happen?

Solution: The photographer is an outsider and people rarely pick a fight with an authority / stranger in a formal situation. In 200+ weddings, I have come across this situation on many occasions and it never caused a problem.

Here’s what I do: I do not make a fuss about the situation. It’s a matter of fact. I simply call them out when it’s their turn to stand for the photo. They do not know that I know about them not wanting to talk to each other. I would place the couple in the middle and mum and dad either side of them, so they do not have to stand together and look like they are still a couple. In the next photo, I would include potential new partners and add them to the respective person. So dad can stand with new partner, mum can stand with her new partner, and both couples are on either side of the bride and groom.

Do you want a photo with just the bride (or groom) and both parents, even though they are divorced?
Usually mum and dad are totally happy to have a photo with their child alone. It’s not a photo that they would display in their home, showing their ex-partner, however, it’s a photo that either the bride or groom would really like. Once they stand with the bride and groom (either side), I then simply remove the bride or groom and I am left with the desired combination.

Scenario: You don't want to include a certain person as you fear they would be angry or upset

Family politics - what if you do not want a photo with certain people, such as the partner of your younger brother who has only dated his girlfriend for 2 months?

The solution: Diplomacy is key. I would call out the brother and take a photo of him and the bride and groom. I would then make out like I have “forgotten” the girlfriend and ask her to stand in the picture after I have taken the desired photo. Everyone is happy, and you don’t have to do anything with the image after the wedding. Win win!

Scenario: You really like one set of close relatives, but not the other

What if you like aunty Betty and uncle Bot , but you don’t like aunty Sylvia and uncle Kevin?

Solution: I would take a photo of the bride and groom and Betty and Bob, and then say “Oh gosh, I’ve forgotten Sylvia and Kevin.” So the “blame” is with me and not the bride and groom. They had their formal photo taken, you don’t have to do anything with the photo after the wedding.

Scenario: Your relatives insist on a huge number of group photos

What if you have been influenced by relatives and your group photo list is way too long? (way too long means more than 10 group combinations!)

If your list is too long and you are getting influenced by relatives and they insist on these groups, you can show them the timings for the day. You can explain that each group photo takes approximately 5 minutes and if you had 20 photos, this would take up 100 minutes - meaning 1 hour 40 minutes - for group photography alone! I have only photographed a small handful of receptions that allowed for that amount of time.

A small number of group photographs (average 6) can be taken in approximately 20 minutes and you can spend another bit of time on the romantic photos of you - the bride and groom - and then join the party again.

Related: Check out the standard group photos at weddings
Think about your wedding album: The thing to think about is your wedding album, or the prints you want to put on your wall. There is no right or wrong about having a wedding album, but if you want an album, the price of your album is influenced by the number of images in the album. For example, if you have a wedding album with 100 photos in it, and you had 20 family group photos taken on your wedding day, you’d feel obliged including them into the album. That would mean that 20% of your wedding album photos would be formal family groups. If that’s your thing, that’s absolutely OK, but if you’d rather haven an album full with fun images of the things that happened on your wedding day, you don’t need to oblige to other people’s group photo requests. Think about how many formal family photos you would ideally want in your wedding album and then stick to that number.

Scenario: You really cannot be bothered about family group photos at all but fear to upset the parents

Problem: What if you only want two formal photos with both sets of parents and you are worried all the other relatives are cheesed off that they did not get included?

Solution: The simple solution to this problem is to have one large photo of everyone after the ceremony. Everyone was important for a formal photograph and everyone is included and no-one has to hang around for the family group photos.

Tell your photographer

The important thing is not to stress about it. Let your photographer know the situation that can cause tension and together you can work out a way of avoiding anyone feeling left out. The more your photographer knows about a potential issue, the better they can plan for avoiding a "situation".

Find out how long you should plan for group photographs - a lot more detail!!How much time should I plan for my wedding reception?What are the standard family photographs at a wedding?

Who is Nadin Dunnigan - Family & Secret Proposal Photographer in Edinburgh

Hey, I am Nadin! (same as "Nadine" - just without the "e"). I am a photographer in Edinburgh, Scotland, specialising in secret engagement proposals in Edinburgh, Scotland and further afield. After 17 years of photographing weddings in Scotland and internationally, my business has changed during the pandemic.

Proposals are so much fun to be part of. I get so excited every single time I see the couple walking to their favourite spot and the most romantic question is imminent!

My blog posts about weddings in Scotland are based on experience and aim to help you plan your dream wedding.

Nadin Dunnigan Photographer