We have really grown to love when couples choose to do a private first look together before the ceremony. Not only is it sweet and meaningful, it also opens up possibilities for you when it comes to your wedding day.
One of those benefits is that you can complete all of your family pictures prior to the wedding mass. After photographing more than 100 weddings, we’ve found doing family pictures before mass creates the most seamless wedding day experience.
1. Consider your experience as a couple
On a practical level, family pictures are the most formal, and therefore the “hardest” part of the day for the couple. While we are able to help you playfully interact with your spouse and wedding party during other moments of the day to make the photo process fun and engaging, family pictures is one of those times when you need to stand still and smile straight to the camera. That can feel draining after 30-45 minutes of family combinations changing in and out. In addition, family members often get distracted in conversations with your other relative guests or they wander off when they’re supposed to be taking pictures which can put stress on you as a couple.
This is why we believe that you should do family pictures before mass. Get the stressful and hard moments out of the way. Then your mind can be fully focused on the sacrament and the celebrations!
After your mass ends, there will be a rush of excitement! You did it! You are officially married! The priest introduces you and husband and wife. You give your new spouse a sweet and giggly kiss. You walk down the aisle with loved ones cheering for you all all sides. It’s the climax of the wedding day story! You are full of energy. Your wedding party is full of energy. And we want you to keep feeling the excitement through the remaining part of the day!! Put that energy towards photos taking pictures with your new spouse and with your wedding party members. This way you will not feel a dip in your natural excitement.
2. Constraints from your church
Ask the priest about any timing considerations or constraints that they have for your wedding mass. There may be other events that are going to be taking place after your wedding mass, for example: confession, another mass, rehearsal for another wedding, a parish event, etc. You and your guests may need to be out of the church by a certain time. The problem is that 99% of wedding masses run longer than an hour. They typically run 75 minutes. Depending on what time your parish sets their wedding masses, you may be facing a major time constraint of only 15 minutes to complete all of your family formals. This is not enough time and will only add stress into the day for you and your families.
Case Study: If the church says the Saturday wedding mass will be at 2:00 p.m., it is likely to finish close to 3:15 p.m. The parish asks you and your guests to leave by 3:30 p.m. You’ll either be feeling rushed to get everyone back up to the front and squeeze in family photos into that 15 minutes, or you will have to sacrifice your desired list of photos to meet that time constraint.
3. Receiving lines or grand ceremony exits
If you plan to greet your guests after mass, either in a formal line or by doing a grand exit on the church steps, it can feel overwhelming to wrangle your family members back for photos afterwards. Receiving lines in particular always take longer than you expect and can run upwards of 45 minutes themselves if conversations run long with guests as you greet them. The most time efficient method of receiving lines that we’ve seen is for the newlyweds to dismiss the guests pew by pew. This allows you to greet guests personally yet briefly with a hello and a hug, while minimizing long conversations since guests will feel the social pressure to keep the dismissal process moving.
4. Use remaining daylight for outdoor pictures
As the fall and winter months roll around, the sun sets earlier and earlier in the second half of the year. It may be dark as early as 4:00 p.m. Because of this, you may only have a limited amount of time to do outdoor portraits following your wedding mass. We recommend reserving 45 minutes for family pictures, 15-30 minutes for travel to another location, 45 minutes for wedding party pictures, and 60 minutes for the newlyweds. In the cooler months, it is also notoriously cloudy which causes daylight to disappear 30 minutes before the scheduled sunset. By doing family pictures in advance, you ensure that there will be enough daylight remaining to complete all of your outdoor portraits. Or even have time to make a stop with your wedding party at a bar en route to the reception!
5. Kid considerations
It can be a challenge for kids to focus on family photos after a long mass. We’ve seen many kids fall asleep or have too much pent up energy that makes it hard for them to concentrate and cooperate with family pictures. If you’re including nieces, nephews, flower girl, or ring bearer in your family photos, it is worth taking this into consideration or simply adjusting your family’s expectations for them after mass.
So, what should I do instead if my heart is set on an aisle reveal?
We always support our couples whether they decide to do an aisle reveal or a first look!! If you have your heart set on an aisle reveal, the following ideas will help make it possible and more enjoyable to do family pictures after mass.
- Ask your parish if your wedding mass can be moved up 30-60 minutes. This will give you a good buffer for family pictures.
- Skip a receiving line. Greet guests at the reception.
- Adjust the scope of your family picture list to only your absolute must have photos combinations.
- Skip extended family pictures of aunts, uncles, cousins.
- Opt for family pictures to take place outdoors instead of inside the church (this is a greater risk since weather is such an unknown factor, but may still be an option)
- Take informal family pictures before mass with just your immediate family. (Eg. Bride + mom, Bride + dad, Bride + siblings). Then prioritize just the family combinations that include the two of you for after mass. (Couple + Bride’s parents, Couple + Bride’s parents and siblings)
- Choose your photo locations with the wedding party and as newlyweds to be en route to your reception. This ensure that you won’t be rushed once family pictures end.
- Talk about other creative ideas with your photographer
We hope you found this helpful! What other questions do you have about planning a wedding day? Let us know in the comments below 🙂