Let me just start this post with a simple statement: I’ve seen it all.
Truly, there is no family situation that could shock me, throw me off guard or surprise me. And you know what? That’s a good thing!
Before their wedding day, I have my couples complete a fairly lengthy and very detailed questionnaire and on it is a question asking them to describe any sensitive or tricky situations that may come up on their wedding day (particularly during family formal portraits). I ask that they share with me if anyone has a disability that would affect how I interact with them, if anyone has a physical limitation (often the grandparents) or if there is any potential for hostility and drama.
Nope, actually it’s not scary at all. I want to know it… all of it! Knowing these things allows me to carefully navigate the rough seas of family dynamics on a wedding day.
Listen, every family has their thing. My husband’s parents are together and he has one brother but he only had one living grandparent at the time of our wedding and we wanted his grandfather’s girlfriend included in some photos but not all. My immediate family consists of my mom and step-dad - my only brother is deceased. I do however have all four of my grandparents - my mom’s parents and my bio-dad’s parents.
I don’t think any couple should ever feel self conscious or nervous about their family situation on their wedding day - but they should be honest and straightforward with their photographer! I know how hard it can be to admit to someone that your family has a unique dynamic or a combination of special circumstances and needs. I think couples are too quick to feel ashamed because they often feel like they may be judged on their family’s baggage.
But the thing is, we’re not here to judge. Your photographer is here to capture memories, document once-in-a-lifetime moments and make your family feel loved and cared for.
If you still don’t believe me, please know that I’ve worked with: countless families with divorced parents, grandparents in wheelchairs, deaf and blind family members, people of all different political beliefs, highly religious and conservative family members, general hostility between parties, children and adults with autism, family members battling terminal diseases, couples who have lost siblings or parents, families who have experienced a recent and painful loss of a loved one, parents who cannot stand to be in the same room, those dealing with psychological disorders, hostile family members, family members who identify as LGBTQIA, step and half siblings, family members with a criminal background, people with chromosomal disorders, family members with substance abuse disorders, and of course the, simply put, drama-creators.
It is hard enough to walk into a hectic, high stress situation where I don’t know anyone but it’s even harder to take command of that moment while making everyone feel comfortable and cared for. Brushing all of these secrets and needs under the rug isn’t helping anyone. Being honest with your photographer allows them to anticipate all of the potential negative interactions and cater to the special needs of your family and wedding party.
So, when your photographer asks - spill the beans. It allows them to serve you better on your big day.