I'm not going to lie, this can be hands down the most painful part of the day, which makes it all the more important to prepare in advance to make it run as smoothly as possible.
Trust me on this, I have been a part of a lot of weddings and I can tell you, there are THREE crucial things you need to do right now to avoid the pitfall of family photo madness.
1. Designate a Photo Wrangler
Please ask your loudest, bossiest friend or family member, ideally someone who knows both your family and your fiancé's family, to be your 'Photo Wrangler'. The photo wrangler CAN NOT be you, your fiancé, or your parents. This person needs to be comfortable being authoritative, won't be looking after kids and will take the job seriously. They will also need to have a printed copy of the family photo list on the wedding day. Talk to them up ahead of time and also the day before so it’s fresh on their mind.
2. Let your Photographer know about your Family Dynamics in advance
As a photographer, there is nothing more embarrassing then getting cussed out by one of your loved ones because we didn't know they were in the middle of a divorce when we were placing people next to each other for photos. Equally as embarrassing? Including someone in your family photos that you don't want in them! So please give your photographer a head's up if there are any family dynamics we need to be aware of. Natural smiles occur when people are happy so help us know of any situations we need to avoid beforehand to ensure this is a happy and peaceful moment for you and your family.
3. Prepare a List
These are the must-have photos that you don't want to wake up the next day and saying "Ahhh! How did we not get a shot with xyz?" On your wedding day the family photo list will be the only way for your photographer to ensure you walk away from your big day with all the formal family photos you want. I know it might be tempting to include photos with your cousins, or favorite aunt/uncle but I'd suggest to keeping this photo-op time to your immediate family and grandparents. If you want to keep the family photos to 30 minutes I'd recommend keeping the list to 10 photos or less. If others ask you, "Why don't we get a picture with x,y,z?" You'll be able to say, "We'll do it during the Reception! Our family photo time is short so we have to limit our group shots."
With that said, it's entirely up to you how you both want to spend your day, and as your photographer I am on board with you 100%. So if you prefer to spend more time taking family photos than couples' portraits, no worries at all! Let's rock those shots. Totally your decision. If, however, the couples' portraits are more important to you (which let's face it tends to be the ones you hang up around your own house) then let's try to maximize that time and follow the two steps above.
**BONUS TIP** Send multiple reminders to your family members of the time and place you'll be meeting for family photos after the wedding ceremony.
This last tip may seem self-explanatory, but you'd be surprised how many weddings I've been to where some of the wedding couple's family head off to the Cocktail Party because they didn't know they were supposed to stay at the wedding ceremony location for family photos. To ensure this doesn't happen to you I'd recommend sending a reminder 2 months out (when your family is deciding what to wear/buy for the wedding), 1 week out (as a reminder to pack the right clothes), the day before (at the rehearsal dinner would suffice) and if your wedding officiant agrees, right after the ceremony finishes. In your earlier reminders include any wardrobe requests and the time/location of the family photos. All of these reminders will help keep the stragglers to a minimum for the family photos after the wedding ceremony.