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Wedding Photography Tips For Amateur Photographers, Article 7 - Dealing With Divorced Parents

Christopher Maxwell

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Photographers: Dealing With Divorced Parents at the Wedding

I had a beginning photographer send me an e-mail with this question:

"I am photographing a wedding this month and will be dealing with divorced parents/step-parents. There is animosity between the divorced parents and the children involved. When doing the formal photos how do you deal with this type of situation. The bride says she only wants a picture of her and her mother. She does not want the mother in the formal family pictures. Suggestions???"

Divorces are tragic and heart-rending. A wedding is a celebration of two becoming one, and most weddings with a history of family divorce will be a bit more complicated than one without. Not only may the bride/groom have to deal with emotions and feelings that have perhaps been buried for years, but the divorcee's will have challenging emotions to also address:
  • perhaps the wedding will remind them of happier days
  • perhaps seeing a former spouse at the wedding will be difficult for them.

If you are going to be photographing your first wedding and will have divorced parents in attendance, my first bit of advice is to be sensitive. Don't make a bad situation worse!

Secondly: map out all the formal photos and groupings ahead of time.

This is the practical approach I take at a wedding that involves divorced parents:
  • I'm there for the bride and groom. The parents have made their decisions and have to live with them. If there are hard feelings and the bride/groom don't want photos with a certain relative, I'm not going to force them to.
  • On the other hand, if the bride/groom invite their parents (or the parents’ new spouses) to the wedding, I'll usually end up taking pictures of them because they are there.
  • I try to be as conciliatory as possible during the photos. As I alluded to earlier: I don't want to be the one making a bad situation worse. I want to be known as the person who tried to make the best of any situation!
  • It has been very common at the weddings I've done which involve divorced parents for the divorced parents to be willing to be in a combined photo with the couple, one parent on each side of the couple. Without fail, the parents will then ask for a separate photo with the couple and I'll usually do it because it is quick/easy.
  • It helps to know who the divorced parents are so that you don't accidentally ask them to stand together!

As to the specific situation you mentioned when the bride doesn't want the mother in the formal family photo - you'll have to work to make sure that happens without causing a situation. I would be careful to not announce “OK, all the Bride's family come up now" because the mother will likely come at that time. I would specifically call up those that are needed.

Depending upon how obvious you were being with the photography you could call up some, take the shot, then add the mother in and take another shot. The bride could then choose which photo she wanted to have printed later on.

In summary, the key is to know exactly who should be in which photo ahead of time and arrange the group photos so you are adding people to the grouping and taking shots, and then perhaps subtracting people and taking shots.

If you are about to photograph your first wedding and this article has been helpful for you, I encourage you to visit my web site which has additional Amateur Wedding Photography Tips My goal is to share practical advice and information that I have learned photographing weddings.

I also have a section on my site with Engagement Photography Tips


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