Strategies for keeping the littlest bridal party members looking picture perfect

One question I often get as a wedding photographer is whether or not the bridal party should include a flower girl or ring bearer. My response is that it is always love having them, but it is a very personal decision. The most recent wedding I shot in DC this past weekend is a perfect example of both the good and not so good that can come with having little ones involved. But with the right strategies, it can be pretty much ALL good. As a photographer, I adore being able to get sweet touching shots of the little ones, like these that my 2nd shooter Janet took. Note that these were taken very early during the course of a very long day for a very well behaved 3-year-old. Early in the day they are far more likely to be on their best behavior as this little flower girl was.

They can even be the life of the party. Tending to be the ones with the fewest inhibitions and starting up the dance floor.

As a wedding photographer, I also see moments like these, when the bridal party is trying desperately to finish their formals in time so that they can stay on that all important schedule for the day, but the tykes are tired or making funny faces. If you have a good sense of humor, these moments can be quite funny, but more often than not, they are frustrating to all parties involved.

So here is my advice if you choose to include kids in your wedding party:
1) Try to make sure they are well rested. Just because you are going to the hair dresser at 5am doesn’t mean the flower girl should have to as well.
2) Keep them entertained. The bride for this wedding had a Dora the Explorer sticker book that kept the flower girl quiet during the whole ceremony.
3) Keep them well fed and hydrated. Often times, much to my dismay, the bride and groom will go the whole day until the reception without eating or drinking a single thing. Adding hunger and mild dehydration to a long and trying day for many little ones is just too much on them. Bring single serving size snacks that aren’t made of things like chocolate which are likely to end up on your dress or theirs. For drinks, bring bottled water or juice boxes filed with light colored things like lemonade or white grape juice.
4) Have someone as a designated care taker for them that day who preferably isn’t a member of the wedding party, so they can take care of them when the members of the bridal party are busy. Often at wedding sites there are all sorts of possible dangers like open water that can present a real danger to an unattended child.
5) Keep the photos with them to a minimum. While we all want to remember how adorable they looked that day, asking little ones to be in many photos is likely asking too much. Guests should be aware of this too.

Many children are camera shy. Others are quite the opposite, and feel the need to make funny faces in every photo. Having a formal shot with everyone looking forward and the back of the ring bearer’s head or the front of it with mouth agape and tears flowing down his face is not the best. So if you decide to include children under the age of 10 in the formal group photos here are a couple of tips to increase your odds of getting a usable shot. Often when the child is not cooperating, one or several of the people in the photo will be looking down at the child or pointing their finger at the camera. This is not helpful because if the child does choose to look up at the camera for a fleeting moment, all the members of the group will not be looking at the camera. Instead, just keep your focus on the camera, and let the photographer do their best to get the child’s attention. If you have a family member or friend who is not in the photo that the child likes, have them stand next to the photographer and let them try to get the child’s attention. If children are insisting on making funny faces in every photo, ask the photographer if you could do one funny face photo and then one normal one. This usually helps get it out of their system. Last but not least, if the children are not cooperating, don’t keep trying to push them into it. This will waste precious time, and usually gets you no where. Have them go with the care taker, and then let the photographer shoot a few shots of just the adults in the bridal party. That way you should have at least one shot of the bridal party where no one is crying or making funny faces, that is unless your groomsmen or bridesmaids decide to start acting like children.

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