For future reference, here is our family's easy 12-step plan for guaranteeing that this becomes the most difficult task known to mankind:
- When the directions come for the tall people to stand in back, slowly make your way to the back while stopping to compare your height to each person you see. All of you tall people should talk over each other by asking lots of questions to no one in particular and not waiting to get a reply.
- If you're lucky enough to make it to the back row, thereby ensuring that you get to stand the longest, check to see if there is any sort of raised ledge in the vicinity (such a brick fireplace mantle in our case). Try to decide whether everyone should stand on the ledge or in front of it. If no agreement can be made, stand on it anyway.
- When the directions call for the wives to stand in front of their respective husbands, try to be funny by standing in front of other people's husbands. Shuffle back around to your correct husband, who then must balance all of his weight on you so as not to fall off of his ledge. If you are unmarried and only dating, question whether marriage into this family is right for you.
- Sprinkle into the front row all subsequent children and grandchildren, who are now required to stand still for an inordinate amount of time with nothing but a cluster of loud, lined up people to hold their attention. Make sure their parental supervision is stranded in their assigned wife-directly-in-front-of-husband locations, smashed in place and unable to even move a muscle. Also ensure that there is enough talking going on with your neighbors and those across the room that the children cannot hear their parents tell them to stop touching each other and to look at the camera.
- Wait in place for the late arrivals. Cheer and applaud as soon as you see them come down the stairs.
- Cheer complete strangers who just so happen to be staying in the same hotel and using the same stairs.
- Make sure that the poor sap who somehow got tricked into taking your photo (the front desk manager in this instance) cannot leave to attend to other business, such as checking in paying guests, until this ordeal has been completed.
- Just for fun, don't tell a few people in your party about the family photo taking place. Decide it would instead be nice to send a representative to knock on all of the hotel doors and locate them while everyone else nearly passes out from the heat and while the front desk manager ignores his patiently waiting customer.
- The time has now come for this magnificent photo to be taken. Be sure to give your volunteer photographer a camera that he or she has no idea how to use. Forget that this is your camera and watch as the photographer struggles in confusion. Eventually step out of place to show photographer how to operate the camera.
- Smile! Say cheese! Decide amongst yourselves if there is any word you'd rather substitute for cheese.
- The picture is taken and you think you're finished, but don't be fooled. One person announces they blinked and another person wasn't ready. Take a few more photos just to be safe.
- Once again you think you're finished so everyone begins to disperse. Don't fall for that one though because that's the oldest trick in the book. Seriously, why on earth would you only use one camera? Line back up and repeat steps 9 through 11 with an additional camera.
So if you're interested in having your own group pictures full of forced smiles, clenched teeth and happy, glorious memories, just follow our family's simple and effective 12 steps. I can assure you it will bring you the results you've always dreamed of.