Planning Your Wedding Group Photos
Some people like wedding group photos. Other’s don’t. I think they are important to have, because it’s a rare occasion when you have all your loved ones in the same place. Many years from now in a moment of nostalgia you will probably want to print these exact photos and will be so glad to have them.
But equally it is important to get them right and to plan them in advance so that we can get through them swiftly on the day. The goal is to maximise your time for enjoyment and mingling with your guests.
The job of planning your wedding group photos is to a certain extent that of your photographer (me), but not entirely. I need your help for this part of the day because I need to know what group photos mean the most to you and who should be in them.
I'm lucky that all my couples who have followed this advice have had the quickest and least stressful group photos. I want you to be able to have the same stress-free experience.
How long should you allocate for your wedding group photos?
It takes approximately 5-8 minutes on average to assemble a group shot. Multiply that by the number of group shots and time eats away very quickly.
I suggest 30 minutes for approx 7 group photos for my weddings, because after this amount of time, you will be tired of posing for the camera and it will show in the photos.
The beautiful "Vanity Fair" inspired group shot you see above took 15 minutes to take because the arrangement and set up took time. I had discussed this and other portraits in detail with my couple beforehand, so we had already factored in extra time into their wedding schedule in order to get this photo which was important to them.
When and where is the best time to take wedding group photos?
This is something I discuss individually with my couples so that we can take the location of the wedding venues into consideration, as well as the size of your group shots and any timings already set for the day. Typically they happen after the ceremony & confetti and before the reception gets underway. I personally recommend to do them as soon as possible after the ceremony (and before your couple portraits) so that guests can then enjoy the festivities and mingling with one another.
Getting a group photo of all your guests straight after the confetti shot is perfect as they are all gathered together already. We can then either do the rest of the group photos in succession if the location/timing allows, but we can also move them elsewhere. I sometimes make a call on the day depending on the weather to see where we could get the best light and location.
How can we have stress-free group photos on our wedding day?
I won’t lie, group photos can be exhausting, especially if you leave it to the day to just spontaneously organise them. It just doesn’t work well that way.
Planning the group photos in advance is key in getting things to run smoothly on the day. About one-two weeks before your wedding I will get in touch to request your list of group photos (including the full names of each person included).
I won’t know all your family and guests and I want you to be able to relax and enjoy your wedding day as much as possible so please, please, please delegate the task of rounding up people for the group photos to 1-2 trusted friends and it will save you so much time and energy. This is particularly important if you are having a wedding with 100 guests or more.
The only stressful group photos I have encountered have been when couples have ignored this advice.
I also actively encourage you to have fun! These are your photos, you are allowed to be as serious or silly as you want.
What group photos should we have?
This is what I typically suggest to my couples if they don’t have a specific group list in mind:
- Bride & Groom (or Partner A & Partner B) with Bride’s side of family
- Bride & Groom (or Partner A & Partner B) with Groom’s side of family
- Bride & Groom with both families
- Bride & Groom with bridal party
- Bride (and Groom if desired) with closest friends
- Groom (and Bride if desired) with closest friends
- All guests
I still cannot guarantee the perfect group shot.
I do my absolute best but there have been occasions when I could not take a group shot of everyone at the wedding because of a lack of appropriate space to take the photo. The bigger a group shot gets, the more space becomes an issue. I need to consider weather, location, light, the number and safety of your guests amongst other things. There is also always the willingness of your guests to cooperate to take into consideration.
In honesty I don’t spend a huge amount of time arranging guests for the bigger group photos aside from some key things such as making sure that all guests can be seen. Your guests don’t want to be standing around waiting and people’s attention drifts the longer it takes to arrange a big group photo.
I need to take more photos for a larger group shot because inevitably someone starts talking, everyone blinks at some point and someone will get distracted and look in the wrong direction. Even then I cannot guarantee I can get the perfect shot because it’s a lot of information to take in through a small viewfinder.
We understand everything you’ve said, but we’d still really like more group photos…
Like all the advice I give, these are all recommendations based on my experience. Sometimes group photos go surprisingly quickly, especially if there is a group photo plan and someone to help gather people. Sometimes wedding guests also turn out to be posing ninjas and are super quick in getting in and out of the photos.
If you want more group photos than what I’ve recommended, then that’s absolutely fine, there are several things we can do:
- You can allocate more time in your schedule for group photos (with care to respect time required for other activities on your schedule such as food service)
- We can prioritise your group list so that if we do run out of time, we can stop knowing we’ve got the most important photos done. Then find a window later in the day to get through the rest.
I am always available for impromptu group photos later in the day so feel free to just grab me and ask. I’m there for you afterall.
Note: This advice is targeted specifically to my couples because this is how I work. If you already have another wedding photographer, please consult them for the best advice for you. Every photographer works slightly differently.
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