Let me start by saying I don’t mean this blog to be ‘preachy’. I’m not trying to tell you what you should do with your wedding group shots, but rather give you some suggestions about how you could approach this part of your wedding day.  After taking my fair share of them over the last few years, I feel I have a few pointers to help you get the best out of them and make them go smoothly. At the end of the day, it is your wedding day and however you want to do them or however many group shots you want is completely up to you…….but please don’t ask me to do a full wedding party group shot in the shape of a heart 🙂

With the above out the way, I shall begin 🙂
It may surprise you to know that group shots (or family formals as they may be referred too) are often a debated part of the wedding day by us photographers. Many wedding photographers hate doing formals, some actually refuse to do them all together, some love doing this part of the day and others crack on with them with a smile on their faces waiting to get to the end. For me, I tend to lie between the last two. They are not my favourite part of the day and I’m usually a little happier once they are done, but by no means do I dislike them. In fact, I think they are essential to have, and one day they will be treasured far more than you can imagine.

Stylised Wedding Group Shots
If you look over my blogs of previous weddings, you will notice that not many group shots appear online. It isn’t that I don’t take them on the day, as I do, but it’s only really the more ‘creative’ ones that I tend to post in blogs. The reason for this is that this kind of shot is meaningful for the bride & groom involved and that’s it really. My blogs are obviously designed to show potential couples what they can expect from me in terms of moments captured, and the creativity I have to offer. A standard line up style group shot doesn’t really offer them anything in that sense, so I don’t post them. I do, however, believe it offers the couple involved in the shot something massive.

Family formal wedding photographs

I see them as a list, in picture form, of your absolute nearest and dearest and a reminder of those loved ones that shared your wedding day with you. A quick snapshot in time, almost a reference image, of those you love (and who loves you) standing by your side on the most important day of your life. It’s sad to say that as the years pass, some of the people in those pictures won’t be around anymore and so this makes them important to have. You could argue that the documentary or candid images of the day serve the same purpose, however, as trends pass in wedding photography, the standard group shot has remained the same and because of that, you can compare them to your parents or even grandparents pictures. In essence, group shots are timeless.

Full wedding party group shot

To sum up the wedding day for me, the portraits are the pictures you hang on your wall and hopefully have the ‘wow’ factor. The candid images are the pictures that you can laugh and cry over as they help you relive the day over and over again. The group shots are the snap shots of your loved ones that mean the world to you. I think all three elements compliment each other and all three are needed to produce a full set of awesome wedding images.

My Advice for planning your Wedding group shots

1. Decide what kind of group shots you want
You will see a few different types of group shots of mine scattered across this post. Some are standard line ups, some are more natural with regards to people laughing/smiling and some are obviously stylised. Your basic line ups are usually the quickest and simplest to achieve on a tight schedule. I would probably advise that a mix of those and the more natural groups shots are best. The stylised pictures look cool but these take the longest to achieve, so bear that in mind if you like the look of them for your wedding. Usually if a bride and groom wants a stylised group shot, I do it just for the bridal party and groomsmen shots and we do them a little later on, and even then I like to get standard line up group shots of them too.

2. Have a good think about how many groups you want to include
Each group shot can take up to five minutes to organise, which doesn’t sound too long. However, If you have a list as long as your arm, then it means you and your guests will be waiting around for ages whilst you could be drinking and mingling. Plus, how long can you keep a smile going before it looks forced? I recommend keeping them down to something like this

a. Bride & Groom with Bride’s Immediate family
b. Bride & Groom with Groom’s Immediate family
c. Bride & Groom with both sets of parents
d. Bride with Bridesmaids
e. Groom with Groomsman
f. Big group shot of everyone (if the space allows)

For me, that’s a nice short list covering the main players of the day. At a push, you could squeeze in a Bride/Groom with best friends if they aren’t covered under the bridal party.

3. Have a bridesmaid or groomsman on hand to help gather
Remember that us photographers won’t necessarily know all your family members, so having a groomsman or bridesmaid on hand who can pin point people will be invaluable. Even if the photographer does know who is who, having someone that can run around and grab people ready for their image, whilst the photographer concentrates on the people before, will make the whole process go much quicker.

4. Give us enough time & stay happy
Sounds a bit strange but remember that these images do take a little time to organise and building enough time in to your schedule to achieve them all will keep the stress levels low.

5. Try and make your photographer aware of any family politics or key departed family members before the wedding.
If Dad hates Mum and can’t stand being around her anymore, let the photographer know and they can make sure they either do two separate shots or they put Mum on one side of you and Dad on the other. You would think on your wedding day that family would behave, but let’s not take that chance. Similarly, if a key family member is no longer with us, let the photographer know. Again, we don’t always know who your immediate family are by this point of the day so if your photographer is shouting for Grandad and Grandad isn’t on this earth anymore, at best it can embarrassing for the photographer, at worst we could be upsetting to other family members.

6. Be flexible
Sometimes just as the group shots begin, kids don’t play ball and just won’t stand still or stop crying, uncle Dave has run off to change his clothes or your brother has gone to the bar to start the celebrations early. If this happens, let’s move on to the next shot and if we still can’t get them done after that, don’t panic, we can always grab them later in the day to do a picture. That goes for any extra shots you might think of later in the day. With myself, I always tell my couples that if they happen to be chatting to all their school friends for example, and they want a impromptu group shot, just ask. It’s your day and any photographer worth their salt will accommodate this.

Hopefully this will help you or at least give you something to think about when your planning your family formals. If you have any questions about wedding group shots or any other part of a wedding day, then please don’t hesitate to ask. If you’re looking for a wedding photographer, drop me a message and let’s have a chat.





  1. Great post Jonathan and excellent advice that your couples can prepare with. Love it! ❤

  2. Awesome advice, some of the flash group shots are hurting my head trying to figure out how you did them!

    1. Thank’s Chris. The more stylistic ones are lit individually and stitched together. Hope that helps 🙂

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