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Wedding Photography: Group Photographs

I think many wedding photographers would say that doing “the groups” is the part of the wedding that they look forward to least. I have learned to love working with groups, but they can certainly be a challenge. 

Even more, I think that many wedding guests groan inwardly at the thought of seemingly interminable sessions of photographs. It really is a pain if 45 minutes or more are taken up with group photographs – I don’t think it should ever take that long.

So much depends on how the bride and groom work to organise things in advance, and how the best man and bridesmaids work on the day. If the organisation is right and the vibe is good on the day, group photographs turn into a fun part of the event, and not a dreary hurdle to get over.

Friends’ Group from Gary and Sue’s wedding in South London

Are wedding group photographs important?

Large family group at my niece, Katie’s marriage to Luke

Young engaged couples often approach me as their wedding photographer and say that they don’t want any group photographs. “Can you just take people as they are?” And as a reportage wedding photographer, I love doing just that.

But over the long haul, you will regret not having those traditional group shots. This is THE way to make sure everyone is included. It provides a snapshot of your family at this important moment. These days, families are rarely all together in one place – it’s good to grab the chance of a proper record while you can. Sometimes, these shots become infinitely precious – I believe the photo here of my niece’s wedding is the last every taken which includes my sister and me together.

So how do you organise your wedding group photos?

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1 Keep it Simple

The first key is simplicity. It is worth thinking about the shots you really need. Some wedding group sessions take forever because there are just too many photos which almost entirely repeat each other. Think twice about doing lots of combinations of “bride and X” followed by “bride and groom and X” – those kind of combos have you, the bride and groom, popping in and out of shot all afternoon. The day is about you and your union in marriage; the vast majority of the photos should include both of you and you should be able to stay pretty much put through the shoot.

Two immediate families united – Tim and Rachael’s wedding in North Wales

2 Be inclusive

The main purpose of the group photographs is to record who is there with you and witnessing your wedding. So aim to include every guest in at least one group photo. The easy way to do that is to have one mega group shot, but there are other ways to arrange it too. Grouping friends by where you know them from is one way – at one Brighton wedding we had shouts of “Torquay” followed by “Kenya”. Love it!

Including everyone in at least one group photo helps reduce any boredom factor for the “less-involved” too.

Joe and Laura’s entire wedding group at St Giles’ Church, Ashtead, Surrey 

3 Minimise movements

There are a number of “must have” shots which come up in every wedding. It is worth taking time to work out the order so as to minimise the hassle of people coming in and out of shot (or of simply finding them!) Working your way down one side of the family and up the other makes sense:

B& G and Bride’s extended family
B & G and Bride’s immediate family
B & G and Bride’s parents
B & G and both sets of parents
B & G and Groom’s parents
B & G and Groom’s immediate family… etc.

Every family is different, of course, but there are always good and less good ways of ordering things!

Two sets of parents with Dave and Beth at their Sussex wedding

4 Have wet and dry locations in mind

As well as having a good idea of how to organise the groups, do have an idea of where the shots will be – and in wet or dry weather. It may be possible to invoke the “sunshine guarantee” for your couple’s portraits – but you aren’t going to get all these guests together again!

Thankfully, with modern cameras and lenses it is generally possible to get some great shots indoors. Group sizes will obviously depend on available space, but again, most wedding venues can be really helpful in pointing out good alternative spaces.

Rain was pouring outside Simon and Pippa’s wedding at St Paul’s, Shadwell, London – but the church interior was fine for their group photographs

Grim weather outside the hotel in Bexleyheath for Neil and Alison’s wedding – large rooms pressed into service for group shots

Same issue in April with showers and squally wind for Jonah and Charis at Salomon’s near Tunbridge Wells, Kent. The Gold Room – with fisheye lens in this case – allowed for very big groups in the warm, and dry

5 Look for appropriate props and have fun!

Group photographs don’t need to be static or boring. Sure, where large numbers of people are involved, choices may be limited by space and seeing every face, but with smaller groups it is possible to be fun, dynamic and creative. People don’t have to be stood in boring rows, nor do they have to be stood at all!

Mark and Naomi’s wedding at Ashtead (St George’s and Freemen’s School) gave us a few props which suited the wedding of a PE teacher

The family themselves may provide the life and dynamism
Sam and Ollie’s wedding in Wallington and Chipstead, Surrey

Group photographs with the smaller relatives can mean the bride and groom getting down low, as in this group at Sophia and Richard’s Coventry wedding.

6 Get someone to call and free the photographers to do their job

Organising your groups on paper before the wedding and organising them on the ground on the day are two very different things. As a wedding photographer, I always asked brides and grooms to find a person (or persons) to do the “calling” for them. This may be the best man, but doesn’t have to be.

The main thing is that as a couple you aren’t having to do it for yourselves, and that your photographer isn’t doing it either. Between camera settings and careful arrangement of the group, a wedding photographer has plenty on their plate. In addition, they know the fewest people at your wedding – your best man is likely to know at least a proportion, especially if he is a very long-term friend or even your brother.

Window light at a Bexleyheath wedding for bride, groom and her brother and his family.

7 Remember that not all the groups have to be shot during the "group photographs" session

It is easy to think that group shots are all going to be done during a formal “group photographs” session in a designated area of the wedding venue. But in fact, a lot of group work can be done at other stages of the day.

  • Bride and her parents, bride and her siblings, bride and brides maids – can all be done at the parental home before heading for the church. This is not always the most relaxed part of the day, so it doesn’t always come off, but making time for a few “goodbye old home” shots can be great.
  • Groom and groomsmen at the church or (with two photographers covering) as they dress and prepare for the day.
  • Informal groups can come together at various points throughout the reception. This can often give a very relaxed feel to these shots, giving a flavour of the day as well as of the people in them.

Clare with her uncle and bridesmaids before going into her Bromley Civic Centre Wedding

Ruth poses with her bridesmaids in her parents’ garden before heading for the church and her gorgeous rainbow theme wedding

Brad and his groomsmen before the wedding at Ardingly College Chapel, West Sussex

Catching the groom enjoying a pint with his dad at Matt and Kerry’s festival wedding

A group of guests caught almost as they were at Jamie and Liz’ Brockham, Surrey wedding

Chris and Sue wanted a group photograph with two particular friends, so it was back outside the Palm House, Sefton Park, for the shot 

Bride and groom and nieces – Jacob and Beth’s Isle of Wight wedding

Well into the party, and Scott and Jordan wanted a picture with their friends from the Hailsham snooker club

You could say that the group photographs are second only to the couple’s portraits in importance – it is worth getting them right!

A favourite – from James’ and Heidi’s amazing wedding – but that could be because of the presence of the wonderful Sally Phillips! 

To contact me to enquire about your wedding – including group photographs! -use my Contact Form or just text (07983 787889) or email me at

Photos © copyright Andrew King

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