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Wedding Reception

What are the standard family group photographs at a wedding?

Published 4 Feb 2018

Every wedding I have photograph has an element of formal family group photography. Almost every bride and groom ask me about the "standard list" of photographs that is normally taken. Some people might think this is a very boring part of a wedding and why do we still do it?

Why formal photographs?

  • Your parents might want to have a formal photograph of you, the bride and groom, with them, so they can have a lovely photograph on display in their living room. 
  • The guests at your wedding may have travelled a long way to see you, and they will be looking their best. They invested in a special outfit and would love to see themselves looking fantastic in professional photographs.
  • Some relatives may have travelled from abroad, and they have fond memories of you visiting them during your childhood. Now they see you again, after a few years, and you have all grown up and they are part of your big day. They might want to have a lovely photograph with you to remember the day. 

A wedding is just a wonderful time, the first day of the start of your married life together, and the photographs provide a glimpse of all the effort that went into preparing for that big day. 

It's only fair to give your parents and closest relatives a wonderful photograph which they can be proud to remember the day by and also show their friends and relatives who could not be at the wedding.

If you look at your guest list, and you think - everyone is special, how can you decide who will be part of the formal family group photographs? Who to include and how do I go about not offending anyone?

Let's think about the end result and go from there: the wedding album

The ultimate aim after the wedding is to display your photographs in a stunning wedding album. Most of my clients have between 120 and 150 photographs in their album. Only about six to eight of those are formal family group photographs. So think about the ones that you couldn't be without (and I help you with these below) and then take it from there.

I always discuss with my clients, well before the wedding, which family members will be present and if there are any grandparents, or relatives that are very special to the bride & groom and need to be included in the family group photographs.

You might think that you really want a photograph for your auntie and uncle, with the two of you, but you might not necessarily want that to be part of your album. So that's one to put on the list.

Obviously, everyone at your wedding is very special to you, but if you have been a guest at a wedding and have witnessed the formal photographs going on for ages, then this will definitely help you organise your wedding day to be all about the party, and less about the formal photographs!

What group photographs are standard at weddings?

The following list is the standard list I provide to my clients. Most couples are totally happy with that list, but some might include a couple of additional photographs.

B&G stands for bride and groom, but obviously it can be Bride and Bride, or Groom and Groom too.

  • B&G + her parents
  • B&G + his parents
  • B&G + both parents, siblings & partners + kids
  • B&G + bridal party (bridesmaids, flower girls, best man, ushers, page boys)
  • Bride on her own + bridesmaids, flower girls
  • Groom on his own + best man, ushers, page boys
  • Any other group you might want to add yourself, such as grandparents, or special friends.

Why can I not have more combinations of the parents and siblings?

In the above list, there is one combination that says:

  • B&G plus both parents, siblings & partners + kids

If you think about your wedding album, and you want your closest family members in a formal photograph, I combine them all in this one photograph. I also save a lot of time by not splitting them out into different groups. This one combination covers all of them and the photo can be taken in a couple of minutes. The below list of arranging them in all the different combination can take around 10-15 minutes and you can easily see how the formal photographs can take over so much time during the wedding reception.

  • B&G plus her parents plus her siblings
  • B&G plus her parents plus her siblings and their partners and kids
  • B&G plus her siblings
  • B&G plus her siblings and their partners and kids

If you look at this list of photographs and think about your album, the formal photographs will likely to be grouped together in your wedding album. And these images will be very similar with almost the same people in them. Therefore, it's better to have one with all the people in one photograph rather than splitting them into different combinations.

How can I help my photographer with the formal photographs?

I can only speak for myself, but I like to be very organised for the weddings I photograph. I usually request the exact number of groups from my clients a few weeks before the wedding with the full name of each person in each group. This will make it much easier for me to find the people on the day. I will also have prepared this as a printed list and ask the ushers to help me gather all people required for group photos before I ask the bride and groom to join us, giving you more time with your family and friends, enjoying the wedding reception.

Provided I have everyone gathered ready to step in and out of different group combinations, I normally complete the formal photographs within 10-15 minutes.

The bride and all her bridesmaids and flower girls.

What about a group photograph of everyone?

Plan at least 20 minutes to get everyone to the same location.

It's lovely to have one big photograph of all your wedding guests. However, there are a few things to bear in mind. Depending on the number of your wedding guests, you need to plan a bit of time to have everyone assembled in one location. Ushering 80-100 people into one location can easily take 15-20 minutes. People might disappear to the restroom, or they may have gone to their room to freshen up. The best time for a group photograph of everyone is straight after the ceremony. If you want a photo of everyone, you could ask your celebrant to announce after the ceremony that everyone make their way to the agreed location. All the guests know that the couple has kindly requested a photograph of everyone. Another option for a group photo of everyone is just before the wedding breakfast.

Read about how much time you should plan for group photographsFind out how much time you should plan for your reception

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Who is Nadin Dunnigan

Nadin Dunnigan is a wedding photographer in Edinburgh, specialising in wedding photography in Edinburgh, Scotland, and internationally. With experience of photographing hundreds of weddings in Scotland, Germany, and Italy, you can rest assured that your wedding photographs will look stylish, and will look and remain elegant for years to come.

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