What are the standard family group photographs at a wedding?

February 2018

Related article: Find out how long you should plan for group photographs?

Every wedding I have photographed had an element of formal family group photography. Almost every bride and groom ask me about the "standard list" of family 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 family group 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 home.
  • 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 have a great photograph with you - the bride and groom.
  • 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 a wonderful day, 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 lovely 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?

Is there a standard set of group photographs?

Some say yes, some say no, I say - what you want is the right thing to do! There are no laws, but if you ask your parents, they will quickly come up with a lengthy list of photographs they would "expect" to be taken. The best thing is to discuss together, without anyone present, which groups are absolutely necessary for you, the couple.

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. 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 family group photographs are standard at weddings?

The following list is the standard group photo 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.
  • Download a free PDF template you can fill in and give to your photographer - it also has room to add your own group combinations.

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

Couples often give me a list of the above combination, but split into several different groups (see below). I tend to 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 easily take 20 minutes and you can 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 think that maybe family members want photos with just them in it, they are most likely very happy with a big family photograph of everyone. So they don't have to display several photos, but can have a big family photo.

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 15-20 minutes.

Family group, family group photographs
Family group
Bride and groom with the bridal party, family group photographs
Bride and groom with the bridal party
Bride on her own with the bridesmaids and flower girls photograph, family group photographs
The bride and all her bridesmaids and flower girls - formal or not?

What about a group photograph of everyone?

Plan at least 20 minutes to get everyone to the same location, family group photographs
Plan at least 20 minutes to get everyone to the same location.

It's great to have one big photograph of all your wedding guests together. 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.

Find out how long you should plan for group photographs - a lot more detail!!

How much time should I plan for my wedding reception?

How to have the family photos you want without upsetting the relatives

Download a free template for family group photos for your wedding

Who is Nadin Dunnigan - Family & Secret Proposal Photographer in Edinburgh

Hey, I am Nadin! (same as "Nadine" - just without the "e"). I am a photographer in Edinburgh, Scotland, specialising in secret engagement proposals in Edinburgh, Scotland and further afield. After 17 years of photographing weddings in Scotland and internationally, my business has changed during the pandemic.

Proposals are so much fun to be part of. I get so excited every single time I see the couple walking to their favourite spot and the most romantic question is imminent!

My blog posts about weddings in Scotland are based on experience and aim to help you plan your dream wedding.

Nadin Dunnigan Photographer