The importance of taking group shots on your wedding day

Group photos: Are they really that important and do we need them?

I love capturing your wedding photography. It’s such a pleasure to be able to be a small part of one of your best days and to share in your happiness.

Most of the couples I speak to about their wedding photography are clear about one thing: they don’t want to spend hours being lined up for formal group shots. They’ve all been to those weddings where the couple, along with their close friends and family, disappear for the whole of the drinks reception for photographs.
We’ve all been to weddings where we’ve been shuffled through seemingly endless group combinations. And you always, always see someone wander past with a tray of the best canapés while you’re standing in line with your camera smile on.

wedding photography group shots same sex wedding two brides

A candid, documentary wedding photography approach with a selection of informal groups thrown in for good measure

Most of my couples don’t want the stereotypical, traditional wedding photographer who takes a lot of formal shots. They typically want a mix of candid documentary photography with a few relaxed group shots thrown in for good measure. A group shot is more than a snapshot of your family members standing in a line; it is a visual legacy that will become a part of your family history. That also needs to be balanced with your enjoyment of your drinks reception. You don’t want to miss out on the fun!

wedding photography family group shot line up

Group shots at my parent’s wedding

I find the group shots from my parents’ wedding fascinating. There they are, looking baby-faced. My mum is wearing looks radiant in a floppy bridal hat. Dad looks like a cool dude in his flared suit and platform shoes. Both sets of grandparents are all there looking much, much younger than I ever remember them being; both of my grandmothers even accidentally turned up with matching handbags! Those pictures show me a world that’s familiar but completely alien at the same time. A world where I don’t exist yet.

Large family group wedding photography group shots

Don Draper – The Wheel

We’ve all seen that clip from Mad Men. You know the one – where Don Draper talks about nostalgia. No? Google ‘Don Draper The Wheel’ if you’re interested. Don Draper is pitching for a job and he talks about nostalgia:

“Nostalgia – it’s delicate, but potent. In Greek, “nostalgia” literally means “the pain from an old wound.” It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone…”

Even now, when I look at that group shot from my parent’s wedding, I feel nostalgic for a world I was never a part of. Your group shots are a dose of nostalgia, not only for you, but for every other person that comes after you and wonders what you and your family used to be like 10, 20 or even 50 years ago.

Big group shot wedding photography group shots

You could be drinking Champagne instead, of course

I am romanticising things a bit. I know group shots aren’t the most enjoyable part of your day. Especially not when there’s champagne to drink and your favourite people to chat to. Your group shots are important though. Every moment with loved is precious because they won’t always be around. Because of this, I’ll make sure your group shots are laid back and relaxed but, most importantly, that you can get back to enjoying your party as quickly as possible.

Colourful group shot at Barbican

A few tips for nailing stress-free wedding photography group shots

  • Keep the photo list short – with no more than 5-7 individual group combinations at the max. This will take 20 – 30 minutes and you can get back to enjoying your party!
  • If you’d like more group shots, that’s no problem. We just need to make sure it’s built into the timeline.
  • Nominate someone from each of your wedding parties to start gathering the people in your group shots as soon as the I Dos are done. With everyone in one place, I can fire through your groups pretty quickly.
  • Scheduling your group shots directly after the ceremony also means people haven’t had a chance to let the fizz go to their heads. Tipsy people and group shots can feel like herding cats!
  • Come and check this blog post where I talk about using different kinds of light to your advantage.

If you want creative wedding photography, with planning support at every step I’m here to help!

When planning your wedding, an important part of my service is working with you to make sure your timeline allows enough space for everything that’s happening on the day. With over 300 weddings under my belt, I’ve really honed my approach to making sure working with me is one of the easiest and most stress free parts of your wedding journey! If you’d like to chat about your wedding plans, get in touch here.

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  1. You state a very good case for group shots. I always find the hardest part is trying to remove distractions from the inevitable images. Thanks for reminding me why group shots are so important.


  2. I must admit, I usually hate group shots, but yours are Fab!

    I’ve seen dreadful ones though! Any tips on how to ask your photographer for the right thing? X

    1. I think that’s a matter of general style/skill, Charlotte. When people are looking for a photographer they should ask to see some whole weddings, so they can get an idea of overall style, rather than just the pictures the photographer chooses to present as part of their portfolio.

  3. You’ve hit the nail square on the head Laura. As a photographer and as a guest, group shots are not my favourite thing but they are so important. A wedding is such a rare opportunity to document a family together.

    I had some sad news this week, a close friend’s mum passed away. I’d only seen her in December at his wedding and whilst I was shocked, I was comforted to know that she’d seen both her daughter and son’s weddings before she died.

    Then I remembered his sister asked me to do a family group shot for her as they weren’t having any formals at the wedding. Being off duty and enjoying the champagne i said i’d pop upstairs in a bit and grab my camera. I forgot. And now there’s no family formal from the last wedding before she died. This is a shame.

    So yes, don’t have dozens, but have a few, they’re important.

  4. Laura you are so so right. It’s one of my biggest regrets from our wedding – the missed photos.
    I did have the one large group shot though, which is framed and on the wall. I love walking past it everyday and picking out a new detail.
    Would have been amazing though to have done one with all the evening guests aswell.
    I look forward to the day when I have a grandchild on my knee looking through them! Asking, who’s that?

  5. What a great post Babb! I’ve always thought I would skip group shots myself as they are boring for guests – they make me think of the line ups you get in the newspaper after a Royal Wedding with the numbers on them that tell you who’s who! You are absolutely right though – I’ve spent afternoons pouring over old family wedding photos with my Nan asking “who’s that” and laughing at peoples outfits and that’s something really special that we should be carrying on!

    1. They can be a bit dull for guests if they take ages but if you’re efficient you can steam through them and it’s so worth it in the end.

    1. Are you sureeeee you haven’t been drinking champagne at 9am? Honestly?! Glad you enjoyed it. I struggle with group shots loads because I, like most of us, find them hard work but it’s good to be reminded of why they matter I think.

      Thanks for pointing me at the Don Draper quote. It’s excellent.

  6. Really interesting and I agree, often overlooked..or, let’s say, less thought through. Having said that, we only had one group shot at our wedding: the ‘wedding party’, which was perfect for us = both families, bridesmaids, best man – one shot to share with all of these people. Isn’t it funny how, the more faces, the more fascinating the image? x

    1. It really is. Especially if you don’t recognise some of the faces. There are people in my parents’ wedding pictures that I don’t know. They were obviously important enough to my parents to invite them but they have never been a part of my life. I find that really interesting.


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