It’ll probably surprise you to know that even as a documentary wedding photographer, I think it’s important to get a few wedding group photos on the day! You don’t have to have many - in fact, I recommend you don’t - and you should keep them short and sweet. It’s part of my job to help with that process.
If you asked previous generations of your family what they thought about wedding group photos, their answer would probably be quite different to how you naturally feel about it; namely, posed group photos are all that people wanted from wedding photography a couple of generations ago, and now they’re usually all that people want to avoid. The reason that they were valued so much years and years ago is because generally, weddings are the only time that everyone in a family or friendship group is together in one place, and it’s lovely to immortalise that. It’s exactly the kind of irreplaceable memory us photographers are privileged to be able to capture for you. However, this doesn’t mean you have to have a group photo of and with every ‘group’ of people that’s at your big day – the more time you spend having group photos with the, the less time you’ll get actually having fun with them and enjoying their company. As if it was planned, this segues nicely into tip number one...
- Keep group photos to a minimum. They always take longer than you think they possibly could ever do – take it from someone with experience. I advise that you allow at least 5 minutes for each photo, so you can see how it quickly tots up. You’ve not invested all these months of hard work to stand still and take posed photo after posed photo – you’ve done it so that you can celebrate a lifetime of spontaneous, authentic memories by making a lifetime more. That’s the kind of candid photography I like to capture the most, and how we should spend the majority of the day.
- For this reason, only do the group photos that matter to you. Choose the groups that you really want a photo of – the photos that you really want to be placed proudly on a hallway wall or a mantlepiece - and stick to these.
- Make your family aware beforehand that there won’t be loads being taken. Whether you anticipate friction or not, giving them a headsup will avoid any confusion on the day. They’ll totally understand your reasoning – and if they don’t, they’ll get on with it anyway, because it’s what you want.
- Be as specific as you can in the list you send to me beforehand. I ask all my couples to send over a list of the wedding group photos that they want on the day, so that I can be prepared. I’m not just talking ‘groom’s family’ or ‘bridal party’ – I want names and their relationship to you (but not their national insurance number, they should keep that safe and sound).
- Nominate somone to help organise the group photos. Keeping it all organised saves you jaw-ache from smiling for so long, and saves you heartbreak from overrunning and missing out on the cocktails and canapes you prepaid for. That’s why I always suggest recruiting a couple of trustworthy people (or just people with a loud voice) to help organise thewedding group photos: it’s also an advantage if they recognise the majority of the guests, so maids of honour, groomsmen and siblings are usually perfect for this. Give these trusted organisers the list you sent me in advance so that they know who to looking out for and so they can be on top of who’s required next. Much like wedding planning, it’s also all about people management – as I’ve said, wedding group photos can take longer than expected, so they’ll need to make sure people know what they’re doing, and when, and that it’s imperative they stick around for it.And after that, you can breathe a sigh of relief and let the eating commence – or the dancing, the speeches, or whatever it is you have planned. Usually, your portraits session of the two of you will happen later, when I’ll whisk you away to go and explore and bathe you in golden light. I’ve got a guide for how that works here – see, I’ve got your back!