A wedding group outdoors with four men in blue suits and a bride in a white dress being playfully lifted by the group, all smiling joyfully under a large tree.


The wedding group pictures, or family formals, normally comes straight after the wedding ceremony in the cocktail hour, unless of course you choose to take your family portraits prior to the wedding ceremony during a first Look session.

(Please see my article about the First Look photos).

Wedding group photos are a key part of any wedding day, documenting who was at your wedding, and how everyone looked and felt.

Let’s face it, in everyday life we very rarely get a chance to dress up and party. Weddings are, maybe, the one chance we have to spend a bit of time and money on ourselves and purchase a beautiful outfit especially for the occasion.

This is your guest’s chance to do that and you’re going to get some gorgeous images of the people who love you both the most, and why wouldn’t you take the time to do that?

Assuming we are working on a traditional timeline, family formals normally take place during the cocktail hour. Most wedding venues give me, the photographer, about an hour to capture all the family groups as well as the bridal party whilst other guests mingle with their drinks and relax.

Now an hour might seem like quite a long time, but trust me when I say that actually an hour is quite short. When you consider that the people you need to photograph might well be at the bar or in the toilet a lot of time can be wasted looking for them, so here’s what you can do to make sure you get all the images you want.


If you are getting married in a church which is some distance from your wedding reception, then take into consideration the travel time for you and your guests as this will affect the amount of time you have for your family formal photos and when they can start.


Consider what sort of family you are as well as formal shoots, are you a family that would appreciate a fun shot, walking and talking shots or my stylised photos? This is definitely something to think about and something we can discuss at your pre-wedding meeting. By understanding your family better I will be able to tailor the photography session to meet the needs of everyone involved and get you the photos you want.


Consider situations; for example, if we are outside in summer and it’s one of those very rare occasions when it is very hot, you will need some extra water to keep everyone hydrated. These sorts of issues are solvable, but again something to think about prior to your wedding day.

Chairs can be a good idea for your family photos. They add variety to all your photos as everyone will be at different heights. Generally speaking you want on average half the amount of chairs as you do people e.g.so if you have 10 people in the photo you would need 5 chairs. This also solves the problem of elderly relatives who may need a chair due to difficulty standing.


As a photographer it can be really helpful to have a couple of named guests (ideally not members of the bridal party, but who know all the family and friends) who, during the family formals, can round up the guests ready for their photographs, because if there is one thing that is going to reduce the amount of photographs I can take it’s trying to round up absent guests.

Also, I like to request that you let me know some of the basic family information on relationships and if there is anything I need to know so I can help prevent any potentially awkward moments.

family portraits

5 Depending on your group size for each photo, a typical portrait will take on average around 5 minutes for a smaller group of between 5 and 10 people, and 10 minutes for large groups of 20 plus people.

6 One of the things I ask prior to the wedding is what family group shots you want me to take. Then a list can be drawn up for both me and your friend who is gathering guests ready for the next portrait.

Generally speaking I ask for 10 photo combinations and as you can see from the above timings, the bigger the groups the more time we need. If you decide on a large group shot that can take up to 10 mins to set up you could have two photographs with smaller groups in the same timeframe.

Combinations of photos will generally involve the pair of you, so please be aware that during this time you will be needed continuously for photographs, but I will try and make it as quick as I can.

Assuming that we have taken pictures of close family members prior to the wedding, the both of you individually, as well as the bridesmaids and groomsmen, then a typical list might be:

Bride and groom with the bride’s parents

Bride and groom plus bride’s mum, dad, siblings and grandparents

Bride and groom plus groom’s mum and dad

Bride and groom plus groom’s mum, dad, siblings and grandparents

Bride and groom plus both sets of parents

Bride and groom, both sets of parents, siblings and grandparents

Bride and groom with bridesmaids

Bride and groom with best man and groomsmen

Bride and groom with whole bridal party

7 If you would like a confetti shot this is usually best left until the reception venue and will also come in the cocktail hour. Churches do not usually let you throw confetti on the premises and ask you to wait until you are off their property which inevitably means the pavement which, let’s face it, is not the prettiest location for a photograph.

This photo can be beautiful, but it takes a bit of organising as we need to ensure that guests know there will be a confetti shot at the venue and to hold onto any confetti they have. Secondly, you will need to provide your guests with the confetti as not everyone brings it to weddings. I will organise your guests ready for the shot.

If we discover in our client consultation that you want more family photos, then that’s perfectly fine, we just need to adapt the timeline to accommodate your wishes.

A group shot requires about the same amount of organisation, usually with me finding a high vantage point to capture you and all your guests below. This is a nice photograph overall as it is an opportunity for everyone at your wedding to be included in a photograph.

The important thing, when considering your family formal photographs is what you value, are you and your partner family ordinated? If you are then your family formals may be a key part of your wedding day and we need to ensure we capture the images you want. If this is the case the timeline may well need to be altered. (Please see my Wedding Timeline

About Helen Chapman Photography

My philosophy:

“To provide excellence by placing YOU, Your dreams, Your wants, Your needs in the heart of everything I do”.

“To create beautifully, naturally, authentic, fun, romantic heirloom photography, that YOU are guaranteed to love and that will be cherished by future generations to come”.

“To provide YOU with a truly exceptional service through following my core beliefs of honesty, fairness, integrity, determination and creativity.”

I have been helping couples plan their weddings in the stunning natural landscape of the Devon countryside, rugged moorland of Dartmoor and spectacular seascape of the coastline of Devon, Somerset, and Cornwall for years and I’m using that experience and relationship with a great network of wedding vendors to help you plan your special wedding day. Why not take a look at my Client resources pages & Check my availability for your wedding and book a call today.

Family Portraits