Tips for Planning Family and Group Photos at your Wedding

Weddings are one of the few occasions that families and friends come together in one place, so as well as photos for the bride and groom it’s often important to take some wider family photos. Read on for some tips about how to plan your wedding family photos.

The most important thing is to make sure you provide us (or your photographer) with your list of family photos well in advance of your wedding. Think carefully about how many photos you’d like, as photos can take as long as 5 minutes to set up if there are a lot of people in it, or if people have wandered off and need to be located. Some photos are much quicker, taking as little as 30 seconds to arrange and take. In general family photos take between 30 and 45 minutes.

Our general strategy for group photos is to start with a large group then to take people away, as it’s easier than adding people. Where it’s possible we always do a photo of all the guests as our first image, then the largest extended family (i.e. the brides or grooms extended family), and work our way down through different family groups to the couple and parents. Once that’s done we move onto the other family, often starting with both sets of parents then building up, though this varies depending on the family size. We need to know if there are modern families, multiple sets of parents, etc.

The best time to do the family photos is immediately after the ceremony, as that’s the one time of the day you know where everyone is. Occasionally it makes more sense to do the family photos at the reception, though good co-ordination with the MC and venue is required for this.


Here’s a quick summary of the tips, and a couple more small tips:

  • Work with your photographer 4-6 weeks in advance of your wedding to develop a list of group photos and an appropriate order. Extra photos can always be added on the day, though this may delay leaving for wedding party photos.
  • It’s generally best to start with large groups then take people away. Once people are no longer required they should be encouraged to move away or head off to the reception to make it easier to get the other group photos.
  • If you have a modern family with more than one set of parents we need to know that in advance. We need to know if any parent won’t be photographed with another parent.
  • Photos at the ceremony location are generally much easier than at the reception, and is recommended unless the reception is particularly picturesque.
  • Have a wet or windy weather location planned – windy can often be more of a problem in Wellington than rain, spoiling the hair of the women. Photos of all your guests together are more difficult indoors, and may not be possible in all ceremony or reception locations.
  • If you have elderly, frail, very young, or people with poor mobility people in your photos it’s generally best to do those photos first.
  • Put the list of group photos on the back of your order of service so people know if and when they’re required, and have the celebrant announce at the end of the service that photos will be taken. Make sure you check the list with your photographer before finalising the list!
  • Allow fifteen minutes between the end of the service and the start of the group photos for congratulations and people leaving the church or venue. Allow ten minutes for the large group photo, then an average of three minutes per photo requested. Generally allow 45 minutes between the end of your ceremony and departing for the wedding party photos.
  • If you can have one person from each side of the family help us identify and locate people that can make things run much more smoothly and quickly. This person shouldn’t be a key person on the day like a bridesmaid or parent, an uncle or aunt is usually best.
  • When you send us the list of photos please give us both group names (eg “Jane’s immediate family”) and the peoples names (eg “Mary, Bill, George, Heather”). This can make things easier on the day.


Here’s what we’d call our “basic set” of family photos when there are two families. This can easily be modified if you have a modern family. The bride and groom are in every photo, though it’s no problem to do a photo of say the brides family without the groom – however if you want every photo of the brides family both with and without the groom, or vice versa, add 10 -15 minutes to time it’ll take to get through your family photos.

Here’s out basic set:

  • All your guests together (not always possible in small venues if it’s raining, but we manage it 99% of the time!)
  • Any photos with the very young or the elderly
  • Brides extended family
  • Brides immediate family
  • Brides parents
  • Bride and grooms parents
  • Grooms parents
  • Grooms immediate family
  • Grooms extended family

Other photos like bride or groom with siblings, with a group of friends of family, etc, can easily be added afterwards.

This entry was posted in Wedding tips.

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