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Elyssa Explains

August 24, 2022

Tips for wedding day group portraits

Tips for group portraits on the wedding day

Tips for group portraits on your wedding day

Let’s talk about group portraits! You may also hear them called “formals.” And when we photographers say formals or group portraits, we don’t mean unsmiling and stuffy. (Well that’s definitely not what I mean, but I guess I can’t speak for every wedding photographer). When I’m referring to group photos, I mean the specifically planned and posed portraits with your wedding day VIPs. Typically, that’s your wedding party, close family (think parents and siblings), and of course you, the couple.

This post is primarily to help you identify how much time to budget for photos, but I’ll also add some other helpful tips to have in mind for group photo time.  

Winter wedding inspiration, sparkly gold bridesmaid dresses and black tuxedos

Part I – Set aside specific blocks of time for your wedding day group portraits

In an ideal world, we’d have around two hours set aside throughout the day for portraits. I say ideal world, because we don’t usually get that much time, but it never hurts to ask 🙂 . Also, read next about how significant “throughout the day” is. Ultimately, how much time you decide to dedicate depends on your priorities for the day AND on the size of your families and wedding party. In general, your portrait time includes:

(1) ~40 minutes for couple portraits,

(2) ~40 minutes for family portraits, and

(3) ~40 minutes for wedding party portraits.

Quick tip:

An important note about “throughout the day”: the blocks of time don’t need to be all in one big chunk (no, you probably won’t need a cocktail (two)hour). You can definitely break those blocks up! For example, if you’ve budgeted 40 minutes for couple portraits, we could do 5-10 minutes right after the first look, 5-10 minutes right after the ceremony around the ceremony site, and then the remaining time during golden hour and/or blue hour at your reception location.

Likewise, you could do all your wedding party photos before the ceremony and just the family photos during cocktail hour, or vice versa. If you really want to enjoy your cocktail hour, you could even put together a timeline that puts ALL of your group portraits before the ceremony.

large wedding party - group photo tips

A larger wedding party requires more time for posing (and enough space!)

Part II – the length of your specific blocks will vary

The length of the group portrait blocks (wedding party & family) will vary based on how many people are involved AND on how many different groupings you want to have photographed. If your families and/or wedding party are on the smaller side, those blocks probably won’t take 40 minutes each. On the flipside, if you have more than a dozen people in your wedding party, lots of siblings, and/or want to get posed portraits with extended family, you may want to budget more time.

To figure out how much time it will take for group photos, we recommend allotting about 2.5 minutes per grouping (it may seem like a lot, but we promise that’s the average – more for rowdy wedding parties). We’re taking time to make sure the lighting is right, everyone is accounted for, and everyone is visible/looks nice. Groups of 6 or fewer (don’t forget to count yourselves) take about 2 minutes. Groups of about 12 take about 4 minutes, and it goes up from there. We probably spent about 6 minutes setting up the above wedding party and then 3-4 minutes photographing it, for about 10 minutes total.

The sample list of family groupings at the bottom of this post would take 20-30 minutes depending on number of siblings, parents, step-parents, etc.

The wedding party sample list would depend on how big your wedding party is, but I like to have at least 20-30 minutes with you and your wedding party so we can get fun and goofy ones and/or what I call the “HBO TV Show Cast” shot in addition to basic “smile at the camera” poses. You might even have time to all rent scooters and zoom straight at me!

this wedding party walked (and scootered) all around downtown Raleigh for gorgeous wedding photos

Quick Tip:

IMPORTANT TIP: Make sure the people you want in your group photos KNOW you want them in your group photos. If your brother walks off to the bar when he’s supposed to be in photos, we inevitably lose time. Here’s how we suggest addressing this (and it’s still not foolproof):

  • In the week before the wedding, reach out to all of the people you’ve listed in your group photos and tell them you want them in photos at _____ time (we’ll have finalized it in your timeline). And don’t leave anyone out. You might assume your parents and wedding party don’t need to be told, but it’s better to be safe than losing time while someone has to be found.
  • Specifically for family photos, identify one person from each of your families to be the *wrangler*. Tell the wrangler who is in the family group photo(s), so the wrangler can gather those people. Example: for Partner 1’s extended family, you might have sister Susie be the wrangler, so you would tell Susie (probably at the rehearsal) that at ______ time, part of her sisterly duties is to make sure everyone included in the photo(s) is accounted for and then doesn’t wander off anywhere. Then assign someone on Partner 2’s side too.
  • Basically, just tell your special people that if they arrive when and where they are supposed to, the photos will go quickly and then they can go relax and enjoy themselves.

Family photos

Part III – Sample list of group photos

Part of our final planning together will involve finalizing your list of group photos. Every wedding is different, so don’t feel like you have to stick to this example list or ANY example list. Feel free to use some, all, or none, of these example groups. This is just a good starting point for developing your specific list.

SAMPLE LIST OF FAMILY PHOTOS

  1. Couple w/ Partner 1’s immediate family*
  2. Partner 1 w/ immediate family
  3. Partner 1 w/ siblings
  4. Partner 1 w/ each parent individually
  5. Partner 1 w/ parents
  6. Couple w/ Partner 1’s parents
  7. Couple w/ both sets of parents
  8. Couple w/ Partner 2’s parents
  9. Couple w/ Partner 2’s immediate family
  10. Partner 2 w/ immediate family
  11. Partner 2 w/ siblings
  12. Partner 2 w/ parents
  13. Partner 2 w/ each parent individually

*immediate family would be who you consider your closest family. Most often this is just parents and siblings, but sometimes grandparents are involved, and sometimes people want to include their siblings’ partners and/or kids.

SAMPLE LIST OF WEDDING PARTY PHOTOS

  1. Couple w/ whole wedding party (if you have any kids in the wedding party, you might want some with them and some with just the “grownups”)
  2. Partner 1 w/ their attendants
  3. Partner 1 w/ each attendant individually
  4. Partner 2 w/ their attendants
  5. Partner 2 w/ each attendant individually

Part IV: Other groups

Want a photo with other people? The cousins from Maine, your work friends, your soccer team, etc.? If a group photo with those people — lit professionally, with a clean backdrop, matching your other group photos — is important to you, add it to the list, just remember that each separate grouping adds a couple extra minutes to that section of the timeline.

Also remember, we’re there during the reception too!! So, if you’re content with the work friends photo being a little more informal, as in y’all gathered together at a table or in a corner of the dance floor, we can make that happen easily during the reception. That is literally what we are there for. Feel free to grab one of us and say “I’d really like to get a photo with my college suite-mates!” It does help in that scenario for someone to have already gathered the group together, but people can gather once they know the photo is happening too! Here’s a fun friends photo during the reception:

group photos at the reception

And of course, we’re always here to answer whatever questions you’ve got. We’ve photographed hundreds of couples at this point, so we have lots of answers!!


We believe that love is fun and colorful, and your wedding photographs should be too.

Kivus & Camera are Raleigh Wedding photographers who create bold, colorful, magical memories of your wedding day with beautiful, artistic portraits AND enthusiastic, genuine moments. Your unique love story deserves to be told through unforgettable, breath-taking photographs that stand out from the crowd. Kivus & Camera love creating that magic. After all, as past bride Courtney says, we are photography sorcerers.

And though we call ourselves Raleigh wedding photographers, we definitely photograph Durham weddings, Chapel Hill weddings, Cary weddings, etc. We’re all over the Triangle area, and we’re happy to head to the beach or mountains and even to places outside of North Carolina! Just let us know where your love story is headed.

Want to know more? Check out more of our images or learn more about our nerdy selves or just send us a note! Can’t wait to hear from you.

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