One of my earliest memories of weddings is from when I was about 8 years old. We were attending a wedding for a distant family member. My only recollection of the day was standing outside of the church in pretty grotty weather waiting to be called for a group photo. We stood around waiting for what seemed like absolutely ages. Eventually we were called to stand in a line up with the bride and groom and the rest of the extended family. Probably told to say ‘cheese’, smile and then that was it. With it being the 80s I’m pretty sure the photographer capturing those group photos was literally there to photograph the signing of the register, a few portraits, and a staged cutting of the cake. I’m sure the bulk of the wedding photos they were there to take would have been formal family group photos from a mega long list.
Thankfully wedding photography has moved on quite considerably since then. If wedding days were simply about getting staged photos I’d have given it up a long time ago. Many people reading this will know that my approach with wedding photography is to capture as many natural moments as possible throughout the day. Very little directing, minimal posing, and as few formal group photos as possible. Despite that ‘traumatic’ wedding experience in the mid’80s described above I really do see the importance and value of having a few formal group photos on a wedding day. I for one love to see those wedding photos from the 70s and 80s (and maybe now even the 90s) and seeing the fashions people wore at the time. And I’m sure it’ll be the same for people in 30-40 year’s time looking back at wedding photos from current weddings.
Formal group photos don’t have to be dull and boring. Particularly when it comes to your wedding party where we can do the group photos a little less formally. Let’s capture some fun and personality with them. I will often say to couples who are planning their wedding day that it is important to factor in a short amount of time for a few formal photos. I’d always recommend around 5-8 formal group photos. With a little bit of planning and preparation I’ll try and get the formal group photos done within 10-15 minutes max! Having ushers or helpers to gather the people needed in the group photos means that I can carry on capturing natural moments of people enjoying themselves rather than trying to track down Aunty Hilda and Uncle Bob. Get those people to me and I’ll quickly photograph them and then they can get back to catching up with Aunty Margaret and Uncle John!
As part of my coverage throughout the day I’ll of course capture some informal groups. Groups of friends will naturally come together, maybe for the first time in many years, so its great to just quickly do an informal group photo here and there. I’ll very often suggest capturing groups of friends after the wedding breakfast. Everyone has really chilled out by then and we’ll get some great natural and dynamic photos.
Below I’ve brought together some of my favourite and memorable group photos from past weddings. Some are the formal shots and others are waaay more informal. The very last photo in the set was taken seconds after I somehow managed to stop myself from falling straight into a water fountain – that could have been a total catastrophe and taught me the valuable lesson of not walking backwards without looking!