stress-free formal family group portraits

If you’ve spent much time browsing through my photos, you’ll notice that I don’t post some of the more traditional posed family groups. That’s not because I don’t shoot them, but rather because I like to feature the moment-based approach that makes me unique as a wedding photojournalist. Still, I’m often asked (and to reassure parents) that yes, I will absolutely capture the classic formal wedding portraits of various family groups.

Formal family group portraits can quickly become chaotic, but after shooting a few hundred weddings I’ve found a few things that will make this part of the day stress-free. These three tips are the key to family group portraits.

make a manageable list

Having a list of the groups will make the formal family portraits go much smoother! It’s crazy hard to keep everyone focused in the moments after the ceremony. People are chatty and excited to see each other (as they should be!). Having a list means we can have a plan, and we won’t miss anyone that’s important to you.

Limit the total number of groups

Since every family is unique, I leave the official list making to you, but I suggest keeping the total number of groups to about ten or less. It’s also important to plan the order of the groups so that we move people as little as possible. For example, start with the largest or smallest group and build up/down in family blocks. There’s a well-designed sample family group list at the bottom of this page.

schedule two to three minutes per group

I know that sounds like a long time to get a photo of each group. We work super efficiently, but on average it actually does take that long to move the last group out, get everybody into place and lined up, then make sure we have everyone smiling and their eyes are open. That means if we have 10 groups to get through, we need 20-30 minutes in the timeline.

Larger groups take even longer

If your groups are larger than 10-12 people, plan longer. As groups get larger, the time it takes to get every organized and paying attention increases exponentially. Groups of 30+ can take five minutes or more.

let your family know the plan

Make sure that everyone who needs to be in the group photos knows when and where to be. There’s nothing worse than keeping your family from enjoying the cocktail hour because somebody wandered away or isn’t where they should be.



– Couple + Parents, Siblings & Grandparents (comma separated names)
– Couple + Parents & Siblings (comma separated names)
– Couple + Parents (comma separated names)


– Couple + both sets of Parents & all Siblings (comma separated names)
– Couple + both sets of Parents (comma separated names)


– Couple + Parents (comma separated names)
– Couple + Parents & Siblings (comma separated names)
– Couple + Parents, Siblings & Grandparents (comma separated names)

This template is organized to be the most efficient for moving people in and out. Please adjust it for your own family dynamics.

Remember: the two of you are in all of the photos, you only need to list the first names of the other family members in each group. They should go inside the parenthesis, matching the style below:

– Couple + Parents (Tom, Janet, Paul, Carol)