Brides: Setting up a list of ‘Have-To’ Photos

In spite of the popularity of the ‘capture the moment’ photojournalistic style, group shots will remain important and wanted by brides, families and wedding guests. It’s these group shots and ‘have to’ shots that have given brides plenty of stress, and photographers plenty of lists for the day.

So how hard can it be to come up with a workable list of group shots that won’t eat up the whole schedule for the day? Try this, write down your list of necessary group shots. It should be all the ones you want and all the ones someone would be disappointed about, if they were not taken. Getting nervous yet? Trouble getting the list together? Don’t worry, here’s a little help to get started:


Start with the easy ones – yours and your grooms Mom & Dad, brothers and sisters and so on. You and your grooms best pals, and all those people who got you here. Next add the new combinations that your marriage will create. You and your groom, you and your groom’s family and so on. Still easy. You already knew these would be on your list.

Next, I call these the “Politically Necessary” groups. Every family has the aunt and uncle who came all the way from who knows where, or the brother’s newest girlfriend, or the guys from the office and so on. They’ll want to take these pictures home & brag about what a good marriage you made. It’s really very sweet and if you don’t get those shots, you can kiss next year’s Christmas cards goodbye.

Then there’s the flower girl & her mom, the minister & your dad, the bridesmaids with their husband or boyfriend, the groomsmen with their wives or girlfriends, and so on and so on, you get the idea

Alternatively, if you are thinking about a “photo walk” (a series of informal portraits “creatively” staged) you should add these. Or you might want the “first glimpse” portraits, where the groom sees you for the first time in your wedding dress. Again, they are informal looking but staged portraits nonetheless.

Now you’ve got a list. Multiply the total number of photographs by five minutes each. Some will take more time, some less but five minutes is a good average to actually gather people, plan, and take a few shots.


The “ME” Group – Before the wedding, you’ll be nervous and the family will be excited and nervous. Do these before the ceremony, in that quiet time of waiting. You & your parents. You and your best friends. It’s something to do when you are finished getting ready and ‘the wait’ has begun. That time when you look beautifully finished and the avalanche of emotion hasn’t happened. This is not the time for lots of other people so keep the list for those who are really special to you.

The “US” Group – You and your groom, his parents, your parents, the rest of the bridal party. . . you know, the shots that your mom will put in next year’s Christmas card . This is your new family. They need not be creative, just simply done (crisp, well lighted and in focus). Here, the five minute rule must apply, since your guests are waiting on you to arrive at the reception, so you don’t want to take forever. Traditionally, these are mostly taken after the ceremony but before the reception. If yours is a small wedding, this is the time to take one of those ‘everybody’ group shots or some of those “photo walk” shots I described above.

The “POLITICALLY NECESSARY” Group – Consider taking these “Politically Necessary’ photographs during the party. Make it an event on it’s own. Set up an area just for this. Everyone will have loosened up and are beginning to have fun. They will be relaxed and comfortable, perfect for pictures. Make an announcement, help them enjoy the process.

So there you have it, make a list, break the list into separate groups and shoot each at a different time and place. Of course the best list shot at the best times can still go awry, so please schedule wise, remember the 5 minute rule, and communicate your wish list and timing to your entertainment people, wedding coordinator and even your bridal party for the best possible outcome.

About the Author:

Dan Derby, Wedding Photographer

The spirit of a wedding day lives in fleeting events, unfolding without direction. Wedding photojournalism is how the story of a wedding day can be captured artfully. Trained as a designer (BA & MFA) and skilled in visual story telling, Dan Derby works quietly throughout your wedding day making sure this happens. He is based in New England but travels where ever he’s needed.

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