Why You May Want to Consider Having an "Unplugged Wedding"

Copyright: RKH Images

Copyright: RKH Images

I've been thinking of a new wedding photography subject to blog about when I realized one was staring me right in the face throughout the last year : unplugged weddings.

I found when shooting weddings last year that the topic of an unplugged wedding has become increasingly popular.  However, whenever I look into unplugged weddings, there seems to be more negativity swirling around them than positivity.  The focus is more on how bad weddings are that "plugged in" rather than how good the unplugged ones are, which isn't too helpful, especially with the overly sensitive nature online.

Many of you reading this may be asking yourself, what is an unplugged wedding?

The definition of an unplugged wedding is a wedding in which the guests are asked to turn off all their electronic devices throughout the course of the ceremony, or in some instances, throughout the entire day.   Such devices include cameras, phones, tablets, and more.  It is most common to see a ceremony unplugged rather than a full day, but an unplugged reception is also heard of.

There are a number of reasons as to why an unplugged ceremony is a good idea.  We are speaking from the side of the photographers, so it is more of a vendor view, but we have also been married and have become good friends with a number of clients.  Due to that, there is a human aspect to it as well, rather than simply a professional side.  Because of that, I'll divide this into both sides.

From the bride and groom point of view:

In no particular order, we have gathered these thoughts from previous brides and grooms.

  • Think of the bride and the groom: Imagine it is YOUR wedding day.  You get to that point as the bride where you are going to be walking down the aisle, or the point where you are the groom and you are going to see your bride walking down the aisle.  What would mean more to you - seeing the faces of your friends and family in various stages of emotion, or a sea of tablets, phones, and cameras?
  • Remember what the day is about: A wedding day is about celebrating a couple's love and bring all their loved ones together to share it with them.  It's not about you.  Think about it.  When you are taking photos and posting them on your social media of someone else's wedding, you're saying (even unknowingly) "look at MY photos" and "look at what I'm doing".  It's certainly one thing to snap a photo or two.  We have seen people literally post albums of minute by minute of ceremonies.
  • Enjoy yourself: This is one of the reasons you were invited.  The bride and groom don't bring their friends and family to a wedding so they can sit and snap photos, video, and post on social media all day.  They hire people for that.  They want their loved ones there to relax, have fun, chat and party with them.
  • Think of other people at the wedding: There are a number of people who can have their view obscured by those using electronic devices.  Everyone has been to a public event where people hold their phones above the crowd, so we know what it looks like.  At weddings, there are almost always going to be elderly people that don't have the capability to move that much around your phone or camera.  Try to just imagine that for a second.  Grandma or Grandpa is at their only grandchild's wedding and doesn't get to see them walk down the aisle because of all the phones in the way.  It has happened and that is really rough.  Just keep those sort of things in mind.

From the photographer point of view:

In all honestly, there are some things we have learned to embrace about plugged in weddings.  After all, it is the evolution of things.  If we can't deal with it, we're going to be stressed out and not enjoy our work.  However, there are some things that we need to point out.

  • We're being paid by the bride and groom: If you have been married, you know wedding photography is not cheap.  They pay a professional photographer to shoot the photos they want.  They are not paying you to shoot photos on your phone to post on your social media.  So when you are in the middle of a shot during the ceremony holding out your device, you're really cutting into what they paid for and wanted shot professionally.
  • Timing: Everyone that plans an event would LOVE for everything to run on time.  The fact of it is, things rarely do.  And if they do run on time, there is never downtime.  In order to get all the shots asked for by the couple, we develop a detailed timeline in advance that allows for extra pockets in time for anything to go askew.  However, time moves very fast during a wedding day.  When people jump in and ask if they can get shots on their phone, they really can't.  It's all because of the setup of the more traditional shots of family and friends.  That is always when people want to take shots on their phones and cameras, but there simply is not time.
  • Setup: We do mostly candid shots, but also traditional posed shots as well with friends and family.  Despite what many may think, a lot goes into these shots and we like to get them to look as nice as possible due to the fact that there may be people here who don't see each other often and would love some nice shots.  The main reason we stopped asking people to shoot in the background during this time is because when we look back at the photos (despite where we tell everyone to look) there are people looking at our camera and numerous other cameras behind them.  This is especially tough with young children.
  • Special moments: We always let the bride and groom know that they should ask their officiant to announce not to use flashes during the ceremony.  Why?  If we are shooting say, the first kiss, and using a flash and a flash from your device bounces off of it, the image turns white.  It's due to the double flash.  That moment cannot be redone.  Personally, I wouldn't want to be the one to tell my friend or family member that they didn't get a photo of their first kiss because I wanted a photo of it on my phone or camera.

I'm not going to drag this out any further, as I feel you may have a good idea as to why this is something to consider, at least with the ceremony.  We were married pre-social media, so we only had to deal with people with cameras.  It wasn't as prevalent.  But honestly, if we were getting married now, we would have an unplugged ceremony.  The reception is a different deal, in our opinion at least, but the ceremony should just be enjoyed.

Copyright: RKH Images

Copyright: RKH Images

If you decide to have an unplugged wedding, the question then becomes, how do I announce it?

  • I feel that many people think that they are going to be upsetting guests if they announce this.  Remember, it's your day.  You can do whatever you want.  Seriously, you can get away with a LOT on your wedding day.
  • There are many ways to go about announcing an unplugged wedding.  The following are just some examples:
    • Include it in your invitations.
    • Include it on your wedding website, if you have one.
    • Have a sign at your wedding (or several) so that people can't say they forgot.
    • Look up "unplugged wedding" on Etsy.  DONE.
unplugged wedding

unplugged wedding

Be creative!  Remember to make it into a positive thing, not a negative.  Let your guests know that they would rather see you and not your devices.  Let them know you want them to participate in their day and not just shoot and post it.

The key to having a happy wedding day, overall, is positivity.  Remaining positive about as many aspects as possible will result in a wonderful day.