Having an unplugged wedding ceremony is the best choice for many reasons. You ensure your professional photography isn’t compromised by well meaning guests. And most importantly for you, the actual experience is enhanced through an engaged, present congregation. There are very few cons. But I’ll try to provide a balanced argument so you have all the information to make your own decision on what is right for you.
For starters….what is an unplugged ceremony?
Simply put, it means that you ask your guests not to use any electrical devices for recording your ceremony. So no phones, tablets, cameras, camcorders…no electrics. It means you have your guest’s 100% attention and they are completely present for your ceremony.
1/ Couples want their guests engaged during their wedding ceremony
Probably the most important reason to go unplugged.
A wedding ceremony is relatively short compared to the hours of celebrations ahead. In most cases, it is the only legal, formal and serious part of the day. It therefore feels quite appropriate to shut off the outside very distracting world for a very short period of time. Many of my couples describe this as quite liberating and makes things feel a bit more ‘in the moment’ and sacred. They want their guests to focus on why they are there rather than updating the outside world.
Additionally, most couples don’t want the distractions and media / paparazzi feel that jars with the meaning behind the actual ceremony. The majority of the day, people can snap away to their hearts content. The ceremony is reserved as something sacrosanct and set apart from the selfies, phones in faces and tapping of fingers.
Which makes me a happy wedding photographer because…
2/ Your pictures won’t be full of guests looking down on their phones
Pictures of people on phones are boring and soulless. There’s zero emotion. And gives the visual impression of people being totally disengaged (probably not true, but perception is everything as my old boss used to say). Far better to have people’s faces looking at you, showing emotion, maybe a tear or a giggle – basically any sign of humanity, than a top of a head pointing down engrossed on an electronic device.
3/ Your aisle pictures aren’t put at risk by body blockers in the aisle
Beware of the dreaded body blockers!!! Your photographer will undoubtedly be at the end of the aisle waiting eagerly for you and your bridesmaids to walk down to capture gorgeous, cherished shots. When guests are permitted to use electrical devices, I find they dip into the aisle to get their their own killer shot (and it could indeed be a killer shot but not in a flattering good way!) So you’ll have a quantity of very close-up pics, unflattering angles of you walking down, but not the amazing shots you paid your professional photographer to capture. Those will have heads, arms, worst case whole bodies covering up this lovely key moment.
You also don’t want these well meaning body blockers, stopping you getting a clear vision of your partner!
4/ Some well meaning plonkers can’t use their camera flashes and ruin your professional pics
There is nothing your photographer can do if Uncle Bob who loves getting his camera out, suddenly starts pinging off flashes like a raving journalist at The Oscars. As professionals, of course we can manage situations like this. But if you’ve paid for a professional – why get them to compromise!? If a random flash goes off unexpectedly or multiple flashes, that is outside our control and can ruin the lighting.
5/ Your wedding goes on social media before you see the pictures (including the unflattering ones!)
This has wider implications. More couples are asking for no pictures to be posted on social media for this very reason. A lot of couples want to see their pictures first. Or they would like the first pictures released to the world to be really good. Remember – a wedding ceremony is ‘downtime’ for wedding guests – especially during events like signing of the register. It’s golden time to post their socks off. It’s logical as it’s the first time everyone has seen you. You look amazing and people are desperate to share. By asking people to turn off their phones, you’re taking away the temptation to post and disengage. Let’s make you, your vows and what you want, to be the most important thing and primary focus on your wedding day.
How to make sure your ceremony is unplugged
1/ Ask your Registrar / Priest to say a few words at the start of the ceremony.
Typically your officiant will say something like:
“Stephanie & James have asked that their guests feel truly present and in the moment during the ceremony. They would love you to sit back, relax, and just enjoy. They’ve hired a professional wedding photographer & therefore respectfully ask that everyone leaves all cameras, mobile phones and devices off. They will be more than happy to share their photographs after“.
By the officiant saying something at the front it carries authority and it can’t be taken personally (we all have an Aunt Joan who can’t be told anything!).
2/ Mention it in your wedding invitations as an accompanying note.
3/ Mention it in your Order of Service.
4/ Send an email / message about it online. Or on your wedding website if you have one.
5/ Appoint someone on the day to remind guests.
6/ Unplugged Poster / Signage.
Many couples just go with asking their officiant to say something at the start of the ceremony. Plus some unplugged signage at the front of the ceremony so guests see it as they walk in. My recent couple, had their unplugged signage hooked around each row of chairs as a polite reminder.
Trying to be balanced and consider the cons, there aren’t many other than the following:
1/ You might feel uncomfortable asking your guests to turn off and put away their devices. And you’d rather keep it relaxed and not impose any restrictions.
2/ You like the idea of have as many pictures as possible. Therefore, the quality isn’t as important to you as sheer volume of different angles and perspectives of the ceremony.
You could ask your photographer to send 2-3 professionally edited photos within a couple of days of your wedding. That way, you’re in the driving seat on what people see. Your best pictures get posted first and everyone can have their impatience satisfied to get a glimpse of your special day. Many photographers will be happy to do this. Just don’t forget to credit them to keep them happy and acknowledged (wink wink).
For many, it is more comforting to be faced with friendly smiling faces as you walk down the aisle than a load of screens pointed at you. If you’re at all nervous or a tad shy, keeping devices turned off somehow feels less pressurising and intimidating.
The most important thing is that you’re happy with the decision. And whatever that may be – you have the support of your guests.