Unplugged weddings are a sort of new trend that came about because of the new trend of having a smartphone with you 24/7. So it’s really just like a pre-2000s wedding. My husband and I didn’t ever mention the idea of no smartphones at our wedding, but I can say that we were lucky because I think very few if any of our guests had them out at the ceremony or reception. Maybe it was the vibe of our wedding or maybe because it was just SO FUN that everyone forgot about everything else (hehe) but I don’t remember many phones and I don’t really see any in our photos. There were some photos uploaded to Facebook and Instagram from friends later, but I can probably count the total on my hands.
So what is an unplugged wedding? It really just means that you are asking guests to not have smartphones or devices out during your event, and to limit cameras. You can do a fully unplugged wedding, or just the ceremony. It’s not hard to request, and your guests will most likely be happy to oblige.
As a photographer, I can say that I am completely in support of having an unplugged wedding, or, at the very least, and unplugged ceremony. Here’s why:
1. It lets your guests be more present and in the moment
It’s pretty simple: if your guest has a phone up between you/your significant other and themselves, they aren’t as present in the moment. You can’t take in the sounds, smells, look around at the scenery or notice people’s faces around you if you’re staring at a screen.
2. It allows your photographer to do their job
You most likely will have a wedding photographer, so additional smartphone photos aren’t really necessary. More importantly, not having phones blocking your photographer is definitely something you want to consider. This is something that has happened to me several times while shooting: I’ll be crouched down in the aisle during your ceremony, trying to stay out of the way, and a guest leans out with their phone or camera, blocking your faces. I’ve never been prevented from capturing the ceremony kiss or anything important because of a phone thankfully, but I have talked with photographers who have. If this situation were to happen at a critical moment I would do my best to quickly move and get around the offending phone, but it’s not guaranteed that I’ll have time. Photographer blockage is one of my top reasons for suggesting an unplugged ceremony at the very least!
Taking pictures is of course something guests will want to do once in a while, but it can make my job difficult if someone is say, practicing their wedding photography chops at your event. Generally it’s better if you can ask your guests to leave the cameras at home. It can be difficult when I’m trying to photograph groups of people and they’re not sure which camera to look at, and if someone is stepping in front of me during an important moment, I have to waste time asking them to leave some room instead of focusing on you guys. Some couples have even put on their wedding website that their photographer is documentary style and it’s best if they relax and enjoy instead of trying to take photos. You’ll get better photos from me and your guests will be able to chill!
3. You won’t be trying to see over a bunch of people
There is a photo somewhere online that makes me very sad, which shows a poor man leaning out into the aisle trying to see his spouse-to-be walking down the aisle toward him. However, the aisle is completely blocked with guests holding iPhones. I’m guessing that’s not what you want your ceremony memory to be.
4. You’ll have more control over when photos are posted
Some couples don’t want live photos of their ceremony going up on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook as it’s happening and would rather be able to release the first images themselves. Fair enough!
5. You won’t have tons of phones in your photos
I love shooting facing out toward your guests during moments like your first dance, ceremony or toasts, because capturing your family and friends’ reactions can be amazing. But sometimes I face outward and it’s just a sea of phones. Wouldn’t you rather see faces?
So how do you tell people you want them to keep their phones or iPads tucked away? It’s pretty easy. The best thing is to put it on your invite or website beforehand, and tell people in person if you can. People can of course bring their phones for GPS use, texting etc., but if you don’t want phones in your photos, suggest that they refrain from taking photos with them. In the end the decision is yours and depends on what is important to you!