Having photographed over 150 weddings from a combination of locations all over the world, we have found that there is no location free from cell phone use during a wedding day. Everyone these days has a cell phone with a camera that makes it super easy to take a photo and instantly post it to social media. While we are totally for documenting ones wedding day and hash-tagging the crap out of whatever crazy, cool, or sentimental moment you were able to capture on your device, I am going to encourage you to consider what that might mean for how your guests experience your wedding as well as how your professional wedding photos will turn out.
What is an Unplugged Wedding?
An unplugged wedding is where guests are asked to turn off and put away point and shoot cameras, cell phones, tablets/iPads, and DSLR cameras during the wedding ceremony and often times for the entire day, which will allow them to experience the day with their own two eyes and allow the photographer and videographer take better advantage of all opportunities and moments that happen.
Renee and I are BIG believers in practicing what we preach. We made it very clear to our guests early on that we had chosen one of the raddest wedding photographers and video teams in the USA. There would be no cell phone use allowed during our ceremony because we wanted our guests to EXPERIENCE our ceremony right in front of their eyes and not through a screen. We asked our bestie (and officiant), Matt, to snap one photo with his iPad before the ceremony started, which everyone thought was very funny! Since they all weren’t glued to their own phones, it was easy to get everyone to participate.
We chose a very specific location for our wedding ceremony, as do most couples. All of our guests came from the mainland to the island of Kauai, Hawaii for our wedding and it just felt a little sad to think that they might experience the awesomeness of this location on a taro field in such a restricted way by watching the whole thing through a cell phone. We weren’t having that and therefore, the unplugged wedding concept was mandatory.
Why You Should Have an Unplugged Wedding
Devices with cameras come in all shapes and sizes. This image of the groom’s mom holding the iPad has been burned into my memory. When I thought about this topic of “unplugged weddings” this was my go-to image! The story goes that she had received this iPad days before the wedding and was excited to use it. Understandable! iPads are super awesome!! However, she never once put that thing down for the entire ceremony. She got to experience the entire ceremony through the iPad screen. In fact, she will forever be able to experience the ceremony through the screen of an iPad. I fear she may have missed out on more of what was going on around her because she was so focused on filming. I should also note that this couple also had a professional video team at their wedding to ensure that guests would be able to enjoy and experience their wedding day without feeling like they all had to do their part in capturing the day.
I am not discriminating on cell phones and iPads. The term “Uncle Bob” is how most photographers in the wedding photography industry refer to your relatives who bring their big fancy cameras to the wedding and take their responsibility of photographing your wedding day VERY seriously (even though you spent thousands of dollars on a professional photographer). We find that, this “Uncle Bob” scenario also prohibits whoever “Uncle Bob” is (it could be grandma or your sister or your mom) from truly enjoying and experiencing the wedding day. Instead they have taken it upon themselves to spend the day taking all of these photos of the two of you and, most likely, photobombing your professional photographers shots.
In this case our “Uncle Bob” turned out to be one of the dads. He was doing a great job of making sure that he got all of the best shots. However, he must have forgotten about the professional photographers that his kid hired to make sure he could sit and experience the ceremony. Rather, he experienced his kid’s wedding through the viewfinder of his DSLR, which is such a shame simply because we were there to make sure he didn’t have to get up and wander around and feel the pressure of making sure he didn’t miss anything. This will roll me straight into the next reason why you should have an unplugged wedding….
I first want to clarify that we LOVE the candid photobombing of your guests. We also love having people walk through our photos throughout the day to aide us in telling more of your story on so many different layers. Whether it’s someone riding through a wedding portrait session on a segway, a golf cart fyling through an engagement session, or a distracted mom pushing a stroller. I eat those things up and use them to tell a story in a unique way.
During the ceremony, however, most people expect the guests to stay seated and enjoy what the couple has planned. The problem with not instructing your guests to stay seated during the ceremony and take photos or even to notify them that you will be having an “unplugged ceremony” is that we run into lots of guests who, like the dad above, really don’t want to miss the shot! In doing so, they are in MANY of our shots, which are the ones that you invested good money in.
This next photo bomber was set up with her tripod and camcorder to make sure she got the best shot of the couple walking down the aisle. In return, we got the best shot of the one of the brides hugging her dad right after she walked him down the aisle. These types of shots never turn out as good as they could because we are trying to crop the photobomber out. But it’s typically difficult to do and they will likely be bombing a plethora of your shots.
Missing the Moment
This is our last and probably BIGGEST reason as to why you should have an unplugged wedding. It’s really a combination of the other two reasons but sort of seals the deal. We see it time and time again: guests with cell phone in hand and eyes glued to cell phone. They miss SO many moments that are happening right in front of their eyes! So, not only are they missing the moment but, in doing so they also want to get the shot. They crowd the aisle by leaning in and blocking the moment that your professional photographer is trying to capture, they are distracting others by raising their arms above the crowd or showing off their screens to their neighbors, and there are little bright screens EVERYWHERE in our photos, which tend to be very eye catching in the final photos, taking the focus off of what is actually going on such as the bride or groom walking down the aisle. That’s a pretty significant moment and it’s often missed because people are checking out what they “got” on their phone.
While we would never “request” that you have an unplugged wedding, we DO recommend it! See for yourself in this next and final collection of images from weddings that were not unplugged and you be the judge!