Why You Want To Have An Unplugged Wedding

I’m going to start this article with the end: you really WANT to have an unplugged wedding!

If you agree, please share this with others who may benefit. If you’re undecided, or not even sure what an unplugged wedding is, we hope the following will be enlightening. Here’s why an unplugged wedding is the right way to go…and not just for your photographer.

An unplugged wedding means that guests are requested to refrain from the use of cameras, cell phones, iPads and tablets…all technology, really, during at least the formal portions of your wedding. Popularized largely at the urging of wedding photographers, the behavior of people using their phones, tablets, and cameras has escalated to the edge of being out-of-control. There is literally nothing that they won’t do, disruptive or not, to “get the shot”; including being in the way of the professional photographers who are trying to be as discreet as possible.

Why you should consider an unplugged wedding

In their quest to grab a photo of a key moment during a ceremony, these folks have blocked the view of the professional photographer working discreetly from the back.

unplugged weddings by maine wedding photographer

And, again, right smack between the photographer and the bride walking in.

As if this first point isn’t enough, we’re also seeing a whole new, and perhaps even more profound reason to make your wedding unplugged: the lack of presence of guests when they are fixated on their device screens.

unplugged weddings by maine wedding photographer

How present and in-the-moment are these wedding guests?

Recent studies of music concert-goers using their phone cameras at performances confirmed that the use of the devices while attending a live event notably decreases the retention of the event. User’s phones (as well as any recording devices) act as a filter between the person and the event, effectively blocking and negating their live experience. Some bands are imposing complete bans on cell phone and camera use during concerts due to the frustration of seeing not concert-goers but rather a sea of people looking at a real, live, “3D” event on a tiny, “2D” screen.

unplugged weddings by maine wedding photographer

It would be a shame to be a guest actually trying to be present and in the moment to be stuck behind a sea of device screens like this.

What does this talk of concerts have to do with weddings? Everything! We’ve witnessed all manner of use of technology by guests at weddings and it is frankly abhorrent to observe the often blatant disregard for the event – the event that these guests were invited to be a part of in the first place.

We wonder, further, just exactly what are all these people doing with all of this image capture? Moms and aunts and sisters and bridesmaids (yes even people IN the wedding party!)…all trying seemingly desperately to capture the same moment. Instead of living it, seeing it, participating in the spirit and solemnity of it…perhaps there is some sort of implied “race” to see who can get their image posted on social media the fastest?

At a wedding we photographed this season, I was beyond appalled to spot a very close relative of the groom –seated right up front in the cathedral, at that! – busily tagging people in a post of a photo taken during the wedding to post to social media. And, not only was this person doing so during the wedding, but most shockingly this was during the vows. This guest had no concept of what was really going on while busily working the device. She totally missed the moment, totally missed witnessing the true meaning of the day, but, yes, she won the race to have the first photo on Facebook. Wow, just wow.

unplugged weddings by maine wedding photographer

During the vows!

Then, we come to those who choose to stand while everyone else is seated so they can try to get the shot of the day, while blocking the real shot the hired professional wedding photographer is trying to capture discreetly from the back of the church.

At another recent wedding, the father of the bride spent the entire wedding with his face buried behind his iPhone taking video of the whole ceremony. Let’s just say we have NO images of the face of this otherwise proud dad watching his daughter marry. Here’s the kicker: he had paid good money to hire a professional video team! Has the need for immediacy taken over our lives?

All this for what? Let the pro’s do their work, folks!! And come to weddings, unencumbered, as guests to ENJOY them, live-time and be present in the moment, and NOT to play the “who-will-get-the-first-post-on-line” game.

Like all this isn’t enough, here are two more real-life stories related to out-of-control camera and phone use:
1. A groom nervously waiting for his wedding to start, and waiting to see his bride for the first time, reached for his phone and while thumbing through Facebook to see what all was going on landed on a post taken by a well-enough-meaning bridesmaid of his bride, all dressed and made up, taken over the shoulder of the professional photographer.  A special moment pretty-much ruined through an unchecked photo. This is why we closely limit who else is allowed to photograph the bridal prep.  (Closely limit pretty much means no one!)

2. A priest we’re close friends with told us about how they recently had to stop a wedding to put control back in place of chaos amidst a total sea of phones and tablets held up during the wedding ceremony. There really wasn’t anyone actually present in the moment until they were asked to put their devices away. What a shame, a wedding ceremony, religious or civil, should not have this happen. It’s easy to prevent and won’t happen with an unplugged wedding.

How do I proceed to implement an unplugged wedding?  It’s really straightforward:

  1. Have your officiant make an announcement immediately prior to the beginning of your ceremony, after the guests have all been seated. Something like this usually works really well:
    “The bride and groom respectfully ask that you refrain from use of phones, iPads, and cameras during the ceremony so that you may be fully present with them as they marry. They will be sharing their professional photographs with you.”
    Or, even better, perhaps:
    “As we begin this joyous celebration, Mary and Mike request the joyful sight of your smiles, without the distraction of electronic devices and ask that you please switch off your phones and stow away your cameras.The greatest gift you can give them today is  just being fully here with us in this special moment.”
  2. “Pre-announce” that your wedding will be unplugged with a similarly-worded note included with your invitation.
  3. Have a nice sign reminding this outside the wedding ceremony location.
  4. Do all of the above, keeping in mind if you use just one approach that it is #1 that is the most effective. The best way to go is to combine #1 along with #2.  We rarely see non-compliance with the request when it’s worded this way. And with tactful wording it’s not likely that anyone will take offense.  Little do they know that will actually enjoy everything about the day so much more unencumbered by their devices.

We don’t recommend a “phone check”, where guests phones are actually collected and “checked”. We like to give them the benefit of trust and also would not want to prevent them from receiving an urgent message or call from a babysitter or the like.

We love this sign we saw used at a 2017 wedding:

Beside having the aisles now free of people using and obtrusively holding phones and tablets and cameras blocking the view of guests and the professional photographers, your guests will now be a real and connected part of the event that they were asked to witness and participate in. It’s then a proverbial win-win.

Here’s an article we really like on the same theme from the Huffington Post, October 2014, and an earlier article about unplugged weddings from the same source entitled “Why you may want to consider an unplugged wedding”.

This ‘selfie stick’ isn’t doing anyone any favors.  We saw this plea on another photographer’s Facebook page (Au Claire Photographics from Louisiana) page and are sharing it here. It’s not just us!
Please think about the irreverence and the interference to the work of the professional photographers. We especially love the final sentence: “Just put the phone away and enjoy the day.”  The caption in the photo is that of Au Claire Photographics.  They couldn’t have said it better.

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I rarely get this upset, but this has me upset. I don’t want to ever see this happen to our clients photos ever again. This just has to stop. Over the years it’s become harder and harder to fight the occasional over zealous guest with a camera phone. Now with the invention of the selfie stick it looks like we’re just losing the battle. Brides and Grooms, please have an unplugged wedding ceremony. Please tell your guests to put their phones away. Please tell them to leave their selfie sticks at home. Guests, please have respect for the wedding you are attending. Simply put, the Bride and Groom pay a lot for professional photography. You have no right to ruin it for them. Sticking a selfie stick out in the middle of the aisle during a processional in a church is so completely selfish. Think twice, think about your friends and their memories. Just put the phone away and enjoy the day.


Russell and Liz Caron, of Russell Caron Wedding Photography, are proponents for the unplugged wedding. This dynamic pair love weddings and put the fun into wedding photography for Maine wedding couples. Let us join your wedding and help in creating the perfect memories of your special day. For more information, please contact us right away!