Pros and cons of having an unplugged wedding ceremony

Every single one of your loved ones has an amazing camera in their pocket. Imagine seeing almost every guest’s experience of your day, from every angle!

But smartphones are a big distraction. I know that when my phone is in my hand, I’m habitually refreshing instagram (or at least thinking about refreshing instagram.) Am I addicted to my smartphone? Yes. Undoubtedly. But I’m venturing a guess that nearly everyone you know is in some way.

And that’s why those signs exist, the pretty ones you’ve seen on Pinterest, or at a friends wedding, politely telling guests to put their phones and cameras away.

We’ll start with a few reasons why guests with cameras might be a positive thing.

  1. You can see photos taken by your guests right away, seconds after your I Do’s, especially if you create a wedding hashtag and have your Officiant/MC mention it a few times, or print it on your wedding program. (From experience, a wedding hashtag only works if you really promote it – people can forget, or get distracted, or misspell something in the hashtag.)
  2. Loved ones who weren’t able to attend will be able to experience your wedding at a distance immediately, if they’re watching on zoom or facetime, or looking through your friends social media.
  3. The photos your guests take may not always be the most flattering, or from great angles, but there will also be good photos in there. It’s your decision if it’s worth your favorite photo-loving auntie having her face buried in her phone instead of focusing on your ceremony.

If you decide on an unplugged ceremony and ask your guests not to take photos…

  1. Don’t worry, you’re not missing much if you’ve hired a great photographer. Your Edmonton wedding photographer will get photos from multiple angles, can stand in the aisles, and go places a guest can’t go to get the best shots.
  2. Most people take photos on their phones, and never look at them again. Their photos get lost in the cloud, or they’ll post to instagram stories, or snapchat or whatever social media is the flavor of the week, and the photos are lost in the feed instantly, or gone after 24 hours. So unless you’re on instagram right then, you might miss out (… As I’m sure you’ve guessed, you’re probably not going to have a ton of time to check social media on your big day!)
  3. Your professional photos, which you’re paying someone a lot of money for, might just be littered with photos of guests standing in the aisle taking photos, or important family members staring down at their device instead of paying attention during special, emotional moments. (I have many photos to illustrate this, but I have chosen not to post them here, because I don’t want to make the people in question feel bad.) The simple truth is you won’t get nice photos of your parents’ proud faces, or that single perfect tear rolling down an emotional guest’s cheek, if there’s a screen blocking their face.
  4. There’s a definite chance of less emotional involvement by your distracted guests. We just can’t do that many things all at once – when you’re viewing a wedding on a little screen, or concentrating on getting a photo or a video, you’re not focused 100 per cent on what’s unfolding right in front of you. We’re rarely present in our daily lives, but a wedding is one of those times we want to really be there for those we love.
  5. It may be disheartening for you both, as you make this huge momentous incredible step together, to look out at your loved ones during the ceremony, hoping to catch grandma’s eye and she’s trying to figure out how to take a video with her phone and doesn’t even notice you. Kinda ruins the vibe.

Ok, so what’s the right answer?

There isn’t one! At our own wedding, we asked our loved ones not to take photos during the ceremony. But we had 2 mindblowingly great photographers, and an incredible videographer whom we trusted implicitly. I’m so happy we had an unplugged ceremony.

But this is your wedding, not mine. As your photographer, if other people have cameras and phones, I don’t mind. I can work around them and with them.

But I have some good suggestions if you do choose an unplugged ceremony.

  • Skip the sign! Instead, ask your celebrant to open your ceremony with a verbal request that folks not use their phones. An example script that you can literally copy/paste and send to your officiant if you want to:

    “Welcome friends and family! We’re almost ready to begin, but first I’d like to ask you all to take out your phones, put them on airplane mode, and then put them away until after the ceremony. There’s a professional photographer/ videographer here to record this momentous event so that you as guests can sit back and enjoy.” (Optional addition – There will be a photo opportunity at the end of the ceremony for all of you to get a gorgeous photo of the happy couple, I’ll let you know when the moment is here to take your phones back out.)

    If you really want the best of both worlds, work that quick photo op in to your ceremony. After the official stuff is done, stand in a pretty spot up front and ask your officiant to announce that guests can now take their photos. Now your snap happy guests will get a lovely photo of you both in a great spot, in great light, smiling and joyous, maybe even looking right at their camera – it’s a win win!
  • If you have far away guests attending on Zoom, assign this reponsibility to one tech savvy person who can be the designated phone user/zoom contact person for the ceremony.
  • Same goes for taking a short video of a certain part of the day, like a special speech or your vows. Ask a friend who has a great phone, or is notably good at this kind of thing to take that special video on your behalf, they can even text or Airdrop it to your loved ones if your mom/dad/grandma wants an immediate copy of this moment on their phones to show friends.
  • If you are especially active on social media and want someone to share to tiktok or Instagram for you, that’s rad too! Ask that one guest who has a great eye and make that their wedding day gift to you. You can even log them in to your own social media account to post on your own feed!
  • Another idea I love is giving your guests a fun distraction during the ceremony so they put their phones away. For example, Loni and Matt handed out little bottles with bubbles for the many kids (and adults!) in attendance to play with, also with the idea that their guests would blow bubbles for their recessional – this is easy clean up unlike confetti, and honestly, who doesn’t love blowing bubbles?! It was a great idea and bonus – a good photo op of cute kids, and guests having fun.
Blowing bubbles at Loni and Matt’s Edmonton wedding ceremony – a great idea to keep guests and kids busy and involved, and away from their devices.

Dana and Alex did a toast as part of the ceremony – it’s nearly impossible to take photos when you have a drink in your hand!

Guests toast the bride and groom at Dana and Alex’s outdoor Edmonton wedding ceremony and reception at Whitewood Barn

Sarah and Danielle handed out little cups with flowers for their guests to throw – another good “distraction” and great photo op for me!

Danielle and Sarah’s outdoor Edmonton wedding ceremony with guests throwing flowers during their recessional.

At the end of the day, the decision is yours. Decide what option feels the most you, and go from there without regrets! Remember that your guests have the rest of the celebration to take photos of you, so you’re not asking much of them – just to put their phones down for 20 mins or however long you have planned your ceremony to be. And chat with your wedding photographer and officiant to see if they have preferences or other suggestions.

Published by Buffy Goodman Photography

Edmonton based wedding and destination wedding, family, and portrait photographer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: