What is an unplugged wedding ceremony?
An unplugged wedding is simply where the couple request that phones, iPads, cameras and other recording devices aren’t used during the ceremony. This can be just for the service itself or even for the whole day if it's something the couple feel strongly about (although much harder to enforce!)
We chose to have an unplugged ceremony ourselves and made signs to let our guests know it was a phone and camera free zone while we were doing the actual marriage part - I’ve been at too many weddings where people’s faces are hidden behind screens. Technology is part of our every day life, we can’t ignore that and it’s very hard to make a wedding an exception, however I do feel with that the wedding day can become so saturated with cameras and it's nice to take a step back from that at the ceremony.
The main reason we chose to have our guests put them away was so they would be present in the moment of the wedding and not working out how to turn their flash on, texting their friends or checking Twitter. In my opinion, we spend so much of our lives 'plugged in' or connected to the net that it detracts from being in the moment itself. Some people are so worried about missing the moment with their camera phone that they miss letting themselves completely feel the emotion of the event in front of them.
Another big reason for it is purely aesthetic - who wants tiny black boxes held up in front of their guests faces in the photos? There are less people clapping, less people focused on the event itself and more people just watching the screen in front of them. I have taken so many images where the photograph is absolutely lovely, a really emotional image of a fleeting moment… but there’s a giant camera in the background. Sometimes no matter what angle or lens you use there’s no escaping getting other people’s phones and cameras in the way. As a photographer my job is to capture those images no matter what, but I like to make a point of doing that whilst not making a nuisance of myself i.e demanding people out of the way unless absolutely necessary. One thing that makes this especially hard is when the photographer is limited to where they can be situated during the ceremony. These restrictions means you’re really limited to the angle you can shoot, and if someone’s in your way there’s really not much you can do about it.
Talking of distractions.... I purposefully try not to use flash too much unless it's needed (after dark for example) as it makes my presence more obvious which makes people more self conscious. Guests who are a little trigger happy with the shutter and using flash can really distract not only the couple but also other guests. Another problem is the little red focusing light, which although can mostly be removed in editing but it can be time consuming and potentially ruin a lovely image.
With all the phones off there's no chance of an embarrassing interrupting phone call (perhaps the dulcet tones of Shania Twain from your great aunt’s ring tone). Ever been glowered at in the cinema when your phone's gone off? Imagine that x 100
A final reason is sharing the photos on social media – I’ve had a few brides be upset in the past when a guest has posted photos of them on Facebook before the evening guests have arrived. Some people encourage this with personal wedding hashtags and whatnot but for some people there's nothing worse that your wedding being plastered all over Facebook before the rest of your guests have arrived.
To finish on a positive note there are some of my photos with phones in them that I love - they can be great source of amusement, not just now but particularly in 50 years time when they’ll be so dated. Technology can be a brilliant thing and to be clear I am not anti it in general, or even for the full wedding day. It's a totally personal choice!
Also, I always offer free downloads in my packages meaning that all your lovely guests can download, print and share my images for free.
All the more reason for keeping their cameras in their bags!
Note: this had been adapted from a blog post I wrote a long time ago! It's interesting to see how things have changed in the last 3 years...
Why not take a look at my other blog posts!