What It Means to Have an “Unplugged Wedding Ceremony”

April 10, 2019


Happy Wednesday Friends!

With wedding season quickly approaching, I thought now is as good a time as any to post about this topic. Last week, I got an email from one of my brides who is getting married this September, about a topic that comes up quite a bit in the photography industry. She said that her fiancé had sent her a link to an article about wedding guests using their phones and cameras to take pictures during wedding ceremonies, and she wanted to know what my opinion was on the whole thing. Since this can be a pretty divided topic, I thought it might be helpful for those who are also planning their wedding to hear a photographers thoughts on an “unplugged wedding ceremony.” If you aren’t a wedding photographer, you will most likely be a guest at a wedding at some point in your life, and this post will hopefully shed some light on what is really happening when you pull your phone or camera out to get that perfect shot of the bride walking down the aisle.

“Unplugged wedding ceremonies” are ceremonies in which the couple has politely banned the use of all cameras and electronic devices for picture taking purposes during the actual ceremony. “Why would they do that? We’re guests, we should be able to take pictures if we want to!” Well, yes and no. Photographers are vendors, just like the DJ that the couple hired, just like the caterer, just like the florist; the photographer is hired to capture the special moments that happen throughout the wedding day. You wouldn’t ask the DJ to swap out their equipment for your iPhone to play your favorite song on your playlist, just like you wouldn’t ask the caterer to use your mom’s homemade lasagna recipe instead of the one that’s already on their menu because you’re POSITIVE it would taste better. Sure, you can request a song to be played by the DJ, you can ask that you are provided with a dietary sensitive meal, those things are simple, expected even!

But put yourself in a newlyweds shoes and picture this…you have recently gotten married, you have been anticipating the arrival of your wedding photos for weeks, maybe even months depending on your photographers turn around time. You hear that little ding signaling a new email in your inbox…you open it up to see that it’s the link to view your wedding photos! You are overjoyed! Finally! You grab your spouse and make them sit down on the couch with you while you open the link together. You start scrolling through the images, all neatly categorized by the timeline of the day’s events. The wedding day excitement comes rushing back to you and you’re thrilled with the images you have seen so far. The getting ready images, the little details of the dress, the bow tie your groom wore, the shoes you spent months saving up for, your bridal party all laughing together while sipping on mimosas, the images are more than you ever expected. You get to the ceremony portion of the images and your excitement turns to worry. You start to notice smartphone, after smartphone, after smartphone, all in the air each trying to get their shot. In fact, you can’t find even ONE photo without a smartphone in the air. You start to worry because you had already picked out the spot on your wall where you were going to make a gallery showing off your wedding photos to anyone and everyone that walks through your front door, and you wanted one of those photos to be of you walking down the aisle. You start to think that maybe those “Unplugged Ceremony!” signs you saw while browsing Etsy weren’t so cheesy after all…

Friends, I have seen some horrific photos (not in terms of composition or editing) but photos that otherwise would have been extremely powerful, ruined by lit up screens spanning the edge of the frame. Some guests even stepping out into the aisle getting in the way of one of the most important shots that the photographer is expected to capture! It’s sad and frustrating for us as the photographer who were paid a good chunk of change to capture this special day for the couple, and there’s not much we can do about it. To see what I’m talking about, do a quick Google search of “unplugged wedding ceremonies” and look at some of the images that pop up. It’s cringe-worthy. I have been fortunate enough with the weddings I have photographed where no one has gotten in my way totally with their iPhone or camera, and if I do find a phone or camera is a distraction, I’m usually able to crop the image so it’s not so noticeable, but you can only crop so much before you start sacrificing image quality.

Using your iPhone to grab that quick shot of the bride or groom walking down the aisle towards their future spouse may seem like a small and insignificant thing, but you have to remember that you aren’t the only one there who is thinking that same thing. Soon, #alltheiPhones are in the air, waiting patiently to get their shot as the bride walks by. Put yourself in the shoes of the couple getting married. If you’re the one walking down the aisle, you’re seeing a whole lot of arms raised and the backs of phones instead of the faces of the ones you love. If you’re the spouse who is waiting at the end of the aisle, you’re seeing a lot of arms and phones in the air, instead of the face of your special someone walking towards you.

My intent for this blog post is not to upset anyone, so I hope I haven’t ruffled too many feathers with this! I want this to be educational and eye opening. Whether you’re in the process of planning your wedding, or if you know you will be attending some weddings in the near future. We as photographers want to make sure that we are providing a product that our paying clients will love and cherish for the rest of their lives. We don’t ever want to come off as snobby or have an anti-anyone-else’s-camera-but-our-own attitude, we just want to make sure that our job isn’t hindered by something that can so easily be prevented. So if you are a guest at a wedding, even if it isn’t an “unplugged ceremony,” make sure to be courteous about cell phone and / or camera usage. The photographer and the couple will thank you, I promise! And if you are planning your wedding, I might suggest taking another look at that “Welcome to our unplugged ceremony!” sign you saw on Etsy 🙂

Maggie - 2021 bride

We made the best choice for pictures. On the wedding day we we had fun, got AMAZING pictures and got to spend time with our guest. Everything from her personality (she is the ultimate hype girl for brides) to her her gorgeous pictures is worth it! You will not regret hiring her!

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