One topic that often comes up in consultations with my couples is having an unplugged ceremony. Today I’m covering what an unplugged ceremony is, why you should consider one, and how to make sure it works!
Before we get started, I do want to talk about live-streaming. Every wedding I photographed since the pandemic has had guests that couldn’t come because of COVID-19. (This was especially true in the spring of 2020 when there was a strict limit on social gatherings, including weddings.) Almost all of my weddings in 2020 had a livestream going for guests who couldn’t be there. I think that’s a great idea, and I strongly encourage having one if you are missing guests! What I’ll be covering today focuses more on guests in their seats with phones/cameras/iPads, and how that can impact your wedding photos. With a live stream, the phone is typically on a tripod to the side of the ceremony, and that’s totally fine. As long as it isn’t a distraction during the ceremony, I think it’s a great idea!
What is an Unplugged Ceremony?
If you have an unplugged ceremony, you are asking your guests to be completely present. This means turning off their phones, cameras, iPads, etc. until after the ceremony is over. In the age of social media, it isn’t uncommon to see every guest along the aisle with their cellphone out to capture the bride walking down the aisle. Being unplugged means having no devices out from the time the music starts until the ceremony is over.
Why You Should Have an Unplugged Ceremony
If you’re staring at your phone throughout the ceremony, there is no way that you can be fully present as the couple is committing their lives to one another. (This is EXACTLY why we instructed all of our family members to leave their cameras at home on our wedding day. We wanted everyone to be fully in the moment!) Couples hire professional photographers and videographers to capture their event, and those photos are the ones that will be treasured for decades – not blurry cell phone pics!
The problem with having devices out during a ceremony is that a photographer or videographer can not avoid them. It isn’t uncommon for guests to stick their phones out into the aisle as the bride is walking. (Yes, I’m 100% serious.) As a photographer, I cannot make people move during the ceremony without completely disrupting the moment. Depending on how far away I am from that guest, I would not even make it to them in time to ask them to put their phones up before the moment was completely over. You can google unplugged ceremonies and find DOZENS of photos that have been taken by professional photographers where someone’s phone/camera/iPad is completely blocking a crucial wedding moment that cannot be redone.
During family portraits, bride and groom portraits, and other parts of the day, I can move around guests’ devices or ask them to put them away if they’re being too distracting. Unfortunately, I cannot do that during a ceremony. Things happen quickly, and if someone stands up in front of me in the middle aisle to capture the first kiss on their iPhone, I can’t get around them in time. It’s just not possible. Having an unplugged ceremony is the only way to ensure that there won’t be photos of devices in your precious wedding photos!
How to Have an Unplugged Ceremony
There are three great ways that you can announce that you are having an unplugged ceremony:
- Include that information on your invitations alongside the dress code or other details
- Have a sign where guests enter the ceremony site that explains that you’re having an unplugged ceremony
- Have your officiant make an announcement before the ceremony officially begins
My advice is to do all three of these suggestions. In my opinion, the one that works the very best is #3. You can ask your officiant to say something like this:
“The couple has asked that all of their guests turn off any cell phones, cameras, or other electronic devices. They want each of you to be fully present in this moment, and that isn’t possible if you’re taking photos. They have hired professional photographers to capture this moment, and the couple cannot wait for you to see those beautiful images! Please be respectful of this decision and turn your devices off now. You may turn them back on after the ceremony has concluded.”
This explains that
- It’s something YOU want your guests to do and is not just a suggestion
- They WILL see professional photos later, and they will be better than anything they could have captured
- The only way to be fully present is to turn your devices completely off. Cell phones are such a distraction, and no guest should want to be distracted during your wedding!
I hope this blog post has been helpful as you plan your wedding day! Want to see more wedding planning tips? Click here!
I’m a wedding and lifestyle photographer based in Knoxville, Tennessee but available anywhere. If you have questions about booking me for a session or wedding, click here! To follow me on social media, check out my Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.