Updated 31 March 2021
So you’re getting married. And hopefully you’re super freakin’ excited. I’m sure you can’t wait for the party, but I really hope the whole I do/ We Will/ Declaring your love bit excites you too. As a wedding photographer I have seen a lot of ceremonies, and truthfully they never fail to make me emotional in some way. But one thing is for sure, they have changed over the years. And the concept of unplugged ceremonies has become more and more common. So I’m here with your guide to unplugged ceremonies.
What Is An Unplugged Ceremony?
When I mentioned having an unplugged ceremony to my mum, she thought I meant I was turning off all the lights and having no electricity in the place. But no an unplugged ceremony is where you ask your guests to stay off all phones, ipads and cameras. No electronics. Nothing but them.
Pros of An Unplugged Ceremony
- Your guests are fully engaged and present in your ceremony. They’re concentrating on you and the commitment you’re making to each other. This leads to a lot more emotion from everyone.
- You get to see people’s faces, not their phones as you walk up and back down the aisle. This is so much less intimidating and also much nicer in the professional photos that you’ve paid for and are actually going to print.
- You don’t have to worry about ugly photo angles. Because you know Great Aunt Margerie is going to lean down for that low angle with her ipad that is never going to be flattering and it’s going STRAIGHT on facebook.
- There is less chance of someone stepping out in the aisle to ‘get the shot’ and blocking not only your photographer, but the love of your life seeing you as you walk down the aisle. Trust me, it’s a mood kill when you’ve got someone’s arm blocking your partner’s face when they see you for the first time.
- Much less chance of the awkward moment when someone’s phone rings in the middle of your vows. May be funny at the time, but not so much when it spoils your wedding video for years to come.
- People can actually clap you as you leave as a married couple. It’s much harder to clap, celebrate and cheer with one hand whilst they try to take a photograph of you coming back down the aisle.
Cons of an Unplugged Ceremony
Truthfully I can’t think of any apart from how pissed off you could be if someone ignores it. That person will be off the Christmas card list. Whereas if you don’t have the expectation you can’t get annoyed.
How to Tell People It’s An Unplugged Ceremony
So as I said, you may have some family members that particularly resist the concept. This can lead to some strained conversations – take it from someone who has had these conversations. However, it’s your wedding day and if it’s what you want then you should have it. There are a few ways I would recommend communicating it though. Signs are great, but truthfully they’re mostly ignored. The whole ‘oh I didn’t see that’ excuse is fairly common. So here are my top tips to make sure you get your unplugged ceremony:
- Put it on your invites. It doesn’t have to be a big harsh DON’T USE YOUR PHONE line, but you can put it nicely like this I found here:
- ‘We want you to be able to really enjoy our wedding day, feeling truly present and in the moment with us. We’ve hired an amazing wedding photographer named _________ who will be capturing the way the wedding looks — and we’re inviting each of you to sit back, relax, and just enjoy how the wedding feels. We’re respectfully asking that everyone consider leaving all cameras and phones off. Of course we will be happy to share our wedding photos with you afterward!‘
- Get your officiant to tell guests BEFORE you arrive. So often I hear the officiant tell the guests to turn off their phones after the bride has walked down the aisle. By then it’s too late. Don’t be scared to ask them to make it clear that this is not optional, and it’s something you care about. My celebrant is telling my guests that I’ll be turning around if I have a phone pointed at me as I walk down the aisle. My guests know me well enough to know I’m that type of person.
- Put it in your hymn books/ order of service.
- Put your bridal party in charge of reminding people as they sit down.
- Put it on your social media the night before.
- Make multiple signs. Here are some great examples.
As a wedding photographer, I can not recommend unplugged ceremonies enough. I could show you countless examples of wedding photos being effectively ruined by well meaning guests stepping out in the aisle or reaching out with their phones to ‘get the shot.’ I’ve seen flashes go off and ruin the lighting in key moments that can’t be recreated during a ceremony. The list is endless. But as photographers that’s our job to try to deal with those situations, and if we can’t then we can only document things as they happen, phones and all. So it really comes down to you both as a couple, your priorities and what matters to you. It’s not my job, or any suppliers job to tell you what to do. Like all parts of your wedding, it’s your decision to make and we’ll be here to make sure you get what the best from your day. If you’re planning your wedding, please feel free to get in touch to find more info about how I work. Lx