All About An "Unplugged Ceremony"

While some couples encourage their friends and family to snap as many photos as possible throughout the day, others are asking their guests to shut off their camera phones for the day. There are strong arguments on both sides — there’s something so special about seeing your wedding day unfold from your guests’ perspectives, but a lot of photographers have noted that “guest photographers” often compromise your professional pictures.  

Why Have An Unplugged Ceremony?

Recently, “Guest Photographers” came up in one of the photography groups I am a part of online, and someone asked what the big deal is; why wouldn’t we want more people capturing images for our clients? I thought this was a great question! I don’t have a single problem with guests taking images and sharing them later on with the couple. It makes me happy to know there will be other pictures and photos of moments I may have missed or alternate angles that I couldn’t cover. I also completely understand that some have a love for capturing images and enjoy taking pictures at weddings they attend.

However, my heart literally breaks when a guest ruins an otherwise lovely image or jumps in front of me when I’m capturing a key moment from the day. It completely slays me when this happens because, while I am not remotely egotistical at all, I am fairly confident that my image would have been better than the one they captured. In the past six years of being a professional wedding photographer, it’s also been sad to watch the progression from seeing smiling, encouraging and happy faces as the bride is escorted up the aisle to faces hidden behind the backs of cameras and cell phones that line the aisle. These are all reasons why I am elated when I hear of couples opting for an Unplugged Wedding — or, at the very least, an Unplugged Ceremony.

Reason # 1: 

There is absolutely nothing I can do to combat a flash from a guest photographer’s camera. There is rarely anything that will save the image, and no repositioning will change the outcome. It doesn’t matter what kind of camera, big or small — the flash is almost always too bright to work with once it is fired.

Reason #2:

At a few weddings, guests have literally shoved me aside and gave me grief because I was in the way of their photos. Additionally, guests standing in the aisle always make me sad, because your attention immediately will go to that person and not to the subject of the image. I have sooooo many images of the bride and groom's first kiss or walk down the aisle that is littered with cell phones in the air, iPads sticking out of the aisle, and even guests standing in front of me. 

Reason #3:

Guests taking photos during family formals is especially hard as well. Not only am I generally under a time crunch, but the flashes ruin at least one or two shots from each batch I take. Eyes also tend to wander, and rarely do I get everyone looking at me at the same time when there are multiple cameras present. This is the only time that I will sometimes tell guests that they have to stop taking pictures, and I have been told off more times than not when I’ve had to do this. However, my priority the day of the wedding is on my clients. I care about the quality of the portraits, and if there is a circus going on behind me, it rarely ends well for everyone involved. So, trust me when I beg and plead for you to tell people to put their cameras down and go enjoy the cocktail hour while we take some portraits with the special people in your life.

The Bottom Line:

My priority the day of the wedding is on my clients. They have paid me their hard-earned money to make sure I document their wedding, and when an overzealous guest gets in the way, it makes me sad. I think often people don’t realize what they are doing, so this post is in hoping to educate even a few people that will take this advice and either have an unplugged wedding or think of the professional before jumping in the aisle for that shot.

 

How To Go About Asking Your Guests To Put Their Phones and Cameras down?

  • At one wedding, prior to the ceremony, the officiant read this: “Welcome, friends and family! Good evening, everyone. Please be seated. Dan and Jennifer invite you to be truly present at this special time. Please, turn off your cell phones and put down your cameras. The photographer will capture how this moment looks — I encourage you all to capture how it feels with your hearts, without the distraction of technology. If Dan can do it, then so can you.” The guests all obeyed, and even after the ceremony, many decided to keep their arms down and their hearts open and enjoyed the day, instead of being an observer from behind their cameras.
     
  • Add a sign to your ceremony entrance or a note on your invitations or program -- here's some great examples!: