The Case for Unplugged Ceremonies

July 25, 2021

You want your wedding day to be perfect, or as close to it as possible, and you want your wedding-day memories to be pleasant and not riddled with regret or inconvenience. Agreed?
One thing that’s often misunderstood, though, is that a lot of these memories will be based on the photos captured that day. You are almost certainly not going to remember every single smaller detail of your wedding day. You honestly might not even remember some of the bigger details…without the help of your wedding photos! You’ll look at these photos for years to come, relying on them to remind you not only of small details like decorations and hairstyles, but also big ones like who attended the wedding, what happened when, facial expressions during your vows, and what it was like to walk down the aisle. Keep in mind, however, that insuring good photos could require that you be more intentional about this than simply hiring your favorite photographer. You also might want to consider having an Unplugged Ceremony in order to further guarantee your perfect photos.
What IS an Unplugged Ceremony?
Trust me, it’s not as complicated as it sounds. Having an Unplugged Ceremony simply means that you, the bride and groom, ask your guests to refrain from taking their own photos during your wedding ceremony in order to allow your chosen photographer to accomplish the task they’ve been hired (and likely been paid a lot of money!) to do.
This small, easy-to-accomplish detail is often forgotten, even though it can be carried out with little effort! The most frequently-used technique of communicating to your guests about your unplugged preferences is the Unplugged Ceremony Sign. These are usually placed towards the entrance to the ceremony and can vary in style and wording, anything from a straightforward “please turn off all cameras and phones” to something more humorous such as a call to not be “that guy.” It’s honestly up to you!
You can also choose to note your Unplugged Ceremony in any (or all) of the following ways:
1. Make a note of this on your wedding website. (This can be a very simple note and will often be phrased the same way as it is phrased on your Unplugged Ceremony sign.)
2. Have your ushers and/or greeters communicate your wishes to your guests.
3. Have your officiant mention your preferences at the beginning of the ceremony.
4. Share this information in your program (or on an insert placed in your program).
Why Should I Have an Unplugged Ceremony?
It’s an honest question. With all the details going into wedding planning, why would you add another one (even an easy one) on your to-do list? Is it really that important?
Yes. It is. And if you don’t agree, think about it this way. You’ve put the effort into researching photographers, painstakingly narrowed down your list of favorites to your ultimate choice, and then invested a large sum of money into them because you trust them the most to capture your desired images in the style you like best. They do a wonderful job day-of, you thoroughly enjoy your day, but then fast-forward to after the wedding and now you’re just awaiting your perfect photos to be delivered!
But when you finally see them, you find this:
This is why you should have an Unplugged Ceremony, because even the best photographer can’t capture the perfect shot when a guest thrusts a cellphone-in-hand into the aisle. Moreover, while many photographers are excellent with Photoshop and editing, removing entire hands, arms, and phones, all while maintaining style and clarity, is next to impossible. Guests might innocently be thinking their desired cellphone picture is priceless, but in reality, they’re ruining the priceless professional shot of the photographer.
Think of it this way: if you hire a professional violinist to play during your ceremony, then this musician is expected to play; your guests are expected to sit back , enjoy, and -most definitely- NOT play. Your Aunt might be an incredibly talented violinist, but you hired someone else to play so that she could simply enjoy the ceremony. If said Aunt last minute decides that she will play along with your hired musician without having prepared, and without having any idea of the songs that you selected, then this will only succeed in ruining the performances of both herself and your hired musician. Not only that, but it is also anything but respectful to your chosen musician’s talent, or to the time that they have put in to preparing to play for your wedding.
The same principles apply to the photography at your wedding.
Kendall Hulbert at Kendall Hulbert Photography puts it this way,
‘As a photographer, the ceremony holds the most pressure during a wedding day. The pressure to capture the first kiss or the dip that may take place in the middle of the isle. The worst gut feeling is editing a photo and seeing a phone trying to take a photo of the first kiss or a phone in the middle of the isle as the couple is walking down. This is why I love and support unplugged ceremonies. The couple can spend a lot of money on someone to capture the most intimate details of their wedding and doesn’t want to see 21st technology becoming a distraction of a romantic scene in a chapel or venue. It is the photographers job to take all the photos from the important day and the couple will share them with friends and family. As a guest, be in the moment, instead of behind your device, and enjoy the wonderful promise you see unfolding. Trust me, you will see great photos and they are even greater without phones in them. ‘
‘You want people to pay attention to you, not their social feeds. Yes, your uncle wants to take pictures with his iPhone 4. Great! Just take them before or after the ceremony. The more cameras going off, the less people know where to look and the worse your photos end up. You’re not going to want the 3 mp photo your aunt takes of you walking down the aisle. Ask your guests to be there in the moment and let them know you have a professional handling the photos. That’s what you paid them for after all.’
Erika Fletcher (Joy Shots Photography)
An Unplugged Ceremony is a courtesy to your guests and photographer. It encourages your guests to sit back, relax, and enjoy the moment, and it allows your real photographer to do their job uninterrupted. This is a beautiful, easy way to invite your friends and family to enjoy your ceremony and make memories alongside you, while simultaneously ensuring that your photographer is able to capture every one of these memories without the rude interruption of an iPhone in the shot.
The fact that you’ll get the photos of your dreams is an added bonus. “
– Moriah McAllister (Something Blue Wedding and Events)
Thank you to Joy Shots Photography and Kendall Hulbert Photography for their help with this project!

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