Why you should have an unplugged wedding

July 17, 2019

Unplugged weddings are where everyone at the ceremony turns their phones off, and *shock horror* focuses more on you, rather than worrying about taking phones and checking Facebook (yes, I’ve seen people do in this a ceremony! Gross!)!

So you’ve heard of unplugged weddings and maybe shied away from the idea for one of several reasons.

  1. It doesn’t seem like something worth worrying about
  2. You don’t want to say something and offend family by telling them they can’t take photos
  3. You want photos of the day and video evidence that it happened

So I’m going to address these three common reasons why people think unplugged weddings may not be right for them, and then explain why unplugged weddings will lead to:

  1. You have better images from the day
  2. The day meaning more to you and your guests

Objection 1: “it’s nothing to worry about.”

This objection is the equivalent of putting your head in the sand, and then being surprised when the sun has come out and burnt your ass.

It may not seem like something too big of a deal, but when people have their phones out, ready to use and capture snaps of on the day, it does two big things:

It takes people’s focus away from you and your ceremony – do you remember all of those times you’re watching Netflix together and one of you is playing with your phone, only to miss the most significant plot point twist ever? Or that time you went out and one of you was talking with the other mesmerised by replying to a heated Facebook comment? Yup, this is what is going to happen at your ceremony

(the big one) it means you’re going to get people leaning in front of everything, taking photos with their iPhones, blocking the view of the photographer (me!), and everyone else. You know when you go to a gig, and everyone has their smartphone up, recording the same concert? Here we are.

One of the most striking examples as of late was by this post on Facebook from Hannah Way Photography, which sums it up so incredibly well.

If this can’t convince you that having someone wander in front of a photo may ruin your images from your day, then I am afraid you need to wake up!

It’s unfortunate how often I see this at weddings, and I will admit that I (like many other photographers who deal with this challenge) have had shots blocked by family members and friends doing this.

Objection 2: “I don’t want to start a shit-storm, telling Aunty Gladdis that she can’t take photos on her iPad.”

Managing the expectations of parents can be a tough one (I’ve written about how to convince your parents you want to elope here, as a show of the familiar territory this is for me).

From getting involved a little bit too much with the decoration and dress idea of your wedding to dictating what the day should like in their opinion, parents can be tough to manage sometimes.

Causing a bit of a stir in the family ranks can be another headache that you don’t want to deal with when it comes to wedding planning.

However, the big thing is this; it is your wedding day. You’re also paying a photographer a lot of money to get some excellent images of yourselves. So now I’ll give you a little bit of an idea of why you’re ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’, when it comes to this.

  1. Scenario 1 – you don’t say anything. You’re coming down the aisle when Uncle Fred pops out in the isle and captures a few photos with his iPad. The photographer got pictures of you coming down the aisle, but Fred is in the way, and you now don’t have those key images that you said you wanted. You feel disappointed that you don’t have the images and have nowhere else to turn the blame but Uncle Fred. You express this to him, and the family gets annoyed that you’re ‘being unfair and rude’ to him. You get it in the neck.
  2. Scenario 2 – you tell the family that you don’t want anyone to bring their camera or phone. You get in the neck. However, when it comes to your wedding day, you end up with exactly the images you want, and low and behold everyone has their eyes on you instead of their iPad.

So with both scenarios, let’s face it, you get it in the neck. However, which scenario would you prefer at the end of your wedding? I’d say number 2.

So be upfront and tell the family and relatives that you don’t want them behind a camera phone, but you want them to be present with you and your partner.

Objection 3: “I want as many photos and videos of the day because it is my wedding day!”

Having your friends and family record the images from the day makes complete sense. 

However, you’ve invested the thousands of dollars into a professional photographer because they are the one who will ensure you get the very best from your day.

Let me pose this question; would you go out to a 5-star restaurant, only to have your friend go into the back and whip up some pasta, with his recipe?

I’m also going to give you a hard truth here – when was the last time you went back through your phone and appreciated what you captured? I’m not talking about that one image in a thousand, and I mean every single picture. Was it last week? Last month? That one time you were finding a meme on your phone, and you realised you had all of these wedding photos?

The hard truth is you won’t care about the images people take on their phones, and you won’t do anything with them, and neither will they.

We now live in a society where the severe ease of access to camera phones means that everything is documented, but in an ironic twist, these images mean nothing because they are so easily captured. They collect digital dust, to never see the light of day again. They’ll be snapped, and then forgotten about.

The cost of this? Your wedding photos will be filled with a sea of iPhones, iPads, and cameras, instead of friends, family and loved ones who will be watching with their eyes, not through the back of a screen.

Your wedding isn’t a gig. This isn’t some crazy prank where someone has run through the streets naked. This is a moment when everyone is coming together to celebrate you.

Would you rather see your friend’s faces smiling, supporting you, or a swarm of iPhones in their place, watching and recording you like some unusual attraction?

Extra Objection – I’ve heard that my friend hired a photographer and they didn’t do an outstanding job, so I want some backup

To be blunt, and with all due respect to your friend, they chose their photographer poorly! One of the biggest things I do with the couples I work with is to manage expectations. This is key when it comes to everything, from how the images will be edited, to how long until they are delivered. You should choose a photographer because:

  1. You like their style (do you like how they edit their images?)
  2. You like them (you’ll be spending a LOT of time with them on the day)
  3. They are a professional (not Uncle Alf who got a camera at Christmas)
  4. They know how a wedding usually flows and can give you a concise breakdown of how they see the day going

If all three of these boxes are not ticked for you, then you haven’t chosen the right photographer for you!

A professional photographer will do the most excellent job, so you don’t have to worry about having a back up of images from the day.

Unplugged Weddings give your day and connection the respect it deserves

Nobody likes to talk to someone who has a phone in their face. It doesn’t show that you’re interested, and most of all, it doesn’t give the impression you’re present at that moment in time.

How to organise unplugged weddings

Give your family and friends fair warning that it will be an unplugged ceremony, so don’t expect to be able to take any snaps at the ceremony, however, you’ll have a chance afterwards to grab some. Also (big thing), tell them you’ve hired this incredible photographer who will be working hard throughout the day to capture as many people as possible, so come and grab them if you want some photos!

Ask your celebrant to announce the start of the ceremony that you want everyone to turn off their phones, and stay present. I recommend somehow really trying to get at the heartstrings of people and say that you have invited everyone there today because they mean something to you (I hope they would!), so to show that you want to be here, and put the phones and cameras away.

Besides, you have an incredible photographer who is going to do all of the hard work, so your friends and family can soak up the celebration, and enjoy the images later on.

So I urge you to consider unplugged weddings. They give your day space and respect it deserves and helps everyone be present, instead of watching the most significant event of your life, like it was a viral video on Facebook.

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