Unplugged Weddings: Trend or Necessity?

More and more of the couples I work with have opted to have an “unplugged wedding.” Why? It’s becoming more and more necessary. This is a perfect example of guests being present and putting down their photos for Mr + Mrs Klein! 

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Wedding at Margaritaville planned by Swivel Group Events

It’s no surprise that technology has gotten more pervasive. Almost 70% of American adults now own a smartphone, and these devices are almost always nearby: 72% of people stated in a survey that their phones are rarely more than five feet away from them! Plus, the average person checks their phone more 110 times per day! For the more addicted, that number can be over 900 times per day!

So what does this have to do with weddings? It means that it has become more and more difficult to pull guests away from their phones and cameras during wedding ceremonies. I can tell you from personal experience: it’s a massive problem. Here’s why:

  1. They get in the professional photographer’s way. I’ve definitely learned to watch out for wayward guests and how to get creative when they’re blocking my shots, but it’s just not ideal. You’ve chosen to hire a professional photographer because amazing wedding photos are important to you. When the wedding day is over, those photos are the mementos that remain. Phone-happy guests can detract from pros' work, and thus detract from your investment in treasured memories.
  2. They can ruin precious moments. When people are overly focused on their phones, they usually aren’t thinking about anything else (more on that in a bit). Even if their iPad is preventing the groom from seeing his bride walk down the aisle, or blocking the “you may kiss the bride” moment, it won’t even occur to them. Let’s not forget how a phone could ring right during the vows. These nightmare scenarios can and do happen. I’ve seen it countless times, and it can be so disappointing - if not devastating - on one of the most important days of your lives. 
  3. Expensive to Edit. Even if Cousin Margie’s iPhone-clutching hand gets in an otherwise perfect shot, it can be fixed in Photoshop. But these edits can add up; sometimes I have to edit out an entire person. Rather than paying extra to alter history, an unplugged wedding can help reality unfold timelessly and beautifully the first time.
  4. Not worth the outcome. One argument I've heard for letting guests take photos during ceremonies is, "you get to see it from more angles." Unfortunately, however, even with Facebook and the multitude of file-sharing sites out there, couples often have trouble gathering all the photos their guests have taken. And even when they do receive guests' photos, they tend to not turn out great, or at least not worth the distraction. 
  5. Most importantly, guests on their phones are not in the moment. Regardless of religion and formality, wedding ceremonies are one of the most beautiful and sacred rites we have in society. Why would anyone not want to be fully present for that? You can help your guests better share in experiencing your big day's once-in-a-lifetime moments.

Are you convinced yet? Wonderful! Let’s say you decide to keep devices out of the picture - figuratively and literally! While that is a savvy choice, maybe you’re wondering not only how to lay down the law, but how to do it tactfully. Try these strategies:

  1. Wedding invitation. Mention that you’re having an unplugged ceremony in your wedding invitation - and if you have a wedding website - there as well. 
  2. Day-of. Create a phone-free wedding ceremony visual display that guests will notice as they head to their seats. This can be very cute and creative, like a chalkboard on an easel. You can also put a reminder in your wedding program.
  3. Officiant. Depending on the type of ceremony you’ve chosen, you could work with your officiant to mention something about disconnecting. It’s a chance to catch any last minute un-silenced phones while graciously reminding guests of the beauty in being fully present for this momentous occasion.
  4. Discreet requests. Do you have any particular family members or friends who are known phone addicts or Instagramaniacs? Before the wedding, you can very, very discreetly tell them how important unplugging is to you, and ask them to resist technology. 
  5. Use humor. With all of the above tactics, you can use a bit of humor to seem less authoritarian. Try cute phrases in written materials like “Oh snap!” or “Be Nice, turn off the Device.” Or, if your ceremony will be fairly short and sweet, you could joke about how guest won’t have to abandon their beloved smartphones for very long.
  6. It’s not for the entire wedding. Don’t forget, you can remind guests that phones and cameras are A-OK for the cocktail hour and reception. Encourage them to cut loose and snap shots as much as their hearts desire - but after the ceremony. 

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Love this sign created by Ally and Hunter with the help from Erica Furhman at Simply You

No matter how badly your guests want to reach for their phones, your wedding day is YOUR day. You have every right to shape it the way you want. While it’s a shame that having an unplugged wedding is virtually a necessity these days, there are so many ways you can gracefully make it happen. And really, you’ll be helping your guests create a better experience for everyone - for themselves, for you, the other guests, your pro photographer, and for the photos that will exquisitely commemorate the day long after it’s over. 


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