The unplugged wedding: couples tell guests to put down their devices

Photo by Nora & Troy at Aurora-Photography.com, used by permission

So there you are at the altar, gazing into the eyes of your beloved, saying your vows. You turn to sneak a glance at your wedding guests, all your favorite beloved friends and family… and are greeted by a sea of down-turned faces staring at their LCD screens.

When your photos come back from your wedding photographer, all your guest shots include your favorite people staring at their favorite devices. People are smiling, but they're all staring at little screens.

Welcome to the era of the over-documented wedding, where, even if you've hired someone to take photos, every guest has a camera and an iPhone and is tweeting the whole event. They're there with you, but are they really present?

Be nice, turn off your device

As a web nerd who spends the majority of my life plugged into my laptop and smartphone, even I think it's critical to take a few moments to be truly present. Smell the air, look around, feel the texture of the world around us. A wedding ceremony is exactly the kind of fleeting, important moment when it's especially valuable to really be present, rather than relating to the world through a small LCD screen. When you discourage devices at your wedding, you encourage your guests to look up and drink in the world. Let's call it "in-the-moment matrimony."

As a web nerd who spends the majority of my life plugged in, even I think it's critical to take a few moments to be truly present.

While many churches have no camera policies, I'm hearing more and more from nontraditional secular couples that they're considering an unplugged wedding — at the very least, asking guests to turn off their devices during the ceremony.

Now, let's acknowledge that a fully plugged-in, hyper-documented wedding makes perfect sense for some couples. Micro-budget brides sometimes skip professional photography, opting to rely on guest photographs — so of course guest cameras make perfect sense in that context. If you're a digerati who announced your engagement via Facebook, had an iPad-wielding officiant, read your vows off an iPhone, and live-streamed your ceremony, then there's no reason you should unplug your wedding. I'm certainly not here to dictate that anyone needs to have less tech at their wedding.

If, however, you and your partner are looking for a few less beeps and a bit more face-to-face connection with your guests, an unplugged wedding could be a good fit for you.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Seltzer Photography, used by permission.

Don't experience our wedding through a viewfinder: the bride perspective

Philadelphia resident Kathleen Harbin, 27, is considering going unplugged for her June 2012 wedding in Antalya, Turkey. "My ceremony will be very short (perhaps 15 minutes)… it could fly by while someone tries to figure out whether their memory card is full. How can I connect with my guests when I can't even see them through the cameras they're holding up?"

How can I connect with my guests when I can't even see them through the cameras they're holding up?

Carrie Kilman, a 35-year-old planning her August 2011 wedding in Madison, WI, has personal experience with the distraction factor. "As a photographer myself, I know how the act of being behind the lens can distance me from the energy of the moment — I become an observer and interpreter, and no longer a true participant. We want our guests to experience our ceremony in a way you typically can't do when you're staring through a viewfinder or fiddling with your iPhone."

She goes on, "Philosophically, I don't like the way digital cameras and camera phones have encouraged the sense that we need to 'capture' everything in order for it feel complete. I'd rather people simply watched and clapped and smiled and cried — and really listened and remembered, not from the photos they downloaded onto their computers, but from their own memories."

Photo by Benj Haisch, used with permission

Dealing with Uncle Bob: the wedding professional perspective

Wedding officiants are starting to get more requests for unplugged ceremonies, as well. Celebrant Jessie Blum, of New Jersey's Eclectic UnionsThey ♥ OBB; we ♥ them said, "I've had a few couples who have requested that NO photos be taken at the ceremony. Often times, when the request comes from the officiant, guests will take note and respect the couple's wishes. Guests get so bogged down in taking photos sometimes — it's nice to be able to step back, and just enjoy the moment!"

Wedding industry insiders even have a name for the aggressive amateur photographer at weddings: Uncle Bob.

Perhaps the strongest proponents of unplugged weddings are professional wedding photographers, who sometimes experience significant challenges working around guests trying to capture the event for themselves. Seattle wedding photographer Jenny JimenezThey ♥ OBB; we ♥ them observed, "Too many wedding crowd shots these days include distracted people checking cell phones and camera LCDs… especially during the processional and recessional."

Wedding industry insiders even have a name for the aggressive amateur photographer getting in the way at weddings: Uncle Bob. You don't have to look very hard to find a million rants about how Uncle Bob has ruined professional wedding photos with the flash from his camera, photobombing gorgeous poses, kneeling in the aisle blocking the view of the vows, and even standing on pews.

Some wedding photographers will even show their couples photos of an Uncle Bob ruining a wedding photo, as a way to encourage their clients to ask guests to put down their cameras.

Apparently, shortly after this photo was taken, the officiant turned around and firmly told this guest to go sit down. Photo by Joe Sanfilippo Photography, used with permission.

Is unplugging right for your wedding?

I want to clarify again: I'm certainly not saying that all weddings should be unplugged, or that guests are doing anything wrong when they have their cameras and phones out. If it doesn't bother the couple, then it's not a problem. As with all things Offbeat Bride, ultimately this wedding decision comes down to what feels right to each couple.

[related-post align="right"]That said, I do think that in this era of 24-hour connectivity, where there's an iPhone in every pocket, a Facebook status update in every encounter, and a digital hobbyist photographer in every family, it's important to carefully consider the issue. Digital devices are ever-present in our daily lives; what role do you want these devices to play at your wedding?

  1. we hire only 1 photographer for our wedding and picture came out good. but missing a lot great moment. I do work for part time wedding photographer. I do know what is good and bad.

    Never trust photographer, even 2 at the same company. The company may shoot 1000+ pictures for the day, but they may only give you 50 or only the one they think is good back to you.they want to protect their company's image.
    Some photographer even put on contract that the client can't post their pictures on internet. WTF??

    Some of the photographer just worry and jealous, their picture came out worse than the guest.

    My advice is. if you have only 1 photographer, better ask 1 family or friend take some snapshot picture during the ceremony too.

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    • I don't know if you had anything in writing but hiring a photographer for a wedding is definitely a situation where you need everything written out. I don't think it's fair at all to say "never trust a photographer" based off of one experience.
      As a photographer, I'm not jealous of guests, nor do I have a problem with guests snapping photos for themselves, all I "worry" about is making sure the people who hired me get their money's worth. If that means shooing away an Uncle Bob, so be it.

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    • I'm with Sarah here, if you've worked in wedding photography you should have known to only hire if there is a contract.. These contracts protect both photographer and clients and I think it's safe to say your photog was not a pro if they didn't use one. If you had a contract then you are well within your rights to ask for what you paid for or if denied any help settling go to court. Your contract should list everything you paid for. But remember you get what you pay for.

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  2. Great article, I've always been trying to find the right words to tell people about the whole Uncle Bob photographer scenario. It's sometimes difficult to approach this subject without coming off like a snob! I'm so glad you put this together, I'll be forwarding this to everyone I know who is planning a wedding.

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  3. This is SUCH a well written article and it brings up so many good points. I appreciate how you're not full square against people taking photos at weddings but as someone who's photographed weddings, it is so true that part of the battle is getting around all the family and friends who have their point and shoots out flashing pictures.

    It's definitely tough to balance not being rude to wedding guests and making sure you get the shots your clients are paying you to get! More guests just need to be aware of what is appropriate and what is going on around them.

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  4. I've been on both sides of the fence when it comes to this situation. I got married five years ago, so photography wasn't even remotely like it is today. My "wedding photographer" was a family friend who spent more time drinking mimosas then he did photographing us. A close friend took shots at our ceremony (and thankfully, our reception as well because our actual photographer had thrown-in the towel by then), and those are the only decent shots we have from the whole day. If she hadn't been there, getting in "the photographer's" way, we'd have nothing.
    On the other hand, I've shot a couple of weddings now and my first was a disaster, filled with Uncle Bobs, Aunt Marges and Cousin Freds. I assume it could have been because so much of the family lived a significant distance away and rarely got to see the couple, but I don't think it should make a difference. It took forever to do the family shots because of the bridal party's wandering eyes an heads, but I muddled through. A comment earlier about being a professional stands true-it's our jobs to make the best of the situation no matter what. The couple is paying us to capture what made their day special-not complain about their annoying family! ;) That being said though, I'll definitely be discussing with the bride and groom before my next wedding shoot.

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  5. Having gotten our pro and non-pro photos back from the wedding I have to say I'm so glad we didn't do this.

    Our photographer was an amazing photo-journalist and he got a lot of fantastic shots but he couldn't be everywhere at once. He caught the group of guys twisting to Chuck Berry's You Never Can Tell (aka the song from Pulp Fiction) but missed the bubble war going on at the same time on the far side of the room.

    He also couldn't have the same perspective on which were the really important shots. He got some great photos of my husband's cousin's new boyfriend doing poi but didn't take any of my best friend of 15 years attempting to remember the routine we'd put together on holiday years before. This is in no way a critisism of him, there is no way he could or should have known but without that background he couldn't know that one shot of someone doing poi would mean more to us than another.

    Without guests cameras we would have missed a lot of special moments and the minor irritation of seeing the cameras was well worth it.

    Of course not everyone will feel the same, and if you want an unplugged wedding them go for it, but I wanted to offer an alternative perspective on the end result.

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  6. "Today I finally overcame trying to fit the world inside a picture frame… Didn't have a camera by my side this time. Hoping I would see the world through both my eyes." — John Mayer

    I think that quote is going in our invitations, followed by something along the lines of "So all our guests can be 'in the moment' with us, please, no photos during the ceremony."

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  7. Great article – but in my experience I think guests with digital cameras and phones are hear to stay. It's up to the wedding photographer to prove their worth. I always look at my photos and ask myself whether a guest could have taken them… For me that is the real measure of good wedding photography.

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  8. We live in a culture that is obsessed with the photo. Capturing the moment forever. We as photographers are partly to blame for it! Without such demand our industry would be drastically different. Would you be able to charge the same amount if people put little value in creating and capturing something that lasted forever? Living in the moment is a good thing but you can hardly blame people for wanting to create something that will live on.

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  9. I am a professional photographer who just, in the past couple years, made the big leap from managing corporate studios to launching a business of my own.

    At a wedding I photographed in June, I couldn't help but notice that a well-dressed guest had a much more expensive camera than my own. Mine is a great one, but she had the one I drool over and am saving up to purchase one day. Throughout the ceremony, she was constantly in my way. When it came time to do the group pictures, it got to the point that I had a hard time getting all the subjects to look straight ahead at my camera, when she was 20 ft to my right, taking pictures of my groups as well. I was so frustrated by the time the day was over, but kept my cool nonetheless.

    The very next day, she posted an album on facebook of a couple hundred photos from that day, and immediately I was afraid that she was going to undermine my work (ie: make the bride wonder why did she just pay me all that $ for photography that was going to take a couple weeks, when her family member was able to do it much faster and with better quality).

    Then I looked through the pictures and was reminded that the camera does NOT make the photographer. They were TERRIBLE. I was no longer worried about that. The worst that came out of it was the fact that I had to do a LOT of extra work in photoshop because I didn't have many where everyone was looking at me. I had to do quite a bit of head-swapping.

    I wish people would realize that when there is a paid professional there to do the job, they shouldn't feel compelled to help out. At the very least, if you do feel compelled to help out, have the decency to stay out of the way of the real professional. Maybe she thought she was going to save them some $ on ordering prints???

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  10. having just shot a couple weddings – by the time I cropped out arms with dangling cellphones and point and shoots – all that was left was part of the bride and her dad walking down the isle. I also had photos that where sheer white from other people blowing the flash during my posed pictures!!! UGH

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  11. As a professional wedding photographer, I agree with an unplugged wedding. As a former bride last year, I disagree, but only because our photographer did a horrible job of actually capturing the mood, the space, and the details. He did a good job with most, but we had to ask several of our wedding guests for pictures in order to find a picture of the entire ceremony (not one super zoomed in on us) and of the entire wedding reception (not one super zoomed in on us). With a good photographer, they'll record everything, but ours was supposed to be a damn good photographer. :) So, while I agree that Uncle Bobs can get super annoying, a few of our wedding guests saved us precious memories that our photographer did not capture.

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  12. I am a hobbyist photographer, NOT a professional & I acknowledge that. Still I LIVE to photograph things & would not appreciate someone telling me I wasn't welcome to take at least SOME photos at their wedding ESPECIALLY if it was about "I want the guests to pay their attention to ME" vs concerns about interference of the hired professional. When I have taken photos at weddings I've always struck a rapport with the professional & let them know that they are "it" & I will not seek to interfere–and if by chance I do, please let me know & I will do whatever, no objections. It's worked fine.

    Believe me I realize the bride & groom have every right to demand "unplugged," heck they can demand guests wear purple polka-dot hats if they want, it's THEIR wedding. But I would not feel welcome at an event where people act like me using a camera is akin to showing up dressed like Bozo the Clown or belching outloud during the ceremony, especially if I am in fact respectful of the pro & am out of the way. What business is it if anyone that I don't "absorb the experience?" If I'm not disturbing the peace or being a disruption, don't make a big deal out of nothing. I respect it is the couple's choice how they do it, but I still say just leave well enough alone if the guests aren't being a disruption or being loud/unruly etc.

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    • Well, if you're one who stays out of the way you're very much in the minority, I think. Most amateurs are intrusive whether they mean to be or not, particularly with flashes and stuff, and the photos from the post above demonstrate that rather well.

      Also I don't think it's unreasonable to expect guests to pay attention during a wedding ceremony. The point of being at a wedding is to absorb the experience, as you put it, and if you don't want to do that, I don't understand why you're there at all.

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    • That's all very well, but religious ceremonies (for example) are still an act of worship and some religious leaders ask for no photography out of respect of that. My ceremony will be religious and I don't want people interrupting quiet, intimate moments with flashes of the camera and the obnoxious 'clicking' noise.

      Receptions are different, anc I'd be perfectly happy for other guests to be snapping away, especially as I wouldn't be doing any myself.

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  13. I had my guests unplug for my may wedding during the ceremony- it was a truly magical experience. EVERYONE was in the moment with us- when we were announced as husband and wife, instead of the loud invasive clapping, everyone was right there with us- quiet, smiling, the room was filled with love- and there was a deep spiritual connection made between everyone in the room. It was electric and just fantastic- i can't recommend it enough!

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  14. Love this article!
    At the last wedding I attended I was so frustrated and distracted by the photographic under takings of my friend sitting near me. Not only was she documenting every bit of it, but with a TABLET, no less. Many other guests were ungrossed in their photos, and I honestly don't recall much of the ceremony at all. >:/
    Initially, I thought that I'd be glad many guests will do the same at my wedding; since it means more photos, but that's why I'm shelling out for a photographer! In the end, I really don't want to look at the guest and see a sea of faces, behind lens and screens.

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  15. We will be asking for absolutely no photography by guests during the ceremony. I am paying $3,500+ for our photographer, and I want to make absolutely sure I don't see any photos of point-and-shoots or cell phones in his beautiful professional photos. I am an amateur photographer and a bit of a photography snob. I recently perused through the portfolio of our photographer, and in one particular wedding, the ceremony was SO well-documented; he got every shot imaginable. And, in EVERY SINGLE photo, there was one guest in the third row or so on the aisle who stared at her phone the entire time; I don't know if she was taking photos or videoing, but never once did she look up at the couple. It drove me crazy. For people who are okay with that or who like that in their photos, all the more power to you, but it's just not for me.

    The reception, however, is fair game for all – from the DSLR users who don't know what ISO and shutter speed are to the iPhone people who apply every special effect imaginable. I'll be excited to see everyone's angle on the reception.

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  16. I've shared this article many times now – great advice. I once turned down shooting a friends wedding because I wanted to actually 'be there' that day not just hidden behind a camera and mentally removed from the activities. I love doing photography but sometimes its just better to experience the event, not just document it.

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  17. "The bride and groom have requested that all guests remain seated, do not stand in the aisles taking photos and enjoy the ceremony". Thank you, the minister.

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  18. With our wedding invites we sent out cards saying no cameras or phones allowed at our wedding and it really worked. Use the vistaprint free business cards!!!

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  19. not hating here, but it is extremely difficult for me to understand how someone would want this. Firstly, all photogs will want you to do this so they make more money, and secondly, yes your photog will take amazing pictures (but for me personally), having those candid shots, and different angles just gives you extra pictures to enjoy, and maybe your favorite picture is of "uncle bob" break dancing, and your photog didnt get it because they were doing a close up of a napkin with your name on it?

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    • If uncle bob is break dancing during my vows, not only do I not want a picture of it, I have assigned specific people to be armed with sharp objects for removing anyone who tries to interrupt the ceremony.

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    • Very good coverage of the day just isn't good enough anymore. You are the type that wants more, more, more, more! If we got the shot of "uncle Bob" break dancing, you would complain that we never got a close up of the "napkin with our names on it". Digital photography changed everything. Back in the day a freelancer was given 10 rolls of film, that's it! That ten rolls equaled 230-250 photos, depending on the camera. All the brides were happy. Today's bride has me giving up the thing I love to do & searching other ways to make a living! It's really sad.

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  20. It is amazing how different people can be. My son is handing out cameras at his wedding and asking people to shoot away and pass them around. He is the artsy type, so this might not work for everyone.

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  21. I can relate to this. We filmed a wedding last year where the photographer did not allow guests to take photos. Upon delivering the video to our client, she begins to tell me how upset she was with the photographer because she cut half of the brides mom's arm off in the shot. I went home and went through the footage from our saftey camera and wouldn't you know it, one of the guests took a photo of the bride during the processional while being almost in the center isle with her ipad, which we all know is not a small devise. So the photographer had no choice but to edit the photo the way she did.

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  22. I agree…. sort of. As a recent bride (four months ago), this is rather fresh in my memory. I discovered when we received our disc of images from our (awesome) photographer that there were a few important family members that we didn't have *any* pictures of at the wedding. We had a party booth but some people didn't step in. We had some guests live Instagram-ing the wedding, but still we don't have a record that some guests were even there… and frankly, I can't recall if some of them were. So, additional pictures, even non-professional quality, would have been welcome.

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  23. Wedding guests with the emergence of smartphones and digital cameras becoming so affordable, people will be taking more and more photos at weddings. The guests should definitely allow the photographer room to operate and get those important shots, but there has to be some middle ground to allow guest to use their own camera.

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  24. I just read an article in the weekend paper about the "slow photography" movement…as in, just like slow food, we might think about the way we take photographs. My fiance and I talked about the feasibility of an unplugged wedding and didn't feel like it was right for us. So, the idea of slow photography seemed more reasonable. Remember when you just had a roll of film? You took those pictures a bit more judiciously and didn't look at them immediately after you took them, only to decide they weren't quite perfect. You would have to wait and see what came out in the development (which was an awfully nice surprise, wasn't it?). I am thinking of some wording that has to do with taking photos but not forgetting to be there with us and let us see your lovely faces…

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  25. I got married a week and a half ago. We had a mention on our wedsite faq about doing it unplugged with a link to this post, then printed out some flyers from here and hung them up on the outside of the venue. and it worked! at the reception, i caught a couple family members with their camera phones out, gave them a silly/stern look and they sheepishly put them away. mostly, people actually respected it though!!!! It's pretty crazy though that it's 12 days post-wedding and I don't have a single photo from the day (worth it… and the photographers will get the photos to us soon enough.)

    the moment, especially, when i walked down the aisle, was one of my favorite parts. it was like the storybook idea of heaven, that there are all your loved ones, smiling at you, waiting to accept you with open arms. and i am so, so, so, so glad that not a single one of them was holding a camera.

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  26. For those guests wanting pictures of the wedding, all they have to do is check out the bride and grooms online gallery and order prints. The pro hired for the wedding cannot possibly give out a bunch of free shots to the guests. It would be an astronomical amount of money for a 150+ number of guests wedding.
    An Uncle Bob doesn't really bother me unless they are rude and disrupting the ceremony. Unfortunately, the reason for this aggressive behavior is that they have no intention of buying prints(how the pro makes his income) and will do anything to get a shot.
    Also many pros DO post wedding pics online to FB, but again people will copy these pics and again no print sales. The bride and grooms right to make prints from the wedding DVD is only granted to them, not to the other 150 guests. Too many guests expect the whole wedding album for free. It just isn't financially possible for the pro to do this.
    Uncle Bobs that stand behind and retake the nicely set up shots arranged by the pro are taking income from the pro in print sales. this is the only way the pro can break even. I know many out there think that wedding photographers make tons of money, but what people don't realize, is that after the 8-10 hrs of wedding coverage, the pro goes home and will spend another 50-60 hrs editing, and another 8-10 hours uploading 400-800 photos online. Plus insurance, taxes, equiptment, etc. that is why print sales are an important source of income.

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  27. YES! I'm so happy to have come across this article. I've been so concerned about this and didn't even realize an "unplugged" wedding was an option!

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  28. Having read this item before my wedding and now being in the state of evaluating how it all went down post-wedding, I wanted to come back to this thread with some recommendations. I loved this story and the principle behind it…that you really want people to be there. On the other hand, many offbeat brides (IMO) are cautious on spending a gazillion dollars on photographers. I had an affordable (but good) photographer and thought he'd capture what we wanted – we said very little posed photography. Unfortunately, I've got no photos with some of my closest family…and I know that my Mom specifically didn't bring a camera because I told her about this philosophy. My advice is that if you do have friends who love taking pictures, they might be your greatest asset for the random get-together shots that are often better than the professional glossies.

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  29. As a pastor, I require that there be no photography during ceremonies. It has blinded me!! So let your officiant be the bad guy and tell everyone that they require no photos

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  30. I totally agree, take in the moment without your device. I never thought of asking guests NOT to use their phone or camera during the ceremony but after reading this article, I've been empowered to do so :)

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  31. We politely asked our friends and family to drop the cameras and "just be there" and it was wonderful. I think everyone slowed down, felt the air and smiled. We posted a little sign where people were coming in and nobody was put out by the requests. In a way, I think it set a relaxing tone that lasted throughout the day.

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  32. p.s. we DID allow reception photo snapping, why not!

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  33. I'm so glad I read this post when I prepared for our wedding a few months ago. There was another one I spotted on here about placing a note in the program asking please no photography during the ceremony and please don't post photos or video of our wedding on any social media. It was tough discussing this rule with my in-laws, who are non-stop shutterbugs; they said they thought our guests would find it controlling and rude. But we were expecting a very emotional day (both of my parents are gone; my fiancé proposed to me a few weeks before my mother died and knowing she would not be with us for the wedding was very hard on all of us). I didn't want to feel even more vulnerable with everyone snapping photos and then sticking them without our OK on the Facebooks. After all there were many friends we couldn't manage to invite due to the venue's limitations, and shoving our big party in our friends' faces on FB might have caused hurt feelings.

    As it happens we were super smart to have insisted on the no photo blurb on our program, because when the big day finally arrived, it rained cats and dogs and we had to move our spacious outdoor ceremonial setup inside our tiny cabin venue. It was beautiful but harried and rushed in response to the weather, and the aisle was so narrow I couldn't walk down with both my aunt and uncle on either side as planned; rather, it appeared as though we were all squeezing rather inelegantly down the aisle, and on our recessional, it looked like I was dragging my new husband with me! This is all to say that our actual wedding ceremony was far more cramped than expected, so I can only imagine how much more invasive allowing 125+ iPhones and Nikons snapping away at us as we tried to create a sacred, safe, peaceful and joyful space would've been if we hadn't thought carefully about this matter ahead of time. I AM SO GLAD I DID THIS, AND I AM AMAZED THAT I DID SO! Indeed, I have a very hard time sticking to my guns, always giving into what others want as a chronic people-pleaser and life-long customer service rep of some kind or other, so this was a tiny victory for me which resulted in a fine ceremony as well as great photographs by the professionals we'd hired (and paid royally for, natch), who actually had a shot at getting decent angles in terrible, low light, which requires a still hand without a lot of shoving all the Uncle Bobs out of the damn way.

    And BTW, we actually have an Uncle Bob named Uncle Bob. We did the right thing.

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  34. This is one of the things I love most about OffBeatBride, the critical information and advice that you didn't even know you needed [because you just never thought of it] until you read about it.

    Thanks to this article, I now know that I'm definitely going to be unplugging my wedding because:

    –It's incredibly rude and distracting
    –Those photos aren't for us; they're for Facebook! -_-
    –Medical reasons among the guests
    –I paid money for a photographer LOL let my investment not be wasted!

    While I'm a huge fan of photos as memory holders, I wish there was some way to effectively keep people from spreading them all over the internet…. *sigh*

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  35. I just realized, wouldn't using Google Glasses solve this? You can still record/film what you want, AND the LCD/view finder screen won't be visible!

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  36. I am such a huge supporter of going unplugged now and it all started with this post.

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  37. Brides, go UNPLUGGED (with a minute or two allotted for the freelancers)! Also request no friendly facebook posts, etc. You want the opportunity to put your best look up and not have a million ones where you look dazed or were adjusting your spanks on the way to the reception. I am a wedding planner today almost completely because I want to help brides have the fairy tale wedding that I did not. I'm a very organized, type-A personality; however, when you plan a wedding yourself you simply do not know all the little intricacies that make it extra special. There is SO much to do and think about that it's very easy to spend your wedding day EXHAUSTED and just ready for it to be done (who wants that?)! My 66-year old grandmother was my Uncle Bob (imagine that)! There are some wedding photos (my pro shots) I can't even bear to look at to this day and that was 20 yrs ago! My husband and I joke about it today and usually when I tell the story people fall over laughing — her camera was a new Polaroid Instamatic bought especially for the big day. After every shot, you heard click – a long whir – and the sound of vigorous arm waving to dry the photo…she even sent a few other people up behind the officiant when her legs got tired but she still wanted her shot! Yes, it's hilariously funny and a bonafide "can-you-believe" memory from my wedding, but honestly one I could have done without. That incident is really what I remember about the ceremony and my vows. And ps – I never told grammy (God rest her precious soul). :D

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  38. I'm a writer, and in a wedding scene I wrote I had a groom who was majorly camera shy so I had his wedding be unplugged (except for one photographer and one videographer) and then each guest got a CD of pictures and video clips mailed to them so they still had momentos of the day.

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  39. It's all a matter of personal choice but I like the idea of no photos during the ceremony. Guests are usually invited to photograph the couple with the register and there will be lots of chances to take photos afterwards. Listen to the words and enjoy the moment – it passes so quickly….

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  40. As a pro wedding photographer I find it rude the these guests get in my way while I'm trying to my job. I never get in their way at their job. I only have one chance to get it right & guests hamper my ability to work at 100%. I call them "camera gnats" These people need to understand that when I can't work at 100% it affects the out come of the job & the ones who suffer are the Bride & Groom. Put your cameras down & go get a drink………..Facebook can wait for these photos!

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  41. I understand the concept, but I disagree. I think it's incredibly rude to shame my guests for doing what comes naturally. Since the invention of personal cameras people have wanted to take photos to remember special moments. Our technology makes it available to more people these days, and therefore you see more people engaged in photo/video activity. Yes, our society and its technology has led people to document what seems like "everything," but not truly everything. Truth be told, when when I'm personally not using my camera/phone to capture what could be considered a special moment, I'm usually pretty disinterested in it: I don't find it captivating. Why do people continue to take photos of the Grand Canyon, despite it already being documented by thousands of other people? When they are there, in that moment, the moment is unique, they're captivated by their experience, and they want to be able to remember it for much longer than just that fleeting span of time. I would like my guests to feel welcomed at my wedding, not thrown a bunch of rules & guidelines. The bottom line is that I'm excited that my guests are willing to take time out of their busy lives to share the day with me! The fact that they are interested, captivated, and find the ceremony/reception special and are just as eager to have photo/video, makes their attendance even more meaningful.

    1 agrees
    • The problem is that you are not the Grand Canyon and do not deserve to be treated as such. They weren't born with phones in their hand, so it isn't doing what comes naturally. All those people are not interested in you. At that moment, they are only interested in their phones. Look at them and see how many are actually looking at you. They are looking at the phones, and would kill in someone got in the way. Then they have to pay more attention to the phone so they can send the picture to Facebook and where ever else they send it. Then Tweet something. All this time those friends are ignoring you, who should be the center of attention, not an after thought. And by the time they get finish diddling with the phones, the service will be over and they haven't seen a thing. Just ask them about it – they haven't seen it.

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  42. I took this article and ran with it for my October 2013 wedding and it was, hands down, one of the best decisions we made for our ceremony. I have a mental pictures frozen in my mind of turning around at the front, standing with my soon to be husband, and seeing the FACES of everyone in the crowd. I will forever cherish that moment. Our reverend was not comfortable with saying anything, so we placed a blurb in our program and it worked like a charm. DO IT!

    We took our wording from the examples above (we also had a ring ceremony, thanks OBB). I think having the ring ceremony helped encourage people to not have cameras in their hands:

    "Welcome, friends and family! Thank you for being here tonight, we are sincerely grateful for your presence in our lives. We feel especially lucky to have so many special people share in this very special day.

    We invite you to be truly present at this special time. Please, turn off your cellphones and put down your cameras. The photographer will capture how this moment looks — We encourage you all to capture how it feels with your hearts, without the distraction of technology.

    During the Ceremony we will be having what is known as a Ring Ceremony. The concept is simple: throughout the ceremony our rings will be making their way through the crowd, with an invitation for each of you to hold the rings in your hand for a moment, warm them with your love, and make a silent wish for us, one that will carry us into a bright and lasting marriage. When we exchange the rings during our ceremony, they will carry not only the promises we make to each other, but the love and support of each of you.

    So sit back, relax, and get ready to have fun! We thank you in advance for sharing in this special, once-in-a-lifetime moment for us."

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    • Courtney, This is absolutely a great idea, and I hope it worked with no problems. I used to do wedding videos before Iphones grew fast to people's hands, so it wasn't nearly as bad. Glad I moved away from doing weddings. It would drive me nuts today. Good Luck

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  43. It's not just weddings – it's any religious event.

    I've been doing the communion and confirmation photos for the local church for the past 8 years or so. The first couple of years, it was fine. But around year 3, more people decided that if I was allowed to come up and take shots right in front of the altar, they should be allowed to do the same. The low point was year 4 – there was a man who crawled up in front of the altar and was on the ground right by my feet while I was trying to take the shot. Another guy went around the back of the altar so he could get a shot of the kid's face instead of a side view. Obviously, that guest wasn't a Catholic!

    The priest and youth director try to get me the room I need to move by reminding people at the rehearsal that they should not leave their seats to take photos, that I'll be taking photos and they can get them from me – I have the best view in the house and it's not like I'm charging a ton ($15 for a 5X7 or 3 for $30). I think a lot of times it's not the parents or sponsors who are taking these shots (they were at the rehearsal, so they heard the announcement) but it's the aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. who just came to the event.

    After the Mass, we do a group shot of each class. There is always a herd of 50+ people standing directly behind me while I get the shot. I always tell them (or the youth director makes the announcement) that if they let me get my shot with all of the kids looking at me and no other flashes going off, I'll move out of the way and they can take their own. Of course, their shot will have their kid looking at them, but every other kid in the shot will be looking at their own parent.

    Why not just sit back and ENJOY this moment in your child's life? I was hired to do the job of documenting it, and quite honestly the priest doesn't want people wandering around the church to take a shot of their kid. I have my spot right near the altar, you can't possibly have a better view unless you're the priest himself, so just sit back, relax, live the moment and let me take care of the work. I've been doing this for a while, the priest and I work together to make things smooth and awesome, so have a good time at your child's special day and relax a bit!

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  44. We got married two years ago in a Catholic ceremony, and asked our officiant to announce from the pulpit that the bride and groom would like the guests to be fully there in spirit and in body, and therefore not to take photos during the ceremony. It worked, and noone took a photo after he said it.

    In fairness, most people didn't take photos of me walking down the aisle, but there is a lovely one of everyone looking at me and my Dad, ruined by someone in the foreground fiddling with her phone. (I am aware of the irony of a guest taking one of the best photos).

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  45. As a wedding photographer nothing makes me happier when a couple comes to pick up their wedding photos and they are elated with their pictures, because its the first time they see their pictures. Because they didn't see any of them posted on FB. I always discuss this with my couples why I prefer that no one take photos except myself for that reason and also to avoid ruining group shots cause everyone is looking in a different location. So far I have not had any couple reject my request.

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  46. I would not allow this many cameras. its obscure! i know my name is diamond and sounds obscure but this is not very good to do at a wedding nor having or seeing a bunch of people looking at you with cameras. keep it old fashion!

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  47. As a photographer who trained pre-digital age I can't help but feel that I should be adamantly pro-unplugged weddings. However I am also an absolute social media addict, especially when it comes to photography, be that professional work or my beloved iphone images.
    Whilst I can certainly see the benefit of shooting with no risk of uncles, aunts or over-enthusiastic friends popping into shot at that all important moment I also have to admit it has never totally ruined a shot for me either.
    Truth be told, I feel that if people are snapping away on phones, point and shoots, disposable camera's or anything else this is all part of the story of the day. Some of my favourite images incorporate this modern phenomenon – children running round with disposable camera's, grandparents deciphering touch-screen style shooting etc.
    I suppose the fact is the portrait photographer in me would be grateful at least, to not feel like I am in some kind of polite paparazzi scrum whilst trying to capture intimacy and romance between newly married couples (as an ex music photographer I served my time elbow jostling for pictures!), but the documentary photographer in my enjoys the additional sub-narratives that play out in the background.

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  48. Hi, I find this very interesting as I'm getting married soon and wish that people won't get In The way of the professional photographer however my fiancé is looking to do a live stream for all the folks who really wants to be there but finances won't allow. My question is since we are planning the live stream would it look bad to ask guests to unplug?

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    • You could remind them of the live streaming video. Remind them that they will look a lot better on tv WITHOUT their phones in front of their faces.

      Lynn

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  49. From the other side: We DIDN'T have an unplugged wedding, and I'm SO glad. Through a long chain of events, we got a photographer the day before the wedding. Looking through his portfolio, he was an amazing photographer/digital artist, though not a wedding photographer. There were several shots he either didn't get at all, or didn't get good shots. We got a hundred or so images, but they were almost all of the ceremony (from the same spot, so they all looked the same) and of the table decorations (again, almost all looked the same). Without our friends and family taking pictures, we would have missed out on a lot of the tangible memories.

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