Essential unplugged wedding tips from real couples who went device-free

Unplugged wedding tips from readers as seen on @offbeatbride #unplugged #wedding
Thanks to Miranda Sequoia for uploading this to our Flickr Pool | Photo by Liquid Video Lab

Have you considered an unplugged wedding? If you've ever wanted to avoid a thousand iPhones hovering in front of your highly paid pro photographer, you've likely considered it. We've talked a lot about it, how to politely inform your guests, and how to make sure it actually works.

The biggest reason, in our eyes, of asking guests to be nice and turn off the device is to make sure they're actually present. It's super easy for guests to get tugged into tagging photos or liking others' photos while you're trying to convey your love and commitment. We decided to follow up with some readers who chose to go unplugged to see how it all went. They shared unplugged wedding tips including some logistics, some successes, and one or two tiny regrets.

Unplugged wedding tips from readers as seen on @offbeatbride #unplugged #wedding
Unplugged wedding sign from Shawanda and John's wedding | Photo by Krisandra Evans Photography

Reader Lia went for an unplugged ceremony with a formal announcement. Here's how it went down:

After seeing people be pretty invasive at other family weddings, and knowing certain loved ones' habit of using huge iPads to take pictures, I knew FOR SURE that we would be having an unplugged ceremony even before we were engaged.

We put a description of unplugged ceremonies and why we were doing it in our FAQ section on our website. At the ceremony itself, I had a friend serving as MC. He got up to tell everyone it was time to find their seats and then read this:

'Welcome. Lia and Bernard would like each of you to really enjoy the ceremony and feel truly present in the moment with them. They have hired two amazing photographers whose job it is to capture how the ceremony LOOKS. It is your job today to capture how the ceremony FEELS. We ask that at this time you turn off and put away any cameras, cell phones, iPads, or drones. You are welcome and encouraged to take them out again after the ceremony and throughout the reception. Thank you.' (Then stand there and WATCH THEM PUT THE EFFING CAMERAS AWAY)

I never looked out and saw a camera. There are no phones or cameras out in any of our ceremony pictures. And those pictures? GORGEOUS. Our photographers were able to walk all around the outside of our chairs and shoot over the guests to get great wide shots. They were able to crouch in the aisle to get close-ups. No one was ever in their way.

I will say that I think having an unplugged ceremony contributed to people staying out of our way during important reception moments too, even though we didn't request that. At every other family wedding people basically swarmed the couple during the first dance and cake cutting. At ours, the one person all up in our face was someone who missed the ceremony entirely. I'm convinced if we hadn't made the announcement at the ceremony we would have been barely able to move in a huddle of camera-wielding aunts and uncles.

So count me as a big YES to unplugged ceremonies. I'm a true believer! – Lia

Unplugged wedding tips from readers as seen on @offbeatbride #unplugged #wedding
Let this be the only kind of photobombing that happens | Photo by Tim Lee Photography

Reader Katharine went with a more subtle route, providing distractions in lieu of a formal announcement:

We didn't necessarily have a fully unplugged ceremony. There was no sign or request for people to stay off their phones, however, we gave people things to do which sort of kept their hands full: our program had a crossword puzzle in it (we provided golf pencils), and we encouraged everyone to grab a bottle of bubbles and give it a blow whenever they felt like it. The bubbles made great pictures. Yeah, there were a few aunties with their phones our during the processional/recessional, but overall, everyone was pretty present and accounted for. – Katharine

Unplugged wedding tips from readers as seen on @offbeatbride #unplugged #wedding
Brink's ransom note sign!

Reader Brink had a no social media rule that kept all of the photos into one app:

Our first tactic to communicate our unplugged wish to our guests was to put a section about it in our informational pamphlet which was sent with our invitations in lieu of us having a wedsite. The section read:

'We respectfully request that no photos or videos be taken during our ceremony and that no photos or videos taken at our reception be uploaded to social media. Instead please share the photos with us at wedpics.com or use the WedPics App for iPhone or Android.'

Our second tactic was creating a large sign that we placed right at the entrance to the sanctuary of the church. We tried to be serious about it but also keep it lighthearted. The sign read:

'Welcome to our unplugged ceremony. Please turn off and put away all cell phones, cameras, and any other machines that go BING!'

Our third and final wave came during the pre-ceremony announcements. Since our ceremony was very theatrical, we decided to have pre-show announcements like at a play. They were pre-recorded by our videographer and in them he stated:

'The couple requests that this be an unplugged ceremony. Please take a moment now to turn off and put away your cell phones. The couple requests that no photos or videos be taken during the ceremony and that no photos or videos taken during the course of the day be uploaded to personal social media.'

As an extra reminder we also had a little WedPics tent card set at every place at the reception.

All of it put together did the trick. There is not one non-professional photo or video of our wedding ceremony. Our guests were present, they were paying attention, they laughed with us through the whole ceremony and it was splendid to look out over a sea of smiles instead of the backs of a bunch of cell phones. Not only that, but they utilized WedPics instead of other social media outlets so we didn't wake up the next morning to notifications of 100 pictures of us being tagged on Facebook. – Brink

Reader Kirsten had only a small pang of regret for the lack of super instant photos, but still thought it was totally worth it. Plus, she did allow social media photos with a hashtag, so there were photos trickling in during the reception:

We were very lucky and our guests cooperated EXTREMELY well. We had mentioned the unplugged ceremony repeatedly on our wedsite and had a sign printed to display at the ceremony as well as asked our officiant to mention it before the ceremony actually started. We asked our parents to spread the word because I didn’t think anyone was actually reading our site, and I only know of one guest who didn’t completely comply with the rule.

For our reception, everyone was allowed/encouraged to take photos as we had set up a slideshow through ii.do to display the photos shared on Instagram and Twitter as long as they used our hashtag. I think the fact that we were very clear about our expectations helped immensely.

After the fact, I sort of wished we had let people take photos because I was impatient and wanted to see photos RIGHT THIS SECOND! But it was worth waiting for the pro photos to come in, and I’m very glad we made the decision we did. – Kirsten

Here is an excerpt from Frankie and Garrik's nerdy ceremony where they asked guests to unplug in a very humorous way:

What a truly special day today is! Only rarely do any of us take the time to travel far away to meet all of our closest friends and family for the sole purpose of celebrating.

Before we begin, please turn the volume of your phones up as high as possible, so that when somebody gets a phone call during the ceremony we all know whom to blame. Alternatively, please silence your phones. The ceremony is about to begin.

More unplugged wedding tips:

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  1. We had an unplugged ceremony and a plugged-in reception and it worked very well for us. As our rabbi opened the wedding ceremony, she invited the guests to be participants in our sacred space and to put their phones and electronic devices away for the duration of the ceremony. Everyone complied and the professional photos show our guests gazing at us with smiles on their faces instead of looking at their phones. We have a few lovely candids from the reception, but by and large people carried over the relaxed, present vibe from the ceremony and participated without phones in hand. It was lovely.

    2 agree
  2. I never really considered having an unplugged wedding but I think an unplugged ceremony is the way to go. I plan to encourage (hashtag, naturally) social media posts during the reception but during the ceremony it would be nice to know everyone was in the moment, eyes on us, no obnoxious cell phone sounds etc. And it's important to me that my photographers get the good shots!

  3. We did unplugged ceremony and plugged in reception!

    We had a section of our program for the ceremony and had our officiant announce it before anyone started walking down the aisle.

    Due to issues with our videographer, who was supposed to livestream it for our loved ones who couldn't make it, we ended up doing Facebook live. I gave a bridesmaid's husband my phone. He sat next to my husbands aunt and got chided For it too! Made me glad that they were taking it seriously!

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