How to have an unplugged wedding: copy ‘n’ paste wording and templates

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We've talked about why some couples are planning unplugged weddings, asking guests to put away their cell phones and cameras. Today, we're diving into the nitty gritty of how to make it happen.

vintage-quirky-1So you want to have an unplugged wedding — maybe at least the ceremony. Encouraging your guests to put down their favorite devices can be a delicate dance… as one member of the Offbeat Bride Tribe snapped, “If I was told I had to leave my phone at home, I'd likely stay with it.” Yikes! As with any special request you make of your wedding guests, you need to be sensitive and respectful.

If you're unsure how to request unplugging in a way that won't piss off your guests, we're here to help. Below, we've got copy ‘n' paste wording ideas for your officiant, wedding website, program, invitations — and even a pre-designed printable sign you can post at the venue!

Before the wedding…

Talk to your photographer

Remember: wedding guests take photos because they want to be able to re-live and share the experience of the day. If you're considering an unplugged wedding, you must commit to sharing photos with guests and make plans for how you're going to do so. Work with your wedding photographer to ensure you can make a small set of photos (even just five shots!) available digitally to guests within a couple days of the wedding. You can share them via email, your wedding website, or facebook — the method doesn't matter. Just make sure you've got it figured out with your photographer before your unplugged wedding.

Wording for wedsites & programs

If you're sharing wedding information online with guests via a wedding website, you can warn give them some perspectives before the wedding about why you're asking them to leave their devices off:

Unplugged wedding
We want you to be able to really enjoy our wedding day, feeling truly present and in the moment with us. We've hired an amazing wedding photographer named _________ who will be capturing the way the wedding looks — and we're inviting each of you to sit back, relax, and just enjoy how the wedding feels. We're respectfully asking that everyone consider leaving all cameras and cell phones off. Of course we will be happy to share our wedding photos with you afterward!

You could include a short note in your programs:

We want you to be able to relax and have fun with us today! This in mind, we invite you to put down all your favorite devices and just be present in the moment with us. Please leave your camera in your bag (we've got photography covered!), and put your cell phone on mute (we promise they'll call back!).

We're happy to share our professional wedding photos later, but the greatest gift you can give us today is just being fully here with us in this sacred and special moment.

Offbeat Bride Tribe member Aron is including this text in her program:

The bride and groom have asked that you share in their wedding fully and not through the lens of a camera or cell phone.

Offbeat Bride Tribe member Audra included this text her her program:

The text reads: No Pictures Please
We are honored that you are here today and present with us during the ceremony. Two photographers are covering the ceremony. We request that you refrain from photography during the entire ceremony. We promise that there will be plenty of images at your disposal!

At the wedding…

Enforcing unplugging

[related-post align=”right”]Appoint a member of your wedding party to help encourage other guests to put down their devices at the wedding. It doesn't have to be high-drama: all they have to do is sidle up to their fellow guest and say quietly, “The bride and groom have asked me to respectfully suggest guests to put down their electronics and just enjoy the day. Can I ask you to put your camera/phone away?” Whatever you do, don't rely on your photographer to be the heavy; it's not their job to make your guests behave. Plus, when the request to put away the camera or phone comes from a fellow guest, it's less likely to be seen as a grumpy encounter.

Wording ideas for officiants

The easiest way to remind your guests to power down their devices is to have your officiant make a brief announcement before the ceremony. A few ideas, ranging from the sacred to the silly:

Spiritual:

The couple respectfully requests that all guests honor the sanctity of this moment by turning off cell phones and cameras.

Emotional:

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

Ridiculous:

Ladies and gentlemen, prior to wedding take-off, all seat backs and tray tables must be in their upright and locked positions, all bags properly stowed, and all portable electronic devices turned off and stowed. This includes cell phones and cameras.

Thanks to Offbeat Bride Tribe member Rockwell for this one:

As Shakespeare once said, please turn off your cell phones.

Offbeat Bride Tribe member Cat named mouse shared this anecdote:

At my best friend's wedding, the rabbi asked the bride to turn around and face the audience after her parents walked her to the altar. At this time he said, “Everyone, get the photo you really want now, because we ask that your cameras remain off for the remainder of the ceremony.”

Jessie Blum of Eclectic Unions uses this template:

Good afternoon! It is my pleasure to welcome you to the wedding of Name and Name. Please take a moment to silence any cell phones or other noisy electronics. If you would also take a moment to put your cameras away, Jody and Steven have requested that no photos be taken during the ceremony today — thank you so much for your understanding. The ceremony will begin shortly.

Printable sign for ceremony venue

We'll be rolling out some downloadable signs to print and post at your wedding venue:

vintage-quirky-1

After the wedding…

Share your photos!

Make sure you share a few images with your guests within a couple days of the wedding — for a Saturday wedding, Monday or Tuesday is ideal. The wedding is still fresh in your guests' minds, and it's a great way to carry some of the wedding day job into the work-week. As soon as all your wedding photos are available, make prints to include with each thank you card. If possible, also make wedding photos available to guests online.

So, are you having an unplugged wedding?

We'd love to hear from you about how you're respectfully asking guests to turn off their cell phones and cameras. Leave a comment below!

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Comments on How to have an unplugged wedding: copy ‘n’ paste wording and templates

  1. I think this is such a brilliant concept! My fiance and I were talking about allowing pictures for the processional, then for a few moments up at the front to get their fix. Then no cameras except the ones we paid to be there…and then let them take pictures of the kiss and the recessional. Sounds like a good happy medium to me! We’ll probably put something up on our website and have our officiant announce it as well. We’re definitely mulling it over, but it makes so much sense!

    (Although I WILL admit to being a total “Uncle Bob” at other weddings, clicking the whole time though. For the most part, I think I got great shots, but I can also understand that it might have been really annoying to the people getting married–not to mention the other guests who got to hear my camera shutter going off the whole time! Oops. Hindsight is 20/20!)

    • Please do keep in mind that the photos ruined most by guests are the processional and recessional. There are often so many arms, and now, even full bodies, that stand in the aisle to get the shot, that the professional photos of the processional and recessional are filled with arms holding cameras and we often have to crouch down to the floor and shoot up to get in between these arms. Us pros are also not allowed to use flash in churches, however, the guests use flash and their green and red flash sensors leave green and red marks on the bride and groom, which our sensitive cameras pick up, leaving no choice but to convert to black and white.

      • Melani, I couldn’t agree more. While photographing the recessional after the ceremony had ended, I had a man standing partly in the aisle with his arm directly in front of the bride. No matter where I moved at the end of iasle, he was in my shot. What a bummer for the bride and groom as those are some of the best candid shots of the ceremony.

  2. Oh my gosh, thank you for this! I was recently at a wedding where when the bride walked down the aisle, it seemed like I was literally the only one not taking a picture. I had forgotten my camera, and I actually felt guilty for a second, until I realized it meant I could relax and just completely enjoy the moment. I am so doing this!

  3. I’ve thought about this for hours and still can’t really get it at all. i wouldn’t say anything and i wouldn’t let it ruin anyone’s day, but this could really offend me. i would caution the wording with this. as a photographer, i DO experience life through a lens in what to me is a meaningful and fullfilling way. The wording that suggests that i wouldn’t be present if i was taking pictures is offensive to me as it suggests to me that my life style somehow isn’t good enough for these people. i’m not really trying to change anyone’s mind on doing this. as much as i feel that way is it someone else’s day and they get the say. i’m just trying to put some perspective on why this would rub some people the wrong way.

    And to hte commenter with the snarky tweet section… i understand this is all meant tongue in cheek, but i really wouldn’t post that at a wedding. it’s a offensive and quite frankly i’m sick of being picked on because i like twitter. i would just ask people to leave their cell phones in their pockets or purses, that sends the message across just fine. there’s no reason to make fun of people , this message is completely filled with an air of superiority to me, even though i’m sure it’s unintentional.

    • You make a good point, but I still think there are other reasons to ask people to put their cameras down. (For me, mostly reasons of feeling intensely awkward in front of cameras where I don’t have control over what pictures become public.)

      I think a number of photographers have said that they feel that their camera forms an extra layer between themselves and what is happening, which makes it difficult to experience the emotion of the time. I suspect if I had professional photographers in the family I might feel differently about this, but I just don’t want people to be fiddling with cameras rather than listening to my vows and it happens all too often.

      I like twitter too, and I do think the commenter above was joking, but I can see how it would be upsetting.

    • Thank you Uncle Bob/Aunt Lisa.

      Don’t forget though, the day is about the Bride & Groom, not the you. You are there as a guest and should abide by their request, the same as you would want others to do so for you. All i ttakes is one guest with a camera to get in the way of the paid, professional shots to ruin the shot for the Bride and Groom.

      Would you rather be remembered for being there, enjoying the day and their celebration and union, of would you prefer to be remembered as the one who spent the day playing with their toys and disturbing everyone? Just put down the cell phone and Rebel and enjoy the day. Take a Ritalin if you have to, but if you are invited to an unplugged event, respect the wishes of the couple. Also realize that many professional photographers, myself included, have an exclusivity clause in their contract stating that no other SLR of DSLR cameras and no cameras with flash be allowed because a flash from another camera can interfere with the professional shots.

      My cousin got married not too long ago. I left my camera in the car, where it belonged, and enjoyed the day with them.

      • Pro-Photog, I think responding to Lisa’s post in a more respectful way would have made your point more effectively (calling her “Aunt Lisa” and suggesting she needs Ridalin are just uncalled for). For example, you could have responded to her specific critique. You will note that Lisa did not say that couples should not have an ‘unplugged’ wedding, nor that she as a guest would ignore their wishes to do so (in fact, she stated the opposite). She provided an insightful critique of the wording chosen by Offbeat Bride in their suggested language from the perspective of a person who “feels present” through the art of taking photograps. I had not thought about it from that perspective, so I appreciate Lisa’s comment. It lead me to brainstorm other ideas for how to word the language such as “The Bride and Groom respectfully request that guests do not take photographs of the ceremony.” Easy peasy, and puts it on the bride and groom instead of sounding accusatory that guests aren’t really participating or being present if they are taking photographs.

        • Thank you, very much MEI.
          In summary of my point, if i saw any of those signs above or a note in the program that said “The couple kindly requests you leave your cellphones, cameras, and other electronic gadgets off for the day” the point would be made, i’d put away my phone and STFU about it. If i saw a message in the program like Pro-Photog, i would be offended and it would probably make me enjoy the wedding a lot less. I just really wanted to point out that.
          Though i cant’ deny that the idea of giving something to a small child with popsicles and ketchup isn’t very funny. I feel like you could totally add that to the end of a simple request to drive the point home that you’re serious and while still making people laugh.

      • I facebook from my phone all the time and I fully intend to make major fun of people who feel they need to do it during my cerimony.

        And like anything else on offbeat bride its a free exchange of ideas and you wont please everyone. What works for me wont work for everyone.

    • Lisa: Hi! I really appreciate and respect your comment, it’s awesome to get lots of different points of views, I wanted to add my thought if that’s ok, about “as a photographer, i DO experience life through a lens in what to me is a meaningful and fullfilling way. The wording that suggests that i wouldn’t be present if i was taking pictures is offensive to me as it suggests to me that my life style somehow isn’t good enough for these people” I LOVE photography and to me, I see professional photographers, like this this second nature, you ARE in the moment, cause it’s like breathing, you live it, you love it, you breathe it. But us “professional amateurs” we are like
       *snap*
      Oh that flash looks horrible
      scrolls through camera
      click
      click
      click
       *snap*
      Darn now it’s blurry without the flash
      scrolling some more…
      It’s not like breathing for us, we can do it, but it’s like speaking another language you just learned, you stumble, bumble, mispronounce… and for professionals it’s like a second language you learned WITH your first, it’s natural, you don’t think about it too much… I don’t think they meant to offend at all, but the “Uncle Bob’s” they can’t connect as well because they have to detach to “speak the language” but professionals, of course you live it, and love it, and experience it! And it’s awesome and fantastic! I hope I can get there one day! I hope I didn’t offend you at all, I just wanted to add that thought, cause I really don’t think that comment was meant in quite exactly that way… and it IS awesome that you connect! It’s what you love! That’s where I hope to be career-wise one day, where it’s like second-breathing 🙂

    • Re: Your viewing life through the lens – I don’t think you would be the target of the signs, and I suspect that anyone inviting you would know that, and would be likely to contact you in advance… I intend to include all of my shutterbug friends on the “Shoot away!” list, and suspect that would be true for most folks. You are not the one being targeted, it’s Cousing Alicia, who’s fourteen and sitting by herself playing with her camera ’cause Aunt Jennie’s the organist, and Uncle Steve who is about 3 drinks in and “Wantsh a Closheup of the Sheremony”
      As for the “Tweeting” jape: my apologies. It’s meant to be a parody of a bladder control commercial. I am looking at having a *LOT* of cell-phone obsessed pre-teens and teens who respond best to humor. I am totally O-kay with twitter, but find the idea of someone sitting onthe aisle, phone in hand tweeting “At my stupid cousin’s wedding, OMFG I am so BOARED!!!* to be a little off-putting. You, again, are *not* the target of the commentary. You are a well-spoken, thoughtful, considerate individual, and therefore not the target audience for any of the above.

    • It is often us professional photographers that most get in each other’s way at these events. Sure, there’s Uncle Bob. But then there are those of us that actually enjoy many aspects of life MORE when we can see and capture them through our lense. And who would feel so antsy at a beautiful wedding with no capability to photograph. And, yet, if you are NOT the hired photographer, as a professional photographer, more reason to refrain from photographing the event. For one, you create more direct competition for the photographer with your DSLR images, and two, let’s be honest – (generic) you just won’t be able to help yourself and keep angling a little closer to that perfect shot (i.e., in the way of the hired photog). I’m only saying this because I know myself and know my kind (professional photogs) and a situation like that would be like being dehydrated and not allowed to drink if you had your camera on you. So, leave it at home or in the car, and get over yourself … it’s not your wedding to photograph and any offense taken is your problem alone, not the couple that politely asked.

  4. Ran the idea past my mom, she thinks it’s fantastic. Ran it past the MIL and got “oh well, you’ll never be able to stop grandma x.” Yeah well, it’s my wedding and quite frankly if I politely request something and grandma x thinks she’s so special as to not have to follow the rules, I’m gonna be extremely unhappy with said grandma. It’s not like we won’t have a photographer or intend to bogart all the photos. Sure he’s your grandson, but I happen to be marrying him, therefore I overrule.

  5. I LOVE this post. Whenever we go to weddings my friends always bust out their cameras at the ceremony and I have even had a friend hand me a camera to take pictures because I had a better view. I refused and she got really mad at me. I think it is incredibly rude. You should be enjoying the moment with the bride and groom not watching it from behind an LCD screen. The reception is a totally different story in my opinion. Plus, church weddings? Who in their right mind things it’s appropriate to take flash photography during a service??

    I always wondered how I would approach the situation if/when I get married. I love the advice here and it gives me some great ideas.

    • I HATE when my dad/mom/sister hand me their cameras, what because I’m an “artist” (I hesitate to even call MYSELF that and I’m starting a business with my art!!!) that entitles me to be a total rude ass?!? And then they get MAD at us??? WTF??? My sister ALWAYS shows up with her camera, video camera, and phone, and while I love her to death, her photos are ok at best, so why not just enjoy, and I say this being that “Niece Candy” but I always stay away from the photog (like he’s taking shots outside, I capture the awesome snack table before it’s all gone and no more photo opportunity left! That way it’s respectful, and appropriate 🙂

  6. First of all I am in love with the “As Shakespeare once said” one! That is just the best 😉

    I have actually seen at a lot of traditional weddings where they have blocks within the ceremony where they ask that you don’t take pictures if that makes any sense. Like they allow people to take them when everyone is entering but then perhaps not during the readings? I can’t remember how it all got broken down – but it was written in the programs and the officiant even announced that ok this is the part where you can’t take pictures, ok you can take pictures again now. It’s always seemed to work for the weddings I’ve seen and no one ever seemed to be offended, I can’t see why it wouldn’t work – it’s a nice sort of compromise 🙂

  7. Gotta say this is a definite win category where Las Vegas weddings are concerned…the majority of which make their living on photography and will not allow any photos taken except by their photographer. I won’t debate whether they price gouge or not (some do, some don’t), whether a candid would be better than pro photo or not or even whether they take good photos (some do, some don’t) but it does help my guests be in the moment without a camera between me and them.

  8. I was the maid of honor for a French wedding in France recently. The fact that all of the attendees did not treat the event as one giant photo shoot, rather than a party, was so refreshing. It was one of the most fundamental differences between American weddings I have attended and this one. That said, the bride really appreciated the 20 or so candid shots I later posted on flickr.

  9. I had never even thought about this in terms of weddings before. A few weeks ago, I went to a really gorgeous exhibit at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. I tried to immerse myself fully in the surreal world that the blown-glass flowers surrounding me created, but kept getting shaken out of it when I realized that every single person next to me was staring at their iPhones. I couldn’t help wanting to yell at them! GUYS! HOW MUCH DID YOU PAY TO COME HERE? BE HERE! BE REALLY HERE! DON’T EXPERIENCE LIFE THROUGH A SCREEN!

    After that experience, I was understandably in favor of the unplugged ceremony when I saw the mention of it here! I think I would happily allow picture-taking during the reception (most of my friends aren’t camera-obsessed, so I don’t think it would take over), but I would hate to look up at the audience during my ceremony and see the same thing I saw at the museum: everyone’s face turned toward a tiny screen, nobody seeing what’s really right there. These suggested wordings are excellent! I plan to have a website, so maybe I’ll put a designated page explaining my choice there so people understand. Thank you so much for this post!

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