The Journal

What is an “unplugged” wedding?

Simply put, an “unplugged” wedding ceremony is one that asks (or requires, depending on how fervently the couple want to enforce) guests to refrain from using their smartphones and tablets to take photos, tweet, post on Facebook, Instagram, etc. for the duration of the ceremony. Maybe even the entire wedding. Please note that this is really not a rant about smartphones.

It’s about how we use them.

Clarke Estate wedding photographer

Photographers (and videographers) have many, MANY moments during which they feel like they have to compete with wedding guests for getting a good shot of the happy couple. These people are your guests and your photography team doesn’t want to push them out of the way! But as your wedding photographer, they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. Either they nudge friends and family out of the way, or they miss the shot. It’s a bummer to have to ask for your guests’ permission to do their job.

Even if they’re not actually “in the way,” when guests use their own camera flash, we’re still in competition. Something like this, for example, is almost impossible to edit out in post-production:

unplugged wedding

Even more disappointing? When guests are glued to their cameras or phones, they’re not really living in the moment and enjoying the wedding in “real time,” in real life!

A very important question for you and your soon-to-be spouse to ask yourselves is this: will the family and friends in attendance at your wedding also be present at your wedding? Will they be in the moment and mindful of the substance and significance of your wedding day?

There is much value in encouraging wedding guests to get out from behind their viewfinders. Not only have you (likely) hired a wedding photographer to perform this exact task, but most people can agree that part of truly living and appreciating a profound event like the marriage ceremony of a friend or family member is the ability to truly live in the moment.

Encouraging friends and family to actually watch your ceremony instead of photograph or video record it is NOT the same as asking them to refrain from photos during the reception. The couple can often benefit from the candids their guests snap at their tables or on the dance floor. And, really, snapping one or two shots on your iPhone during the ceremony (as long as you stay seated, please!) is totally fine. What we’re really discussing here are guests who park their faces behind their phones for the full duration of the ceremony or end up in the photographer’s way.

unplugged wedding-9771

Now, how the heck to do it? Here are some tips for how to proceed:


Tell your guests about your plans for an unplugged wedding.

You can post this on your wedding website, something along the lines of, “we are honored to have you all as witnesses to our vows and the beginning of our marriage. We invite you to be truly present at our ceremony, and respectfully request that all cameras and phones be turned off. We look forward to sharing our professional photos after the big day!”


Include a note in the ceremony program.

Something similar to the above wording is great! Also including a sign of some kind as guests enter the ceremony site is a good idea (like if you’re already using a lot of signage, this is easy to incorporate).


Ask your officiant to make a brief announcement.

When the request comes from the officiant, guests are actually more likely to respect the couple’s wishes. If you’re getting married in a house of worship that doesn’t allow photos, even better (except hopefully the venue DOES allow your professional photographer to take pictures)!


Consider a limited photo opportunity.

The officiant gives one chance after the processional to take as many photos as they wanted — even encouraging them to get up and stand in the aisle to do so. Then, everyone has to sit down and turn their phones off for the rest of the ceremony. BAM!

unplugged wedding

Along the same lines of going “unplugged” for your wedding, consider this insight from a recent bride about all the photos she was asked to take during her wedding reception (another reason to put down your phone as a wedding guest): Sugar Plum + Co.

References and further reading:

// Offbeat Bride
// Huffington Post Weddings
// Southern Weddings

Ready for more inspiration?