An unplugged wedding is a request made by the bride and groom for guests to put down their cell phones, iPads, digital cameras and any other electronic device and enjoy the ceremony. It is starting to catch on. I can definitely understand the appeal. I am I guess you could say “addicted” to my phone, social media and technology in general. Sometimes, I sit back and watch myself and think, “wow Alyssa, it wasn’t that long ago that you got a smart phone and now you can’t stay off it for more than a few hours”. Sometimes I think back before Facebook and even Myspace and before instant messaging. I blame technology for my decline in my attention span. Before all of this, I was much more present. Now, I am constantly wondering if I have notifications on my phone, what the latest is on Instagram, etc but am I really being present? My boyfriend often complains that I’m on my phone too much and he is right. I’m very guilty of it, and not giving my life my full attention. That is the sentiment behind an unplugged wedding, to put away technology for a time and really be mentally present, instead of hiding behind an LCD screen looking for the best shot. I have shot a number of weddings where the aisleway is crowded with cameras and iPads and very few people seem to be enjoying the moment of their friends committing their lives to one another. That commitment is a beautiful thing. As a photographer, I understand the desire to want to capture that beauty and frankly, I don’t care if you are spending the whole wedding stuck behind an LCD screen; however is it worth not being fully present for your friends? And why are you photographing that? Is it because you feel moved by the experience, or because you want to be the first one to post photos from the wedding on Facebook?
From a photographer’s standpoint, I am also very much for an unplugged wedding from a logistical standpoint. I’m not being selfish by wanting to be the sole photographer there, but it is hard to get the first kiss shot if a sea of cameras is blocking the aisle way. It ruins the aesthetic that the couple paid a lot of money for and is not something I can just “Photoshop out”. Granted, not all weddings are that bad. But I have been noticing more and more weddings it has been becoming a problem. If an “Uncle Bob” (a guest with a camera who fancies himself a photographer and becomes a bit annoying) is in the background and I can’t move to get him out of the frame, often no amount of Photoshopping can get him out. You are forever stuck with Uncle Bob in the background taking photos instead of focusing on you and having fun and TALKING to people. Additionally, flash from other people’s camera can often ruin key shots. That said, as a professional, I will do my very best to work around these two issues and it is my job to try my best to work around these obstacles. Most of the time, I can move so people are out of the way, or, better yet, use them creatively. Sometimes, guests flash adds to the photos. But in certain situations, such as on an aisle during the ceremony, I have limited options.
To be fair, I’m not suggesting you ban all electronics from your wedding. As a phone and social media addict and part of the generation that grew up with phones and social media, that would be hard for me to deal with as a guest. If you like the idea of an unplugged wedding, consider putting a note in your program (or invitations, or both) about your thoughts on leaving the cameras at home. If you think a totally unplugged wedding wouldn’t go over well, try an unplugged ceremony, or no cameras during the ceremony and key events such as first dances/no flash during first dances. Photographically, the most critical time to not have cameras around is the ceremony. If you have an Uncle Bob in the family who feels it is his or her duty to capture your wedding day in case the pro misses something, reassure him or her. Part of the job as a professional photographer is to capture those key moments and capture them as beautifully as possible. I often have a second shooter along with me for different angles and just in case a shot gets missed. My second shooter is also there to get shots of guests during cocktail hour. If you went to the trouble of dressing up, you might as well get some photos of it! Cocktail hour is a great time for an updated family photo, shot with your significant other and photos with family that might have flown in and you don’t get to see very often. That’s what we are here for! For most events unless requested by the bride and groom, photos are available on a proofing site where you can view them, download photos for facebook usage, and buy prints affordably.
What it boils down to: This is your wedding day. With technology becoming so ubiquitous, you might want to consider having an unplugged ceremony at the very least, or ask your guests to be considerate about using their cameras during key events such as first dances. Most everyone understands once you say that you want them to attend the weddings as guests and be fully present for event and experience all of the emotions that come along with a wedding. If you think one or two people might pose a particular challenge, talk to them privately. Share your concerns and approach it that you want them to enjoy the wedding with their eyes and their hearts, not through their lenses and LCD screens.
(By no means am I picking on anyone in these photos. You guys were actually an example of how to considerately take photos and still be present for the ceremony. Thanks guys!)
For some further reading, here is a great article on the benefits of an unplugged wedding by Offbeat Bride, a Huffington Post article on unplugged weddings and an Fstoppers article on unplugged weddings.