An Unplugged Ceremony

Oct 3, 2018

Alright friends, I’m going to address a touchy subject today. I need to talk to you guys about banning phones, cameras, iPads, and the like during your ceremony.
I get it, believe me. I completely understand that urge to snap a photo of something as beautiful and moving as the union of two people (hello, I do this for a living and IT IS AMAZING!). I can’t even begin tell you how much joy it brings me to photograph weddings! I love knowing that my primary job is to (1) make sure my couples have the most amazing day and (2) help them remember their wedding for the rest of their life through photographs! But, nothing gets me out of my rhythm and flow on a wedding day faster than when I have to shift my focus from getting the perfect shot to working around guests who are trying to do the same thing.
Here are a few personal examples from weddings I’ve shot:
  • I’ve had people move directly in front of me to snap photos on their phones during the couple’s grand march, first dance, and first kiss.
  • I’ve seen guests arrive with camera bags filled to the brim with camera bodies and lenses.
  • I’ve had a guest with a longer lens stand up at the front of the ceremony (blocking several of my shots, and many other guests’ views) as the entire bridal party walked up the aisle (including the bride).
  • I’ve had to shoot around an iPad that popped up at the last second in the middle of the aisle during the first kiss.
  • I’ve had guests use a flash on their camera when we were specifically told by the venue not to use flash in that ceremony space – which, as you might guess, drastically changed the way some of our shots turned out.
  • I’ve had guests use flashes with focus beams (a colored light that flashes before the actual flash goes) which have ruined first dance and aisle shots of ours.
  • I’ve had guests stretch their arms out or step directly into the middle of the aisle throughout the ceremony, blocking some of my best shots from being taken (It’s important to note that often times – especially at churches – photographers are told to stay near the back of the venue, or reminded not to move around too much. So, even if you don’t see a photographer standing right next to or behind you, you very well can still be blocking their shots.)
  • I’ve had a guest shoot up out of his seat at the last second and stand directly behind the bridesmaids to get a shot of the couple during their first kiss – completely blocking my second shooter’s angle.
…and, friends, this isn’t even everything that’s happened! Do you see why this is such an important topic to address?
In part, I think this “gotta get every shot” epidemic speaks to the culture that we live in today. We’re so focused on living behind a screen, putting our best foot forward on social media and getting that perfect Instagram-worthy photo, that we forget that some moments are best experienced in real life. Believe me, I get it! I’m always a sucker for a good photo. However, at almost every wedding we shoot, I watch as friends and family members of our couples experience their loved one’s wedding day almost exclusively from behind a screen. It’s breaking my heart.
Think about it this way: as the bride and groom, you have carefully selected and asked these important people to be witnesses to the best day of your life. You want them at your wedding so they can be present. A marriage ceremony is sacred and beautiful and powerful and life changing. Keep that space sacred. Ensure that your guests are listening to and soaking up the vows you’ve carefully written or selected to say to one another. The guests at your wedding are often the people who will hold you up when marriage gets hard – so make sure they are fully engaged and present on this beautiful occasion.
If you’re still on the fence about having an unplugged ceremony, consider these three things as you plan your big day: (1) my team and I have your best interests in mind and genuinely want to provide you with incredible images (2) you are paying us to capture your wedding, and (3) our equipment will produce higher quality photos for you than the average cell phone, iPad, or point-and-shoot camera.
If you want to have an unplugged ceremony, Etsy is a great place to find a cute sign that won’t break the bank! Search “Unplugged Ceremony Signs” to get started! It can also help to make a note about this on your invites. In addition to a sign and/or note on the invite, you can also have your officiant make an announcement right before the ceremony begins! Talk with your officiant to make sure he or she knows why you want an unplugged ceremony. Often they are really great at emphasizing the importance of being present!


What should you do if you’re a guest?

If you’re going to be a guest at an upcoming wedding here are a few guidelines that you may want to review!
Inappropriate times to take your cameras out:
  • The ceremony – This includes the processional, the unity ceremony, vocalists/instrumentalists, vows, exchanging the rings, the couple’s first kiss, and the couple walking back down the aisle together!
Use caution during these times:
  • The first dance, grand march, & speeches – I have no problem with friends and family members taking their phones or cameras out for these awesome events, just make sure you aren’t standing in the way of a photographer or videographer or coming out to the middle of the dance floor for their first dance! Again, it all comes back to awareness of your surroundings and respect for the couple!
  • Family/bridal party photos – Please use caution when standing behind us as we tend to move around quite a bit! I always tell families that I’m okay with them breaking out their cameras for this, but that the couple’s photo (i.e. the photo that I’m taking) is always the priority first and foremost since the couple is paying us specifically to get these shots (and make ’em look good)! It’s important that everyone’s eyes are facing me!
Appropriate times to take your cameras out:
  • Prior to the ceremony – Wedding venues these days are absolutely gorgeous! I love seeing couples snapping photos outside the venue or before the ceremony starts! Take some time to get a couple cute Instagram-worthy photos of you and your date on the steps outside or under that pretty Oak tree in the back!
  • Cocktail hour – If you see one of the photographers milling around, ask us to snap a family picture or a photo with you and the bride/groom! I also totally don’t mind if I see cameras and cell phones out during this time, just try to be mindful and respectful of the bride and groom and their time!
  • The dance – Get those cameras out and go to town!
In conclusion, as a guest with a camera, please just be cognizant of the wedding photographer! After all, he or she is there with the sole purpose of serving the couple well! It can be very difficult to do that if someone is in the way of your shots the entire day! Be considerate, respectful, and remember that you all have the same goal – to make sure the couple has the very best day!
Do you have any additional tips about keeping your ceremony space sacred and camera & phone-free? Leave me a note in the comments below!