Ok, what is an unplugged ceremony? Quite simply, an unplugged ceremony is one where your family and friends would put away their phones and cameras and just be with you in the moment to celebrate your marriage.
There are a number of reasons why I would strongly recommend considering having an unplugged ceremony. The first, and most important, reason is that it removes a barrier between you and your guests and means that you have them in the moment with you during your special ceremony.
All you have to do is Google Unplugged Wedding and you'll see a barrage of photos of guests standing out on the aisle, holding an array of cameras and tablets and obstructing professional photographers. The pictures generally look messy because of this. Guests taking pictures over the photographer’s shoulder when they are arranging group shots can be distracting for the people in the photo as they don’t know which camera to look at. Finally, the flashes from guest cameras can ruin the professional photos, especially when the professional photographer is using the available light.
I often wonder what guests actually do with their pictures after they take them, do they edit them, do they put any real thought into the content of them before plastering them on social media, do they care if you're mid blink, do they give them to the happy couple, do they ever even look at them again at all or do the pictures just sit on the camera until the next occasion comes along where they just delete them and just do it all over again?
I know that I, as a professional photographer, take pictures with full intention of capturing the best specific moments, I colour correct all of them so they look their best, I carefully curate the images looking out for the best facial expressions and body language and I deliver all the best pictures to my customers without fail, they are also backed up online and on multiple hard drives where they are permanently safe.
When you are walking down the aisle it can happen one of two ways;
1 - Being faced with a load of phones, iPads, tablets and various compact or disposable cameras. The result will likely be a load of blurry, out of focus, poor resolution photos taken by your guests and also faces hidden behind these devices in your professional photographs. I've seen guests step out on the aisle to take their own pictures at the expense of the professional photographer who they are blocking and also guests looking down at the pictures they've just taken on their devices while ignoring you while you continue your walk towards your future husband or wife. These images will also likely make their way to social media within hours, sometimes minutes of being taken.
2 - Or, you can walk down the aisle and see all your guests faces, family and friends who travelled to share in your wedding day. You can interact with them, feed off their excitement to see you and really embrace the experience. All while your professional photographer captures beautiful professional quality pictures of these moments and interactions with no distractions.
Ok, how do I go about having an Unplugged Wedding?
There are a number of ways that you can approach organising an unplugged ceremony. You can include a simple message on your invitations. You can have a few small, but clearly visible, signs at your church or venue with your request on it. You could ask your priest or celebrant to make a quick announcement before the ceremony when all the guests are present, in my experience I've found this option to be the best because guests might not notice signs but they will definitely listen when the person in charge of the ceremony asks them not to do something. All it takes is just a quick announcement from them along the lines of "The couple respectfully request that all guests honor the sanctity of this ceremony by putting away mobile phones and cameras, they would like you to relax and be present with them during this special time."
Your guests can still take photos on your wedding day!
I'm not suggesting that you ask your guests to put their cameras away for the whole day, just for the ceremony and formal pictures. The ceremony is the most important part of your day and your guests should share and be present in this moment with you. During the ceremony there are no chances for do-overs, no options to take a picture again if something goes wrong or someone gets in the way or causes an obstruction, once the moment is gone, it's gone. If you have paid money for a professional photographer to capture your wedding then you need to trust that they will capture the best possible photos for you, if you limit interference from guests by asking them to put away their cameras then you are providing your professional photographer with the most ideal circumstances with which to capture your special day. There will still be hours and hours for your guests to snap their own shots before and after the ceremony and I absolutely encourage them to(I even give my couples a link so their guests can upload pictures from their day to a private gallery).
Unplugged ceremonies are becoming more popular here in Ireland, they are already very popular in other parts of the world for good reason. As a photographer I am very thankful for them, I love the extra human interactions that happen when there are no electronics to distract people and they look great in photos, I love that I have more photos to choose from when I'm curating and they help create images that can really be treasured.