What is an unplugged wedding and should I have one?

The Unplugged Wedding or ‘Put down your phone and tablet and be present for the wedding of your loved one’

Nowadays everyone and their granny has a phone/tablet/camera and as an increasingly visual society, we live through the photos we capture. This is the way of the world and it’s something that will continue as technology develops. It is, therefore, something that needs to be considered when it comes to weddings and important events in your life. Do you want to live your life through a screen? Do you want to remember the time through your iPad? Surely this ‘separation’ from the real event takes something away from the actual moments you are supposed to be a part of? The emotion isn’t really felt as deeply when you don’t connect fully. I know this as I DO live my life looking through a lens! It’s an occupational hazard in that I see the world very differently since becoming a photographer. For me, there are a million images to capture and moments to photograph. But I have learned that I need to put the camera down and be present more often. I have accepted that from time to time I might miss capturing a photograph because I am being truly ‘there’ with my family and friends. There are times this is very much worth doing. A loved one’s wedding day is one of those times.

Maybe as a backlash to constant image taking and recording of day to day life via a smartphone, there is now a trend building for couples to ask their friends and family to switch off their phones at weddings and enjoy the day. Here is born ‘The Unplugged Wedding’.

What is an unplugged wedding?

An unplugged wedding is where all guests are asked to put away their cameras, phones and tablets, and enjoy the day. The wedding photographer is solely responsible for capturing the day on camera as smoothly and perfectly as possible without potentially missing key moments caused by interfering devices.

As a photographer, I’m going to be slightly biased with arguing for no phones and particularly no iPads (trust me, iPads are not designed to take great photos!) One reason is it makes it much harder for me to do my job, to capture the photos I would like to and tell your wedding day story in the best way possible. A wedding is all about the couple and their guests, the emotions and the story that can be told. It’s about the captured moments. The glance between the bride and her friends while walking down the aisle, the proud look from the grooms mum as she watches her son marry the love of his life. Now, imagine those moments if all you can see are iPad screens or people looking over phones? Not quite the same is it? When I’m faced with a whole wedding full of people trying to capture the ceremony on their phones my heart sinks slightly and I know that those wonderful and special connections that you see between people just won’t happen. It’s just not possible to ‘connect’ and be present when you are seeing the world through a screen.

Another reason why an unplugged wedding can be a great thing to consider is to avoid any ruined photos. Those who are enthusiastic amateur photographers can easily get in the way of the key shots without realising it. It’s not unknown for someone to leap into the aisle as the bride and her father are making their entrance. This can make it so much harder to capture those truly special moments and one time events. It’s particularly prevalent during church weddings when the vicar or priest will sometimes restrict the photographer to one area of the church to take images from. I appreciate there is no malice meant in this, people are just excited about taking a photo, but in doing this they can ruin one of the professional images in favour of a badly lit and blurred photo captured on a phone. Do you really want the first photos you see of your special day to be fairly average photos taken from the back of a dark church?


At this point, I would like to make it clear that I’m really not against guests taking photos of the happy day at times when it’s not likely to interfere. It puts a big smile on my face when your granddad is thrilled to bits to take a photo of the two of you on his point & shoot camera during the drinks reception. Some guests genuinely love taking pictures and that’s great (I frequently get into a conversation with the keen photographer guest and am happy to chat photography) and as long as those guests are aware of the fact your photographer is trying to do their job everyone can have a lovely time and you can get amazing photos of your day.

If you are considering the options but a fully unplugged wedding feels too much, there really are benefits to having an unplugged wedding ceremony. For many people that is the perfect option. Your loved ones can use their cameras throughout the day and capture their own memories, but for the ceremony (which, let’s face it, is the most important part of the day) you can get them to put the phone down and be a real part of it. You can also ask that your guests don’t post any photos on social media. This is also becoming more common as couples wish to be able to share their professional photos from the day on social media, rather than seeing a blurry version of themselves on Facebook in a grainy shot taken from the back of the ceremony.


Why would you choose to have an unplugged wedding?

• Sometimes couples request an unplugged wedding because they want to vet all the photos before being published on social media (I’ve known brides to regret not asking their guests to not share on social media).

• Another reason for having an unplugged wedding is because you want your camera-mad guest, with their DSLR to spend the day actually being a part of the wedding rather than trying to be an unofficial wedding photographer.

• With an unplugged wedding, no one is distracted and everyone is part of the day. Your guests will be fully present in the joy and fun of the day. The bride can walk down the aisle seeing a sea of happy, smiling faces instead of screens, flashes and clicks.

• You, your family, and guests will actually get to enjoy the moments at the moment.


How do you have an unplugged wedding ceremony?

If you are loving the idea of an unplugged wedding ceremony here are some suggested words you could use:

“Welcome, friends and family! Please be seated. The bride and groom invite you to be truly present at this special time. Please, turn off your phones and put down your cameras. The photographer will capture how this moment looks.”

You really can ask your family, friends and guest to turn off their phones, tablets, cameras and other digital distractions during the ceremony. If anyone makes a fuss, most registrars or photographers will happily take the blame for the no-camera policy, if it means they don’t have to deal with distracted guests and their smartphones and flashes going off left, right and centre. Many churches now ask for this as standard and a number of registrars ask guests to ‘be present’ and leave the photos until the end. Explain to your nearest and dearest how wonderful it is to be present and really experience the special moments during the ceremony.

Bride with groom congratulate being married

If you want to go the whole hog and have a full unplugged wedding (rather than simply an unplugged ceremony) here are some tips:

1. Speak to your guests directly
The iPad wielding older guests will be much more likely to adhere to any requests to put their devices away if you promise to provide them with pictures afterwards.
2. Speak to those who don’t think the rule applies to them
Some guests are completely fixated on getting whatever pictures they want. No amount of signage or announcements will stop them. Couples, you need to sit down with whoever you think will ignore your request to tell them that the no-camera rule applies to them. Reassure them you will provide them with photos after the fact so they don’t feel like they’re losing out on memories.
3. Remind your guests
Write “no photos please” on the invites, put reminders on your wedding website, put up a sign right before they seat themselves for the ceremony, remind them on the programs, and schedule an announcement by the officiant.
4. Set up a photobooth
Not only is a photo booth at your wedding a great way to entertain guests during the evening it’s also a great way to resolve the guests’ desire to take lots of photos.
5. Give your guests a special photo freebie time
If you don’t think your guests can handle not taking photos for the entire day, how about giving them free rein during one part of the day such as during the drinks reception or as soon as the first dance is over?


If your wedding isn’t unplugged…photographers’ advice:

Tailoring your approach can help a lot towards getting the best out of your professional wedding photos.

I’m always happy to chat with your photography loving relative on the wedding day. My personal approach is to be polite and assume that they know the limits of their photo-taking on the day. This is generally enough for most of your guests to understand when to put their camera down. The only time I will request no other photos is during the group photos (if at all possible) and when we go for bride and groom portraits.

While it’s never fun for the photographer or the couple to have to confront a guest about their behaviour, sometimes it’s the only way to get the most enthusiastic amateur to politely maintain a distance from the action. In over 170 weddings I have only had to have a word to two guests. Both times this was when they followed us for bride and groom portraits. This is a time I like to have completely guest free.

Be prepared. You might not be quite prepared that at weddings, everyone becomes paparazzi (which can be a little full-on at times!).

the unplugged wedding_0007

Taking time out with the bride and groom is something I love to do, away from all the guests just relaxed time together for some photos.

Book a second shooter with your wedding photographer.

I am working with a second photographer more often now as I find it a great way to ensure any more moments are captured. With two shooters and you get more coverage of your guests having a great time!

I love when you share the photos I have taken of your wedding with all your guests! When I send you the password-protected gallery full of wedding photos, please send this to your friends and family. Let them have all the details so they can see the final collection of images. Drive them crazy with all your wedding photos, let them see the whole day captured with photos of themselves having a fun time with you. It’s the best thing ever.
It’s important to remember that you have decided to pay for a professional wedding photographer to capture the story of your wedding day. Make sure you get the best story and the best photos you can get.

What do you think? Would you consider an unplugged wedding ceremony or a fully unplugged wedding? I would love to know your thoughts about this.

Why not take a look at a couple of weddings I have photographed that had an unplugged wedding ceremony? Here’s Priya & Josh’s stunning Leeds Castle wedding and also Lucy & Nick’s pretty back garden wedding.

Thanks for popping by

Fiona x