Unplugged ceremonies came into trend when the use of phones increased – you’d find that many guests would be taking photographs and videos and doing their due diligence to save memories of the event, but they weren’t tuned in or present for it. Slowly more and more shaming images of guests on cell phones (or iPads) starting to circulate as guests “ruined” wedding photographs over and over again. The unplugged ceremony became the way to combat this technological phenomenon, as it became a way for couples to ensure their guests’ full presence, and less obvious intrusions on photographs. It was far from foolproof, but it at least put the thought process of keeping the phone away as a possibility.
But is an unplugged ceremony for everyone? Is it for you? Do they work, and do photographers really prefer them? Let’s dive in.
Let’s be honest – do they work?
In my experience, this varies heavily based on the people who you believe would be your offenders. I’ve seen folks young to old ignore the signs and cautions and requests of an unplugged ceremony, so there’s no clear way of knowing who the culprits area. Think ahead: what folks in your life always have the camera out? Who do you think is most likely to do this? And then know this: they’ll probably ignore the sign.
However, even if the unplugged ceremony sign isn’t 100% effective, it can deter your more mild guests from snapping photos. So while a sign won’t exactly make your ceremony completely screen free, it’ll do a number on it. I always photograph people having moments and reactions to things, and taking a photograph is a big one – so there’s a good chance you’ll have images of the offenders. Remember to take it in stride, and unless they’re unnecessarily disruptive, know that you did what you could and move on with kindness.
Do photographers really prefer them?
The most common answer in the wedding industry is going to be: Yes! We love them! No phones in photos! Guests are immersed! Yay!
But from my own personal perspective: I don’t particularly care.
Here’s the thing: whether or not you choose to have an unplugged ceremony does not at all affect my ability to do my job. I can still take photographs. In fact, I may take more meaningful photographs because your grandma always takes photographs and I took a photograph of her doing so. If somebody sticks a phone out into the aisle, I can take the photograph to document it, and half a second later take another from a different angle to omit it. There are so many things that happen at weddings that aren’t necessarily negative to remember.
Maybe that person sticking the phone out into the aisle is a parent, or aunt, or somebody that came from far away, and you seeing them in that moment was relief to you. I want you to remember that feeling.
So personally, I don’t have a preference. I will be there to tell the truth and document the reality of whatever happens as-is. The preference ultimately lies in what you want your ceremony experience to look like.
And that really boils down to this: do you have a preference on seeing faces, or phones?
Hey! I'm Makayla, a wedding photojournalist based in Duluth, MN and Saint Paul, MN.
I believe that stories are best told untouched, undirected, and with intentionality and meaning.
This blog is a space to share advice for couples about weddings, advice for photographers about witnessing events with intention, and steps to create decisions based on your values and what matters most to you.
Grab your favorite beverage, pull up a chair, and let's get to know each other.
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