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Why have an unplugged wedding?

With advances in technology, we have seen more and more cell phones on the wedding scene. It's no secret, really, but what many people don't realize is how big of an impact these devices can have on your photos. I could go on and on about this subject, but there are a couple key things to think about when considering having an "unplugged" wedding.

First - what is an unplugged wedding? It is a wedding where, at the request of the bride and groom, guests are asked to turn off their cell phones and other picture taking devices and put them away. Why? A couple reasons.

1. As a bride and groom, you want your guests to be fully present rather than looking at a phone screen. This seems obvious, but I have seen countless photos of what was supposed to be a sweet, emotional moment, ruined by a phone. I have taken "first look" photos where the bride makes her entrance, and what was supposed to be a photo of a reaction (say, from the mother of the groom, for example) ended up being a photo of a cell phone in front of a face.

This photo might not bother you, and that is okay - but here is a word from a bride who did ask her guests to shut off their phones and her thoughts on the matter:

"As a bride who asked my guests not to use their cell phones during the ceremony, I asked because I had seen the photos of people using their phones and my thought was 'they are more interested in getting a good photo than actually listening to our vows and witnessing our first kiss - a moment that we wanted them to share with us and they aren't even fully paying attention.' We invited the people we wanted to share the most intimate moment of our lives with and if we had allowed cell phones during our ceremony, it would have felt like they weren't there for us in the way we would have wished.

"In addition, before we got into the ceremony part, our officiant had us turn around and face everyone and essentially acknowledge that we were all there together and this most amazing thing was about to happen. And I got to see everyone's faces and tears and we all shared that together. I get chills thinking about it. That wouldn't have happened if people were looking at their phones."

So how did she communicate this to her guests?

"We had a note in our programs. It said 'We are so honored that you have taken the time to witness our commitment to one another and the beautiful moments that will unfold today. We invite you to be fully present with us during the ceremony and kindly ask you to turn off all cell phones and cameras.' Our officiant also was good about it and cracked a joke saying that the bride and groom had expressed the wish that everyone would be fully present with them during the ceremony and please reserve you cell phone use for the reception. Professional photographs were being taken and will be shared with all the guests. And if anyone needed counseling services regarding cell phone use, he'd be around after the service to discuss this most serious matter or something like that. It was funny and everyone laughed and it wasn't a big deal at all. No one complained."

You might think that your guests (or you) will be able to pay attention while snapping a quick photo - but I know first hand how much focus and attention it takes to get the perfect shot. If you are focusing on taking a photo - that is where your focus is.

2. Guests with phones and cameras will get in the way. I guarantee it. Whether it is a guest hanging out into the middle of the aisle and blocking my shot or someone asking the bride and groom to stop and pose during our allotted time for photos, I have seen many brides and grooms who have been shorted photos (or received partially blocked photos) because of guests with phones or cameras.

They also have shown up in the background of some very meaningful photos. The photo below is one example - This is a photo of the father of the bride sitting all alone on her side with a single tear streaming down his cheek. When I showed this photo to the bride, she told me that her mother had passed away two years before and often, perhaps without realizing it, her dad will close his eyes and talk to her. She told me that she was sure that that is what had been captured here - making this a particularly meaningful photo. During this particular wedding, I do believe that the officiant had asked guests to put away their phones.

3. You are literally paying a professional thousands of dollars to take photos so that your guests don't have to - and ours will be better. Trust me.

Setting aside the fact that phones will show up in your photos, let's talk about my job (the hired professional). I spend hours prepping for each wedding - whether it is charging batteries and emptying cards or talking to brides about what photos they really want. I take pride in delivering photos that feel like reliving the day all in one cohesive and consistent style. Setting that aside, did you know that brides and grooms often sign contracts agreeing that their hired wedding photographer will be the sole photographer at the wedding? This becomes questionable when other people are walking around shooting and posting photos to social media - this has specifically been an issue with vendors and venues.

Another huge thing in regard to this being my job - before each ceremony, I seek out the officiant to ask about my boundaries and where he or she prefers that I go and not go and what I can and cannot do. There are many weddings where I have free reign. There are some where I do not. There have been weddings where I was not permitted to go past a certain point or go behind the wedding party, etc. In some cases, I even signed an agreement with the venue stating that I would abide by their rules or risk being asked to leave. Even if I don't like the rules and they might make my job more difficult, I am respectful and try my best to stay within my limitations.

The reason that is always stated as to why I am not allowed past a certain point or whatever: out of respect for the sacredness of a marriage ceremony.

Now. This becomes important when guests (or vendors) decide to over step their bounds and go into places that I have agreed to not go. In one such instance, I had talked with the officiant, was told not to go behind the wedding party, and tried my best to oblige - but then I look up, and someone from the venue was standing behind the wedding party with a dslr and giant lens. I had just spoken with the officiant and agreed to respect her wishes, and yet here was a semi-professional looking person with a camera standing exactly where I was told not to go taking photos. Not only was this person in the background of my photos, she made my business look unprofessional and disrespectful to the officiant.

Over the years, I have seen (and taken) photos of first kisses being blocked, guests standing on tables and chairs during the ceremony and processional to snap a photo, photo opportunities lost due to time constraints affected by the distraction of guests with cameras and phones asking for their own photo during our allotted photo time. In light of everything I just talked about, I urge you to consider either having an unplugged wedding - or (as a guest) simply keeping your phone in your purse or pocket - relax - enjoy the wedding.

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