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How to Have an Unplugged Wedding Ceremony

October 6, 2021

how to have an unplugged wedding ceremony

Choosing how to have an unplugged wedding ceremony (or not) is one of the must-answer wedding planning decisions couples need to make today. If you’re still not sure which way to go, let the wedding planning tips and perspectives in this post help you out.

There are pros and cons to having an unplugged wedding day and the same goes for not going unplugged. Every photographer has their own perspective on what’s better, and some even have rules in their contract about it.

If you’re getting married in a church, they may make this decision for you. It has happened for me where the officiant from the church has essentially told me that they weren’t permitting even me, the hired photographer, to document most of it because they didn’t want it to detract from the sanctity of the ceremony. 😱😱 Talk about going REALLY unplugged.

In the next few sections, I’m going to talk about the pros and cons of unplugged vs not, and a way to hybrid.

Unplugged Wedding Ceremony

The Pros:

  • All of your guests are fully present for your ceremony, with all of their attention on you and the moment, not getting distracted trying to find that Instagram-worthy shot of your ceremony.
  • No guests are leaning or stepping out into the aisle to grab their first pic of you when you are walking in, blocking the view between you and your new spouse (it does happen!)
  • Safety First! No guests are up and walking around, which is a huge relief to your photographer who doesn’t have to worry about who is sneaking up behind them (I have definitely almost knocked people over as I turn around more than once).
  • No random flashes are going off. It’s pretty rare for photographers to use flash during a ceremony, but when they do it’s with intention and to create a very natural look in the photos.

The Cons:

  • Your guests might be put off by this request, especially those extra snap-happy ones. So depending on how important it is to make your guests feel happy about this, it’s something to consider.
  • Your photographer might not share ceremony photos right away, so you won’t have any to see & share until your photographer’s photos come back.
  • In the event of a rare, catastrophic equipment or data failure of your photographer(s), you will have no photo evidence of your ceremony past the point of the failure.
sign for an unplugged wedding ceremony
Going Unplugged for your wedding ceremony is easy with a cute sign

Plugged-In Wedding Ceremony

The Pros:

  • Your guests get to take their photos to keep and share of your special day and their participation in it. This is great because guests often don’t get access to the professional photographer’s photos.
  • You’ll have some ceremony photos to enjoy right away, like, THAT NIGHT. I watch a lot of guests share their ceremony photos with the couple at the reception.
  • If your photographer has a catastrophic equipment or data failure, your guests can rally their photos together and you’ll have some documentation of the most important moment of your life.

The Cons:

  • Distractions abound. Depending on your guest crowd, you’ll have people who will lean out into the aisle, stand, or even walk around during your ceremony to take photos.
  • Random Flash. While your professional photographer using flash creates one look, a guest using their cell phone flash or even a DSLR with their own on-camera flash can cause a huge interference for the look of the photos your photographer takes.
  • RING RING! Sometimes when the notice isn’t made to put phones away for photos, people will forget to silence them also, causing an awkward moment when someone is calling in the middle of your ceremony.
  • Trip hazard. Guests getting up out of their seats to get the perfect cell phone photo present a safety hazard to your photographer who suddenly needs to work around an unplanned obstacle.
This guest at a Plugged-In ceremony (pictured below) was a safety hazard because I had no idea she was standing so close behind me and I turned around ready to move, almost knocking her over (which was not the first or the last time it’s happened to me).

What’s the Photographer’s Opinion?

Most photographers I talk to prefer unplugged ceremonies and I confess, I do love them. When I’m a guest at a wedding I usually leave my phone in the car because I know I’m not even going to take a single photo or be checking it throughout the night. But I also believe it’s not my position to tell clients what they should or shouldn’t do about this particular aspect of the day. As a professional, I should be able to work around whatever kind of ceremony my clients choose.

That said, a lot of my clients also ask for guidance in this area. I think it’s a personal choice that has to take into account who you are, who your guests are and the mood you want to set for your ceremony.

I think the best way to go if you aren’t going to go fully unplugged is to do what I call “hybrid unplugged.” Ask your officiant to make an announcement that photos are fine so long as phones are silenced and guests remain seated during the ceremony. This enables the photographer to work as fully as possible while still allowing guests to get the photos that they want. It also negates a lot of the cons of both Unplugged and Plugged-In weddings.

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