Please Consider Pocketing Your Cell Phone During Wedding Ceremonies | Unplugged Weddings

This subject has been on my mind for a very long time. I’ve thought it over many different ways & decided it’s finally time to just blog it. Who cares if a couple of people get offended?

Josh & I got married in 2010. We can’t even explain how much wedding guests have changed since then! In just five short years, there has been a huge shift in the way that wedding guests behave & we’re pretty sure it has a direct correlation with the prevalence of social media in everyday life. People want that instant gratification of taking a photo and immediately posting it to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc (pick your poison). Guests seem to want to “win” by posting the photo of the bride & groom’s first kiss before anyone else. Sometimes guests spoil surprises on the wedding day by posting photos to social media before it’s appropriate. This is certainly not the first blog post written about this subject! It’s all over the Internet!

In 2010, when I walked down the aisle, I saw my guests’ smiling faces and their eyes misty with tears. I felt their encouragement and their excitement for me. (All of our professional wedding photos were taken by Inlux Photo).DJMenning_W_0188(The woman all the way in the back is the professional videographer we hired).DJMenning_W_0189DJMenning_W_0190DJMenning_W_0191No one, not one single person, was holding their cell phone in front of their face or in the aisle.  I remember walking down the aisle and seeing my family members and friends looking at me. We made eye contact. Some of them winked at me. All of them smiled. I saw some shed tears. It truly set the tone for the wedding ceremony.

Since then, cell phone technology has changed at warp speed. Cell phone cameras have more megapixels than a lot of point and shoot cameras do as I type this in 2015. And now when brides walk down the aisle on their wedding days, they see a sea of cell phones.Nicole_Cody_Cleveland-Public-Library_Windows-On-the-River_Cleveland-OH-Wedding-Photography_0016Devon_Dustin_Friends-Christian-Church_Salem-OH_Mill-Creek-Park_The-Embassy_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photography_0021Erica_John_Holy-Triniy-Parish_Mountaineer-Casino_East-Liverpool-OH_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0018Jenna_Ryan_St-Pauls-Butler_The-White-Barn_Prospect-PA_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0021Karlee_Aaron_0030Maybe we should just ignore it and not say anything about it. Is it our place as wedding photographers to care about this issue? Or should we simply “go with it?” Our approach to photographing weddings is largely photojournalistic anyway. . . maybe we should just document it as it happens without interjecting our own personal views? It’s 2015 and guests take photos with their cell phones at weddings. Maybe we shouldn’t try to change that and we should just do our job. We do that, of course. After we’ve gotten the shots we know our couples will want (them at the altar exchanging vows, them exchanging rings, their first kiss. . . ) we get creative with what’s going on during the ceremony. But just because we do that doesn’t mean that we don’t care about our brides & grooms and the way that their guests behave during the wedding ceremony. We see it every weekend & we want our couples to have the best possible experience they can on their wedding day & receive the best possible professional photos they can! We don’t want guests’ behavior to adversely affect the professional photographs for which the bride & groom have paid! That’s what us educating people on the option of having an unplugged wedding is all about. We want our couples to receive the best photographs possible; therefore, we feel obligated to address this issue.Sarah_AJ_St-James-Chapel_Rose-Garden_North-Lima-DQ_Antones-Banquet-Centre_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0042Brittney_Tyler_W_0711In wedding guests’ hands, there might be the occasional point and shoot, DSLR, or even an old school disposable camera that clicks and winds (I’m lookin’ at you, all you grannies. hehe ). But mostly there are cell phones. We completely understand the desire to capture those moments! Of course, we do! Guests are sharing in those moments because the bride and/or groom are dear to them. It makes sense that guests would want a photo or two to document that moment in time. But honestly, what doesn’t make a bit of sense to me is why a guest at a wedding would want to take photos with their cell phone throughout the entire wedding ceremony from beginning to end and never actually be in the moment of the day and witness the ceremony. Scientific research has been conducted on this subject & it is clear every time- people do not recall events that they were caught up photographing as well as they recall them when they were unplugged from their devices and taking in the event in real time without trying to take any photos. One researcher said this: “When people rely on technology to remember for them — counting on the camera to record the event and thus not needing to attend to it fully themselves — it can have a negative impact on how well they remember their experiences.” She calls it the “photo-taking impairment effect.” Here’s another article on the subject if you’re into that sort of thing & love reading like I do.

And if wedding guests were really honest with themselves, they’d admit that they do absolutely nothing with the photos they take with their cell phones on wedding days. They share them on social media, but beyond that those photos sit on their cell phone until their cell phone is too full and running out of space. Then they delete those photos to make room for new ones. Or they get a new cell phone because they’re due for an upgrade and those photos are either lost forever or sit on that cell phone that never even gets turned on again. This is a totally separate topic for a different day, but I have to mention it- this generation is the most photographed generation, but those captured memories are fleeting- most are never printed, some are deleted, the vast majority never exist beyond the digital. And the digital disappears as new technology emerges. How many old computers have you gotten rid of in your life? What happened to the photos on those computers? Has anyone used a floppy disc lately? Some of you probably don’t even know what a floppy disc is, which completely supports my point! Digital is fleeting & temporary. Even if you have digital photos on discs, USBs, or hard drives, how often do you actually get them out and look at them and enjoy them? Do you even know where they are or have them organized so that you can pinpoint which disc is your honeymoon photos and which is your family vacation from 2009? #PrintYourPhotos! And please read this article by Mike Yost Photography! He is speaking directly to my heart! But I digress. . . back to the topic of the day- unplugged wedding ceremonies!

While we understand guests’ desire to take photos, we understand and support unplugged wedding ceremonies for so many reasons! What’s an unplugged wedding ceremony? It’s a wedding ceremony during which the bride & groom respectfully request that guests refrain from taking photographs. The bride & groom want their guests to share in the wedding ceremony fully by being present and in the moment. They do not want them to experience the wedding from behind the lens of their cameras/cell phones. After all, the bride & groom have hired professional wedding photographers to do just that. The professional photographers can do their job and allow guests to experience and enjoy the wedding ceremony. This also allows the bride & groom to enjoy the ceremony more. As I mentioned above, the bride will see her guests’ faces as she walks down the aisle. And the groom will get to better view his bride as she walks down the aisle. If guests aren’t trying to get the shot of the bride coming down the aisle, they’ll be a lot less likely to step into the aisle or lean into the aisle, which will give the groom a clearer view of his soon-to-be wife. Win-win, if you ask us! For those of you asking, what about guests who want a photograph of the bride coming down the aisle? What about guests who want a photograph of the bride & groom exchanging their vows? The bride & groom can share their professional photos with those guests (I guarantee that less than 2% of wedding guests want a printed photo of those moments. The vast majority of those guests taking cell phone photos of those moments are not going to do anything with those photos beyond maybe sharing them (in all of their blurry and underexposed glory) on social media). Most professional wedding photographers now offer guests the option to purchase prints of wedding photos. A lot of professional wedding photographers provide the bride & groom with digital copies of the photographs and a printing release so they can print photos for themselves and their guests if desired. The bride and groom can also share the professional photos on social media in most cases. Therefore, guests have no reason to complain if the bride & groom request that they refrain from taking photos during the wedding ceremony.

Another great reason to have an unplugged ceremony? Wedding guests have become obnoxious with their photo taking. Please don’t get me wrong- 95% of wedding guests are wonderful, considerate, and want the bride & groom to enjoy their day! It’s that 5% who give the rest a bad name. Those guests who step into the aisle to get their photo while the bride is walking toward the groom, blocking the groom from seeing his bride. Those guests who use their flash, causing the bride to see spots and causing the professional photographer’s photo to be overexposed. Those guests who step in front of professional photographers who were hired by the bride & groom and ruin the photos of special moments that’ll never happen again. We could share photos of these things occurring on wedding days we’ve photographed, but I will refrain from doing so because I don’t want to embarrass people. I can point you to other blogs who have done so, though. Go here. Or here. If the officiant makes an announcement that the bride & groom have asked all guests to truly enjoy the wedding ceremony and refrain from taking photos during the ceremony, a couple of people will still take a few photos, but you won’t have 50% of the people with a phone in their face as the bride walks down the aisle and you won’t have obnoxious behavior because you’ve cut it off at the pass. You can also choose to inform guests of your desire for an unplugged wedding ceremony with a sign or in the program. (Email us if you’d like sample wording. Or just Google it or look it up on Pinterest).Malory_Davion_UMC-Fairfield_Avion-on-the-Water_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photography_0007Kelli_Paul_W_41Please don’t misinterpret this blog post as us whining, “Guests are big old meanies who get in OUR way because we’re SO important!” That is not our attitude in posting this at all! Our intention in posting this is to bring awareness to this issue & to allow brides & grooms this option on their wedding day. If this is something you’re interested in doing, reach out to us & we’ll help you make it happen. The wedding ceremony is the most sacred time of the day & your guests should respect your wishes if you ask them not to take photographs during it. All that said, we shoot weddings all of the time that are not unplugged weddings & we just go with whatever happens. We’re not going to get ourselves all in a tizzy because people get in our way. We’ll simply adjust. And that’s the beauty of having both of us there during the wedding ceremony. If an overzealous guest gets in front of one of us during a key moment, there’s another one of us shooting away.  Either way, unplugged or not, we sincerely hope your wedding day is everything you want it to be!