Let’s face it, an unplugged wedding can be a challenge. These days, everybody has a cell phone. With each iteration of the iPhone, Android, or another smartphone doohickey, the camera feature improves. That means plenty of amateur photographers, hoping to show off their camera skills at your wedding.
“I’ve had so many unfortunate experiences where guests with cameras ruined a great moment,” said Bazala, “but by far the worst was the wedding where not one, not two, but five people stood up in the aisle with iPhones and iPads as the bride walked down the aisle, completely hijacking her moment and stealing that gorgeous image from her. It was so heartbreaking. When I showed her the video clip after the wedding she was in tears.”
But no fear of tears, we’ve got 5 steps to make sure you have the perfect, unplugged wedding.
STEP 1: EARLY WARNING
Set your expectations for your guests even before the big day.
There’s a couple of ways to let guests know. The easiest way is online.
You can also let your guests know to keep the phones down by writing in your invitation. But be mindful, they may forget by the big day.
“If you put it on the invitations the guests probably won’t remember by the time the wedding comes around but it couldn’t hurt to inform guests in advance,” said Catherine Pick from The Ginger Officiant.
STEP 2: A SIGN SAYS IT ALL
“Have cute signage for guests to read as they enter the ceremony area and/or venue stating the couple requests an unplugged ceremony,” says Pick. “Phones distract guests from being present and in the moment.”
Artists with Etsy pages can create specialized signs or sandwich boards to help convey your message.
“Signage goes a long way conveying that message,” said Taylor.
For an ultimate unplugged wedding, include a basket next to your sign, and require guests to give up their phones.
“I have also had couples who take all cell phones from guests upon arrival, put them in a basket, then have a designated person hand the phones back out to the owners after the ceremony,” said Pick.
STEP 3: USHER IN SOME ADVICE
Having your guests give up their phones may be a big ask. An alternative is to have your ushers remind family and friends as they sit down.
“If you have ushers seating guests upon arrival they could politely mention turning off cell phone ringers and putting phones away during the ceremony,” said Pick.
“Seriously, if you can’t keep your phone in your pocket for 20 minutes, you probably should stay home,” said Bazala. “They may think they are doing the couple a great service by taking lots of candid photos when in reality it’s a purely selfish act — they may be getting between the bride walking down the aisle, and the photographer who only has a few seconds to capture a once in a lifetime moment.”
STEP 4: PREACH IT
“Guests are excited and want to take photos for themselves and they don’t realize they will step out in front of the professional photographer and ruin their shot,” said Rachel Doyle of Rachel Doyle Photography. “It happens during the kiss and when they are walking down the aisle, all the time.”
To avoid those problems, ask your preacher or officiant to tell everybody at one time to keep the phones down.
“Usually a sign helps but having the officiant reiterate that the couple wants their guests to be fully present, enjoy the ceremony and allow the professional photographers to capture their ceremony works well,” she said.
“I ask the guests to turn their ringers off and please do not step in the aisle or block the photographer to take photos,” said Pick, who is an officiant herself.
DJ Danny Garcia, agrees, informing everyone at the same time will help.
“The best way to have an unplugged wedding is to have your officiant or DJ make an announcement right before the ceremony begins,” said Garcia. “I’ve seen people use “unplugged wedding” signs and people either walk right by it or just ignore it. But if you make that announcement right before you start, most people usually respect it.”
“Another big challenge that a lot of people don’t realize is that all those phones can sometimes mess with the wireless microphones,” he said. Another challenge that most couples don’t really think about when there are so many phones in the same area.
STEP 5: GUARD AGAINST PHONES
For those that can’t resist taking out their phones, even with all these warnings, Catherine Pick has one more suggestion.
“If you are worried someone may still break the rules, designate a friend or family member (or muscle-bound security guard) to sit in the back row(s) and when they see someone with their phone out they can discreetly remind the guest that no photos are to be taken until after the ceremony,” she said.
Step 6: UNPLUGGING THE RULES
“I always inform guests that only the ceremony is unplugged, and they can take as many photos as they would like once the ceremony is over,” said Pick.
Most experts agree, that after the ceremony, the phones should be allowed back out.
“At the reception, it is fun to use your social media to tag and post their hashtag, if that is what the couple wants,” said the Flowers Studio’s Andie Muller. “Use a nice background for selfie station, have a photo booth, and some Props! And enjoy the technology. It is part of our every day.”
For guests, the number one rule is to listen to the wishes of the wedding couple. Otherwise, you could get in trouble, as in the case of the bride that worked with Bazala.
“She recognized every person (in the video) and had strong words to share with every single one of them. I’m glad I wasn’t there for that,” he said.
An unplugged wedding ceremony is a perfect way to guarantee that your photographer and videographer don’t miss those epic moments that are memories to last a lifetime!