Unplugged Wedding Ceremonies

With approximately 85% of Americans owning smartphones these days, people are connected to the digital world now more than ever. And, while having 24/7 access to phone calls, emails, conference calls, scheduling, and social media might seem like a good thing; it can also become overwhelming.

In fact, many people are now trying to take a step back from their electronic devices by “unplugging” whenever they can. That trend is gaining traction for engaged couples who are wanting to apply that idea to their wedding ceremony. An unplugged wedding is one in which guests are requested to not use their smartphones, tablets, cameras, or other recording devices during the ceremony. While it seems like a simple concept, it’s important to consider the implications and the potential pros and cons of doing so.

Bride and groom with guests taking pictures

Why Have an Unplugged Wedding?
There are quite a few reasons to consider having an unplugged wedding.

  • Fewer disruptions. Despite most people realizing that they should remember to turn off their ring and notification sounds ahead of time, people can get caught up in the excitement of the event and greeting loved ones. Turning off or setting their phone to silent can slip their mind. Until, that is, someone’s phone rings during the ceremony. By then, it is too late.
  • Undistracted guests. Most people can’t resist looking at their screens to see the latest notifications. An undistracted wedding means that everyone will likely keep their attention where it belongs, on the couple.
  • A more social atmosphere. It’s common these days to be in a room full of people who are mainly looking down at their screens. An unplugged event forces everyone to be present and interact with the people around them rather than texting with someone far away or checking their social media timelines.
  • No amateur photographers getting in the way. People with phones are likely to take lots of photos, especially at an event such as a wedding. While it’s understandable that guests would like their own photos, it can be a nuisance when you have dozens of people running around taking pictures. It can be distracting to the other guests, and they can get in the way of the professional wedding photographer.
  • Manage the images. When everyone has a camera, you never know what photos will be circulating on social media. While having lots of wedding photos can be a positive thing, you may also get unwanted images. It may be funny to the public to see a shot of someone spilling food or tripping. Those involved, however, would probably prefer not to have awkward moments all over the internet. If your wedding photographer is the only one taking pictures, you can be sure that only the best moments will be circulating.
  • Manage the big news. Many couples enjoy making a special social media post to announce their newly married status. With an unplugged wedding, you choose when and how your wedding images are shared with the world.


Bride and groom first look in front of bridesmaids

Drawbacks of an Unplugged Wedding
While a device-free wedding has some definite advantages, there can also be a downside.

  • Guests may not appreciate it. An unplugged event may seem like a major inconvenience to some. People are attached to their devices and don’t like being told to leave them home (or at least shut off). Some might even resent the request and not attend.
  • Fewer photos. Guests taking photos is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can be annoying and distracting. As noted, you may get unwanted photos published on social media. On the other hand, you may also be deprived of some great shots. Even the best wedding photographer can’t be everywhere. Guests often capture unique and smaller moments. With an unplugged wedding, you won’t have these extra shots.
  • No live footage. Some guests are sure to stream parts of the wedding live. Other guests might send photos right away to friends and family members who could not attend in person. With an unplugged wedding, those not present won’t be able to see any footage until after the event.

Wedding guest at ceremony

Tips to Manage a Plugged or Unplugged Wedding
Whether or not you decide to make your wedding unplugged, there are certain guidelines that can help make the day more pleasant and hassle-free for everyone.

  • If you decide to make your wedding unplugged, be sure to announce your policy clearly when you invite guests. You don’t want to surprise people as they enter, telling them that their devices are banned. Since we’re such a connected society, it’s best to provide redundant messages. If you have a website for your wedding, mention your policy there. Tell guests in the invites, whether in emails or physical cards. The officiant can make an announcement before the ceremony that photos are not allowed. You can even put-up signs around the venue.
  • Consider tone and wording when making your policy known. For example, if you and/or your intended are known for having a great sense of humor, you might think about conveying your request in a fun way. Is your event elegant and refined? Then using softer and more proper language might be the way to make your rules known. No one knows the tone of your event and the sensibilities of your guests better than you do. There are many creative but respectful ways to be firm but inspire cooperation from those in attendance.
  • If your wedding is going to be “plugged,” where people are free to bring and use their devices, you should still set certain guidelines. At the very least, remind everyone to be aware of the photographer and not obstruct him or her in any way.
  • Consider a semi-unplugged wedding. You can choose a middle ground that’s somewhere in between a plugged and unplugged wedding. You can, for example, prohibit taking photos during certain times, such as the ceremony while arranging special times or places for photo opportunities. This type of policy reduces distractions without banning devices altogether.
  • Communicate with your photographer. Whether or not your wedding is unplugged will have some impact on the photographer. For one thing, if there will be only professional photographs taken at the event, it’s especially important to let them know what shots you want to get.

Choose the Right Rules for Your Wedding
There’s no one best way to run your wedding. It is important to carefully consider your preferences and decide on the policy that works best for you. You should consider the size of your wedding, the venue, and how you think your guests will react to an unplugged policy. You may want to consult with your photographer and get his or her opinion. Whatever you ultimately decide, make sure that you communicate your position clearly to your guests.


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