The Pros and Cons of Unplugged Weddings

March 04, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Wedding trends come and go, but I have a feeling that unplugged weddings are a trend that's here to stay. An unplugged wedding is one where the bride and groom ask guests to turn off cameras and phones during the ceremony, or sometimes the entire wedding. We live in a world now where everyone has a camera on nearly any type of electronic device imaginable. Our iPads, smartphones, and now even watches are all capable of taking photos (of varying levels of quality) and it's no secret that we all love using them to document our lives. Personally, I think this is a beautiful thing. It's not always the fidelity of an image that makes it special, it's just the fact that it exists and it's really a wonderful feeling to take an image you're proud of. It's for these reasons that you'll see why I can be on the fence (as I am with so many issues) about unplugged weddings.

So, rather than bore you with only my opinion, I want to provide you with some pros and cons of having an unplugged wedding. I'm sure my own bias will shine through here and there, but for the most part, I want you to end up with a photographer's perspective and be equipped to make the decision that's right for you on your wedding day.

The Pros of an Unplugged Wedding

You've all heard the horror stories, many from photographers or couples who have had intimate moments squashed by a rogue flash or overzealous iPadographer. They jump up in the middle of the first kiss, or flash their camera at the same moment the photographer does and all of a sudden the image is ruined. In their own fervor to capture an image and be the first to post it online, guests can be quite inconsiderate of the paid professional standing right next to them and they can get in the way. As a photographer, it's pretty crazy how brave some of these people can be. I'm sure when they're snapping away on their phone, they're not thinking about the quality of their phone photo versus the quality of the image the pro is trying to capture with thousands of dollars worth of gear, they just want their own memory of the day. But, regardless of what's going through their minds, it's incredibly distracting for the professionals, and sometimes downright impossible to ignore. I personally find it worst during the family portraits. It's already one of the most tedious, time consuming sessions during the day and nothing slows us down more than 5 or 6 aunts trying to take the same photo we are with significantly lower quality equipment. Then... they post them online!

Which brings us to the next pro of having an unplugged wedding. If you're the type who wants to reveal all your hard work and excitement to the world on your own terms, it can be pretty disappointing when you're checking Facebook in the airport terminal on your way to the honeymoon and you see it filled with second-hand images of your wedding by your entire family. It may feel like an incredibly inexperienced photographer had covered the wedding beginning to end, and then posted the photos online for the whole world to see before you. A lot of couples may find this upsetting, especially if the images are unflattering. However, this is par for the course in the world of social media, and it's definitely a factor to consider.

Finally, the noise factor comes into play. We've all been to the movie theater and seen the cheesy popcorn, soda and candy bar cartoon sing that jungle about turning off your cell phone. However, instead of a movie, it's a wedding which you've dreamt about for your entire life and spent a small fortune making it a reality. Just as you're about to say your vows, Meghan Trainor's All About That Bass starts playing at full volume. Love it or hate it, it's now your least favorite song ever, and it's forever playing on your wedding video. Turning your volume off seems like common sense, but it's something everyone forgets from time to time, and your wedding is no exception.

The Cons of an Unplugged Wedding

This is an argument you're probably going to see rarely being made, but I think it's an important and overlooked one. I didn't get into photography for any reason other than because I love it and as National Geographic's Your Shot community proves, you don't have to be a paid professional to love being a photographer. This biggest strike against an unplugged wedding: depriving your guests of this opportunity. There are a lot of ways to be respectful and unobtrusive to your wedding photographer while also enjoying capturing it from your own unique view. Of course the only person who can qualify your guests as such is you.

Guests looking at photos they've taken and sharing them with brides and other guests can make for some really fun candid photos. We've gotten to snap some great impromptu photos of people enjoying their own images during the wedding. It shows the fun side of your wedding and a lot of times guests can get a different perspective, or even different events that are happening on the side of the wedding. While your photographers are usually focusing on the main event, your guests may be snapping photos by the pool over a few cigars. Guests are usually involved in a more intimate way than we are.

If you don't mind your guests posting your wedding online, it can be a nice treat to see what everyone was up to. It's really hard, if not impossible, to spend a significant amount of time with every guest to your wedding. Sadie and I had a relatively small wedding, and I was still unable to carry on a full conversation with most of my guests. I felt bad, but being able to see the images they took of their own little cliques was pretty cool. Some had a blast at the photo booth, some just enjoyed the time with distant relatives. It was all small little moments that our photographer could just capture tidbits of, but it was a lot of fun to see online after the wedding. We loved seeing what everyone was up to at our wedding in the days and weeks to follow, but of course this opinion various drastically between couples.

Making the Right Choice

In most cases, I would consider a mixture of the unplugged and allowing guests some freedoms would probably work. Most important, is having this dialogue with your photographer and seeing what they suggest based upon your individual case. We love when our couples ask us questions like these, because it shows us that wedding photography is important to them and they are considering our needs. A good photographer will listen to your concerns and opinions and provide feedback about their comfort level. Whichever route you choose, you should always be sure to keep your photographer in the loop and listen to their opinion on the matter. At the end of the day, there is no one size fits all for any weddings. Respectful guests can snap away all day without being in the way at all, while others need to be asked to refrain, lest they stand in the aisle the entire time.

Hopefully this article provides some insight. Feel free to let us know your opinion on the topic in the comments section, we would love to hear what you think!


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