Should I Have an Unplugged Wedding?

So out of respect for my clients, guests and everybody else - I will not be including any photo examples of what I mean in this blog post but trust me when I say, it’s bad when it happens.

I never really thought guests would actually stand in the aisle to get their photos - but they do. I know that most of these guests have pure intentions, I understand that grandmothers really don’t realize the size of their iPad.. but it’s been bad.

You’ve seen the viral Facebook posts of guests holding their phones in front of the photographer’s lens as the bride walks down the aisle. The comment section on these posts are usually, “Is the photographer dumb??? Just take a step over and you can just crop them out??”

While this seems like common sense, it doesn’t always work like that.

Why not? I have a second photographer at every wedding I do - he shoots tight while I shoot wide. We both stand in the front row as the precessional happens, we have to be conscious of each other. The venues tend to put regulations on where we can be, if there is a videographer then we need to watch for their (usually three) cameras, I don’t want to block your parent's view - there is a lot going on.

Of course, if you really want candid iPhone photos, please feel free to allow phones. If you hired a student photographer or somebody starting out who you fear might not get what you want, then don’t worry about being unplugged. If you want people to use your wedding Snapchat filter or wedding hashtag - please, don’t feel like you need to have an unplugged service.

Why should you have one? Besides guests not standing in our way or blocking your groom’s reaction with their phones, it allows people to enjoy the moment and to be present. A lot of mothers will hold their phones in front of their faces to snap some photos as her daughter walks down the aisle - which prevents us from capturing her genuine reaction. I've had mothers hysterically crying but you would never know because an iPad is covering her eyes. 

Aside from guests taking iPhone photos - another really big issue at weddings are guests that do actual photography. In my contract I do not allow any other photographers to be taking images during any part of the day. This is pretty standard for most professional photographers. We have had guests bring heavy gear and post our posed photos as their own professional wedding photos. We have had guests walk up to us during the ceremony, explaining why they need to photograph the first kiss in the middle of the aisle. I have had many guests belittle and argue with me, or just flat stand in front of my camera, because they used to photograph weddings back in the day. It’s bizarre, it’s weird.. but it happens. In the photo world - we call these people “Uncle Bobs”. I thought it was a dramatic overreaction from power - hungry photographers at first… it’s not. It’s very real.

How to successfully have an unplugged service? Of course I would encourage adding a pretty sign at the entrance of your ceremony site or maybe on the programs (if you decide to make those). More than that - I would highly encourage having your officiant say it PRIOR to you walking down the aisle. People tend to ignore (or forget) the signs. This is the best option.

As for the reception - snap away! I would even encourage buying disposable cameras to place on every table so that you can develop later on for some really fun, candid photos that guests took during the night. And of course, if you want people to take photos - ignore this blog. I can work around anything you give me, truly. This is just the best advice I can give from my experience. I know it sounds a little dramatic and it's not always bad, but there have been a handful of moments that were compromised because of this. You are investing a lot with your photographer - don't let your guests interfere with that. I hope this sheds some light from a photographer's point of view! Happy wedding season!