Having an Unplugged Wedding

Recently, I attended a wedding that featured the usual elements of a memorable day — breathtaking bride and groom, a stunning wedding party, perfect ambiance and ceremony. 

However, there was one jarring point — the excessive use of cell phones and tablets. One enthusiastic guest almost stopped the procession as he stepped out into the aisle to get a shot. Something like this is a reason many couples are going “unplugged.”

What does it mean to go “unplugged?” It’s a growing option to request turning off all cell phones, iPads and other devices during the ceremony, and have only the professional photographer take pictures. As technology has extended to weddings, all couples are not on board or comfortable with these devices intruding on their special moment. Guests may want to capture those once-in-a-lifetime moments personally, but digital distraction takes away from being fully present. For many, it’s disconcerting to view a sea of mobile devices greeting one’s aisle walk.

A personal decision: A wedding is a very special, planned occasion. Not all couples want an extraordinary day splashed and tagged across social media even before the reception is over. You have that right to tastefully share your feelings with family and guests. It’s the smiles, the emotions and support that make the day memorable, not hidden faces. Usually, it’s the ceremony that gets a no-device designation, as receptions are much more relaxed and festive.

Letting your guests know: It’s not considered appropriate to include a tech-free request on a formal invitation, but there are other ways to go about it. Before the wedding, use your wedding website to inform guests of your wishes. For example: “We’ve hired an amazing photographer who will capture the way the wedding looks. We’re asking everyone to sit back and relax, and enjoy the experience. We ask that you refrain from using any mobile or tech devices during the ceremony. We’ll be sure to share photos with you soon after the wedding.” Get your wedding party involved by spreading the word as far in advance as possible, too.

Talk to your photographer: It quite possible to have a small number of shots — as few as six — available to guests digitally a couple of days after the wedding. These could be shared via email, wedding website, Instagram or Facebook.

The wedding day: An additional reminder can be placed in the printed program, especially effective for those who didn’t view any website notes. There should definitely be some kind of signage prominently displayed at the site. Besides standalone signs, consider placing a small notice where the guest book is placed. For other unique ideas, check out this Pinterest board to see unplugged inspiration.

Reinforcing your request: Despite all that you do ahead of time, and at the ceremony itself, there will probably be those who won’t go along so easily. It’s not a good idea to ask people to deposit their phones before entering the ceremony site, but a polite announcement made by the officiant could be an additional reminder. For those who just “have to snap,” one savvy bride arranged an “altar photo op” where the officiant allowed amateur photos as the couple faced the audience for a couple of minutes before resuming the ceremony.