Dorset wedding photographerDo you need to have an unplugged wedding? Part one11th Nov 2016

If you look at the wedding blogs these days you’ll often see articles about whether you need to have an unplugged wedding, with lots of reasons why you should go down this route. The question is, is this really for you?

So, what’s an unplugged wedding?

It’s something that’s come across from the States (as have a lot of things in wedding photography in recent years!!), whereby couples ask their guests to put away their phones during the ceremony. The origins of the term are from the music industry. From gigs where musicians would leave their electric guitars, amps and other kit behind and go acoustic. Just a voice and “basic” instruments, perhaps a guitar or a piano. So it is with “unplugged weddings” – put away the electronic devices and enjoy the moment.

The case “for” having an unplugged wedding

Weddings have always been occasions where people take their cameras along. It’s part of the tradition. For guests to take photos, to share with the couple and to put in their own albums.

Nowadays everyone has a camera …. most phones have 8 megapixel or more cameras in them, totally suitable for capturing those special moments.

So what’s the problem with taking a few snaps on the day?

Nowadays we live our lives in the world of social media.

On a daily basis we seem to take photos of everything that we do and share them with our friends.

But are we getting so wrapped up in taking photos that we forget to enjoy the moment?

To relax. To savour life.

If we go on holiday we take endless photos of the scenery. In reality, our shots will be nothing compared to professional photographs that we find on postcards, or in the guide books. They’re taken in the best light, often from vantage points that we as tourists have no access to.

Our snaps are nice, but do they actually enhance our enjoyment of our trip? Or would we be better in buying a really nice book about the location and just enjoying our trip. Taking in the scenery, the people, the atmosphere with our eyes, our senses and letting our brain to process everything that’s happening.

I’ll be honest with you. I’m guilty of this. Holidays where I take photos just of the scenery and not the people. Do I regret this. Oh yes. Because those people are no longer with us.

The beauty of photos is that they trigger memories. But they’re no substitute for actually experiencing something.

I’d encourage you to take photos of your family or friends, but take photos primarily of the people, not the place. Life’s too short to live vicariously through snaps, we are meant to experience life, not view it through a viewfinder or an LCD screen. So, I can hear you say, what’s this got to do with weddings?

Do you need to have an unplugged wedding?

Enjoy the moment

If you have an unplugged wedding, your guests get to enjoy the moment. You’ve invited them along to share the most special day in your life. It’s a privilege to be invited. As a professional wedding photographer I’m there to document the day, to capture the events and the emotions. Yes, I get emotionally involved with couples, but I have a job to do. I’m concentrating on getting those special moments for the couple. I don’t have the luxury of taking my foot off the pedal and enjoying the day, that’s not what I’m there for.

Your guests, on the other hand, are there to enjoy themselves and to share those special moments with you. If they’re leaning into the aisle, trying to get photos of the ceremony, they’re not immersing themselves in the ceremony. Listening to the words, watching your expressions and body language. The shots they get, albeit nice, will not be the same as the ones that I capture. As the official photographer I have access that they don’t. The ability to capture those emotions in a discreet and unobtrusive way. If they put down their phones or their cameras they can immerse themselves in the moment, instead of merely observing it.

To illustrate this point. At one of my weddings the Father of the Groom spent the entire wedding ceremony watching his Son get married via the screen on the video camera that he was holding. He could have put the camera on a tripod, to create a record of the ceremony, but he chose to hold the camera and watch his Son on the screen, instead of with his eyes and his emotions. An observer, not a participant.

The impact of social media

Let’s face it, not everyone wants to share their lives on social media. Granted, a lot of us do it as part of “normality” now, but for some, it’s not something they’re comfortable with. So why not respect their wishes?

Increasingly nowadays, couples ask me not to share images on social media, or on my website or Blog. It’s an issue that some photographers have a problem with, because, after all, social media and our websites are our “window to the world” and the primary way in which we attract new clients. But it’s a request that I never have an issue acceding to. Yes, there have been times where I wish that I could have shared the wonderful photos from the day, but I respect my clients’ wishes. Their privacy matters more to me than marketing.

And so it should be when you’re a guest at a wedding. Society’s become preoccupied with posting images immediately, checking for likes, tweeting and Instagramming.

What we regarded as our private lives even 10 years ago has now become public property. So, in the same way that I respect my clients wishes, so should the guests – if that’s what the couple want.

If you choose an unplugged wedding and want them on social media, you can always ask your photographer if they can share just a few images from the ceremony a day or two after the wedding.

How far can you go?

Should you ban phones and cameras from the ceremony? I honestly don’t think there’s any need to go that far, and I think it would be wrong to expect people not to take any photos. Just ask if they’d mind putting them away until the ceremony’s over. Then they can take shots to their hearts’ content!

How can you tell them you want an unplugged wedding? There are a few ways. On the invitation. You could ask the officiant, or the Best Man perhaps, to make an announcement before the Bride makes her entrance. Or you could have a sign at the end of the aisle, or at the entrance to the venue, letting people know your wishes. As for Church weddings? Most vicars/priests won’t allow any photography during the ceremony, and some even ban the professional from taking any. That’s a shame, but they set the rules and we have to abide by them.

For some people an unplugged wedding is what they’d like. But is the idea of preventing your guests from taking photographs unfair and a bit draconian?

Well, you’ll have to wait for part 2 of this article to see …… 🙂

On a lighter note, I saw this video shared in Facebook recently. It’s from a photography studio in Oregon and it’s a light-hearted look at some of the challenges that we face as professional wedding photographers. It’s a brilliant parody, but there is a serious message behind it.

Blog post: Do you need to have an unplugged wedding? Part one