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What is an unplugged wedding? Staffordshire wedding advice

Over the last few years the term “Unplugged wedding” has grown in popularity. When we first started shooting weddings back in 2011 it was virtually unheard of. However, the rise of guests with smart phones, ipads and entry level DSLRs prompted a clap back from the wedding industry. And that clap back was the rise in popularity of the unplugged wedding.

These days, almost every wedding that we photograph is unplugged to some extent. It’s a new constant. But if you’re not familiar with the term “unplugged wedding” what does it mean? More importantly, what does it mean for your wedding.

What is an unplugged wedding?

For those unfamiliar with the term, in essence it means phones off and cameras away during the wedding. Often this only relates to the wedding ceremony itself, but some couples do opt to have a wedding that is unplugged throughout the entirety of the celebrations. Increasingly couples are asking their guests to keep their devices away during key parts of the day. There are a number of reasons for this, which we’ll outline for you below.

Why do some couples chose to have an unplugged wedding?

For some couples it’s important to have their guests be truly present. That means watching, listening and paying attention in real time as opposed to witnessing the day through a screen. It’s not uncommon to see guests so engrossed in taking photographs that they don’t even realise for example that they’re being spoken to, or that they’re in the way. We’ve actually witnessed a guest so hell bent on getting their own photograph that they’ve completely blocked a brides entrance into the church.

Once in a lifetime moments

For other couples their priority is ensuring that their photographer and/or videographer has the “right of way” so to speak. This is more easily achieved with an unplugged wedding ceremony. As wedding photographers in Staffordshire ourselves, we’ve experienced our fair share of guests who get in the way. You adapt and overcome as best you can, but if an eager auntie or snap happy sister in law steps into the aisle for example, there’s very little we can do. With weddings you tend to get one chance to capture moments and it isn’t always possible to recreate them. This applies in particular to things like when a bride or groom sees their partner for the first time. All it takes is for someone to hold up an ipad and that split second capture can be ruined.

Best intentions and other considerations

The truth is that no one means to be in the way. No one means to block the photographers shot or ruin a photograph. Everyone thinks that they’ll be quick or that they’re not in the shot. Realistically however, quick is rarely quick enough and a guest with a camera has no idea what that photographer is shooting, or what that photographer needs. The safest bet is to experience the proceedings in real time, through your own eyes and just enjoy the celebrations. Bearing this in mind, couples now tend to ask for devices to be switched off throughout their wedding ceremonies.

Putting aside the above though, couples have often invested a significant amount of money hiring a professional to document their wedding. They’ve planned each element of the day to perfection and chosen a professional who’s style and vision compliments their dream day. It’s therefore the respectful thing to do to allow that couple to have their day captured in the way they see fit, by the person they’ve chosen to document proceedings. As a guest, this is always something to be mindful and respectful of. You don’t have to like what the photographer is doing by any means, but you do need to allow them every opportunity to do their job to the best of their ability. So if a couple politely asks that devices are not used during any part of their day, please respect their wishes.

Our professional recommendations and advice

  • If you decide to opt for an unplugged ceremony, make sure you let guests know. You can include a note in your order of service or have a sign outside the ceremony entrance. Alternatively you may wish to include a card or sentence in your invitations. There are lots of creative ways to do this nicely on Pinterest if you’re stuck for ideas.
  • You can also mention it to your registrar, celebrant or vicar when you meet with them prior to your wedding. Sometimes registrars misinterpret requests for an unplugged ceremony and encourage guests to take photos during your entrance or exit instead. This is actually the worst time for guests to be taking photographs. As such do make it clear to them that you’d like no photographs at all, aside from your official photographer. Most will be happy to make an announcement for you before the ceremony begins as a reminder.
  • Re-assure your guests that they wont be missing out. Some guests refuse to cooperate with an unplugged request as they think they’ll be missing out. Some feel they’ll be conned into paying extortionate prices after the wedding for professional photographs when they could easily take their own. Reassure guests that we provide an online gallery for every couple with free, unlimited access to images. This allows you to share photographs with friends and family free.

Still unsure?

If you aren’t sure about whether you want an unplugged wedding or not, consider this: We can’t be held responsible for guest conduct. If someone does decide to set up shop in the middle of your aisle and key shots are missed, there isn’t anything we can do. We will miss shots or opportunities to get shots because of obstruction. Our best advice is to place the odds in your favour by going unplugged.

unplugged wedding
Look at the difference when you go unplugged. On the left, a group of friends who’ve put the cameras away to truly celebrate. Those are the reactions you want.

If you’d like to read more about “un-plugged weddings” we can recommend this article by Offbeat bride:

Be excellent to each other