Why are unplugged weddings a thing and should you have one?

October 16, 2020

It happens at pretty much every wedding… 

…A David Bowie ‘Let’s dance’ ringtone interrupting the vows. Photos of people taking photos. And guests posting pics to Insta before you’ve even uttered “I do”, let alone seen them yourselves… even worse if they’re unflattering and you spend days fretting about how you look in the pro photos.

Hurumph.

No wonder unplugged weddings are becoming a thing. Because it’s the antidote to all that.

But is an unplugged wedding right for you?

Having photographed both plugged and unplugged days, I’ve seen the pros and cons, as well as the difference each can make to your wedding photos.

Want to get my inside scoop on unplugged weddings?

Let’s start at the beginning…

What exactly is an unplugged wedding?

It’s a day off from using digital devices. Your guests turn off their phones and soak up the day with you two instead. 

Sometimes it’s only the ceremony that’s unplugged; sometimes it’s the whole day. Some couples have a blanket ban on photos; and others just ban posting pictures to social media until the next day.

But whatever the approach, the reason tends to be the same…

Why you might want an unplugged wedding

In a world where we’ve never been more connected, we’ve also never been more disconnected. Phones are such an integral part of our lives that we reach for them without thinking. Which means we’re not enjoying and appreciating ‘now’ as much as we could.

And that’s amplified on a wedding day.

But if your guests ignore their phones, they’ll turn their full attention to each other instead. It’ll bring your guests together and get them more actively involved in your day.  

Imagine this: 

Your guests stamping their feet to the beat of ‘I would walk 500 miles’ and cheering you on during your first dance – rather than watching it through their camera, complete with concentration face. Everyone throwing their heads back laughing at your best man’s close to the mark jokes – rather than missing the punchline because they were too busy trying to hold their phone steady for a video. 

It’s so much more special to be fully involved in what’s happening. And it’ll come through in your wedding photos too.

Guest photography vs wedding photography

The most frustrating thing about wedding photography? When guests unintentionally block my pictures while taking their own photos. To be fair, they don’t realise I’m there – so I see that as a compliment about my discretion! And most of the time, it doesn’t matter. But during big moments of the day? Well, that can mean your professional photos get compromised or go uncaptured. 

It’s especially troublesome when that happens during the ceremony. I’ll be discreetly photographing from the end of the aisle, when a guest sticks their iPad into the aisle in front of me to take a picture of the first kiss. #eyeroll

Sometimes, these mishaps can be fixed in post-production. But often they can’t. Like flash issues – which cause irreparable damage.

If a guest’s camera flash goes off at the same time as I press my shutter, it will brighten my photo beyond salvation. And you know how it goes… It’s always the one that would’ve been the best photo. Gah.

But it’s not all bad…

When a ‘plugged’ wedding might be better

For many guests, taking photos is part of the fun of a wedding. For others, it’s a way to share the day with loved ones who couldn’t be there.

And as much as it pains me, I’m not superwoman. I can’t capture everything, everywhere. And each guest brings their own perspective to the day, which can lead to some beautiful images. In fact, sometimes, seeing a guest taking a photo will prompt me to see what they’ve spotted. And I always get FOMO… so I often join in.

Plus, some of my favourite images are photos of people taking photos. If I get the timing right, I can capture the excitement they’re feeling about the moment they’re capturing. There’s something pretty special in that.

So, which will you choose? Plugged or unplugged?

Uh oh! I spy stars spinning around your head.

Let’s see if we can bring some balance to the situation…

Can you have an unplugged wedding and still allow your guests to take photos of their own?  

Yes, you can have a plugged/unplugged layer cake and eat it. (Yep, I’m on a mission to get a cake reference into everything I write.)

Worried about your ceremony more than anything else?

It’s as simple as limiting the unplugged time. 

It’s your day. You get to choose.   

Making that a plan? Now you just need to convince everyone else it’s a good idea. 

How to get your guests on-board with your unplugged wedding

Unplugged weddings are becoming more and more popular. So, chances are, it won’t be the first time your guests have had to put their phones away at a wedding. But there are still a few things you can do to make sure everyone’s happy.

1. Explain why as well as what. Your guests are far more likely to comply if they understand your exact reason for doing it, rather than being left to think it’s about imposing a restriction on them. 

2. Plan a dedicated photo-opp into the day… like a photo booth, a selfie wall or selfie props at the dinner table. Or you could even plan a photocall and pose for anyone who wants to grab a pic (your photographer might pose you in some good light if you ask nicely!).

3.  Create a photo-sharing plan. Your guests are more likely to follow your wishes if there’s another way to get some photos. An online gallery is ideal (and it just so happens, I know someone who can help with that)… and means your guests will be able to look at your photos, and download them to print and share as they wish (fo’ free, if you’ve booked me). 

Think you might go for it? Here’s how to make it happen…

How to plan an unplugged wedding

The main thing is to own your decision and communicate it with confidence. Here’s how:

1. Let your guests know about your plan before the day – put a note in with your invitation or mention it on your wedding website

2. Remind everyone as they arrive for the ceremony with some beautifully designed signs. (Need some signage inspo? I’ve got plenty on Pinterest for you)

3. Ask your officiant to make a final announcement just before your ceremony starts

4. Challenge your MC to perform a wedding version of that cheesy ‘no phones, no talking, no rustling’ cinema advert before the speeches begin for a bit of fun!