How to have an Unplugged Wedding without you or your guests freaking out

Guest post by Dustin Cantrell

Wedding photographer Dustin Cantrell not only wants to help you get actual photo prints, but he also wants to help you with your unplugged wedding anxiety.

All photos by Dustin Cantrell
All photos by Dustin Cantrell

Most couples have no idea that at weddings, everyone becomes irritating paparazzi. I know everyone wants to have their own photo with the couple, but when you multiply the time it takes by 150 guests, it can quickly eat up your whole wedding day. Plus, let's face it: it's super-frustrating to spend a small fortune on your photographer and have guests ruin the photos, or spend your entire wedding with a phone in front of their face.

By having an unplugged wedding, you eliminate these time-wasting photos and have a lot more time to enjoy your wedding day. But the number one reason why you should have an unplugged wedding is because you, your family, and guests will actually get to enjoy the moments in the moment.

However, I also know that the idea of having an unplugged wedding may freak you out a bit. What if the photographer doesn't capture every single guest? What if people don't get it? What if everyone judges your choice?

Here are a few tips to help assuage your fears of throwing an unplugged wedding…

Be sure to remind guests numerous times

If you only write “no photos please” on the invites, it's more than likely guests will forget come the wedding day. Put reminders on your wedding website and invites, post a sign right before they seat themselves for the ceremony, remind them on the programs, and schedule an announcement by the officiant. You might think family and friends will think you are a groom/bridethulhu, but if done in a subtle repetitive manner, it's more likely to work.

photobooth time

Consider using a photobooth

The intense photo-taking family member with the newest iPad will struggle to cooperate even after numerous reminders. One way to get them to leave their technology at home is to remind them there will be a photobooth. A photobooth is a great way to keep your guests entertained and to get photos that not even a wedding photographer can capture. Often times it can quench your guests' desires to take photo after photo after photo…

Harness the power of Facebook

There are lots of great bad photos posted online which show how camera-obsessed guests have ruined photos. I recommend posting an article, or an image of how guests have ruined wedding photos, on your Facebook page a week before your wedding to remind guests who may be completely unaware of this problem.

photo taking time

Give your guests a special photo freebie time

If you don't think your guests can handle not taking photos for the entire day, I recommend telling them that as soon as the first dance is over, they're allowed to take photos. You could make the “photo freebie time” fun by announcing that as soon as they hear the irritating song #Selfie, everyone can pull out their cameras and phones for the rest of the evening.

Avoid the Judgey McJudgersons

Worried about how everyone is going to judge your decision to have an unplugged wedding? I'll let you in on a little secret: most wedding photographers will happily take the blame for the no-camera policy, if it means they don't have to deal with guests and their smartphones. It's even becoming more and more common for wedding photographers to offer a discount for couples willing to have an unplugged wedding. So join forces with your photographer to defeat the Judgies!

Double down on your photographers

If you're really scared about missing moments, look into getting a second photographer. Lots of photographers' packages include or allow for an additional shooter. I highly recommend this option because a second shooter will give you another perspective, and can be in charge of getting all of those guest shots you want.

Unplugged wedding-havers and photographers: what are your techniques for quelling unplugged anxieties?

photography: Dustin Cantrell

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Comments on How to have an Unplugged Wedding without you or your guests freaking out

  1. We are definitely considering having an unplugged ceremony and a, um, plugged (?) reception. I went to one wedding where the officiant set two minutes on his watch before the ceremony got rolling and let everyone take pictures with the bride and groom with their phones and cameras and everything. After that, everything had to be put away for the rest of the ceremony. It was a great idea.

  2. We had an unplugged wedding, the officiant gave the guests a few minutes to take photos before the ceremony started!

  3. I love this! I can imagine how bad it could be, especially with my totally amazing aunts and grandparents who are still trying to figure out how to work their smartphones let alone doing it throughout the entire ceremony. Does anyone have any recommendations on wording to use on invites or website, aside from “no pictures”?

    • We had an unplugged ceremony (it was religious) and used the following in our programs:

      To honor the sanctity of the ceremony, we respectfully request that no pictures be taken. Thank you!

      We had one or two people who did whatever they wanted anyway, but overall it was extremely successful and no one complained. We also made it a point to send out photo thank you notes which included the “big” points of the ceremony (kiss, ring exchange) so that people had copies of the photos they felt like they missed.

      On our wedsite we had this:

      We want you to be able to really enjoy our wedding day, feeling truly present and in the moment with us. To that end, we have chosen to have an unplugged ceremony. We’ve hired an amazing photographer who will capture the way the wedding looks – and we invite each of you to sit back, relax, and just enjoy how the wedding feels. We respectfully ask that everyone leave all cameras and phones off during the ceremony. We ask you to refrain so that we can see your faces, and you can see ours, both in the moment and forever in the photos that the photographer will capture!
      We’re happy to share our professional wedding photos later, but the greatest gift you can give us is just being fully here with us in this sacred and special moment.

  4. I went to a small wedding (total of 12 people, including couple, officiant, photographer, couple’s combined kids, and couple’s surviving parents with a smatter of friends). The phones made it look like a cross between a 1st birthday party and a One Direction concert. The only people who didn’t have their phones out were my fiance and me. We vowed to have an unplugged wedding when it was our turn, even if my Viking of a brother would have to do an NSA style shake-down on each guest.

    Their photographer couldn’t get one decent shot through that mob, and I couldn’t see the Family Unity Ceremony because of the crowding. It could have been a side story on the show “Black Mirror” of how technology could ruin a wedding.

  5. More and more of my clients enjoy unplugged weddings or at least unplugged ceremonies. Added to the great tips listed above, we (the bride, the groom and I) let the guests know that there’ll be a private photo gallery where they’ll be able to download all photos in high definition for FREE.

    By doing this, everybody’s happy : newlyweds enjoy their precious moments with less paparazzis (only one or two: me and a second shooter 😉 ), officiant works in peace, guests don’t become fauxtographers (“faux” meanings “false” in french, pronounced the same way as “pho”tographer) and know they’ll have great pictures for free and we can do our job in a good manner.

    In the other hand, I think it’s a shame when there’re good photographers in the audience who feel shy to take out their cameras… I often ask the couple if they have good photographers in their guests-list so we can get in touch and work as a team for specific moments. These people know better the family and friends as I do, so they’re precious help and most of the time enjoy being enrolled as assistant for a while! I even create a “collaborative gallery” to gather all the best guests’ photos but that’s not the point here, pardon my french. 😉

    I hope you’ll enjoy all your unplugged moments !

  6. We had an unplugged ceremony. The officiant announced it at the beginning of the ceremony and gave everyone a moment to take a picture of us. My MIL didn’t really think that the rule applied to her and did take pictures when we were signing the registry and of the kiss. For the most part everyone else respected out wishes (we were married in a theatre and the house lights were down so flashes were an issue). We briefly visited with guests after our ceremony and people took pictures then but our photographer whisked us off to a quiet spot for family portraits. He has a very strict no picture taking rule during that because if multiple people are taking pictures then people are no looking in the right direction (my sister’s photographer has a policy that everyone poses and he takes the pictures he needs then he gives other people a minute to take a picture). My photographer had to tell my MIL and step-mum to both put away their cameras a few times. Later when we were having our couples pictures my sister (our MOH) got razed for taking a picture of me. The photographer was setting up the shot and I didn’t even know she was taking my picture. It is one of my favourite pictures. I am not looking at the camera and my head is turned to the side. The one deal we had to make with our families was that we would give them the digital copies of the professional pictures so that they could print all the moments they wanted. That was a small price to pay for actually getting to spend time with them and not having them constantly trying to get a good picture to remember the day by (my MIL is a bit obsessed).

  7. We had an unplugged ceremony. As our wedding was a destination wedding and we had a welcome dinner the night before which all the guests were invited to and all but 2 attended, we made the announcement there that requested no cameras or phones be used during the ceremony. We explained the ceremony would be short and that we wanted everyone to be in the moment with us, but that we would pose for pictures afterwards and that our wedding photographer would be taking pictures of us with everyone in attendance (we had exactly 50 people at our wedding, including us). We got some strange looks initially from the older generation, but everyone complied. We had so many comments about how nice our ceremony was, and I think a big part of it was because everyone was actually listening. Our photographers thought we were awesome for requesting it. We had 2 shooting for us that day, so we weren’t worried about not getting pics, especially since it wasn’t as though they were using film.

  8. Hi! I had an unplugged ceremony and the pictures of my husband and I are great. Unfortunately, my photographer was unclear as to who my grandparents were. We had a large amount of elderly folks seeing as my grandma’s 6 other siblings and spouses and some cousins of hers were there. We got our photos back and now have many more than we need pictures of my great great aunt and uncle instead of my grandparents. Yes, we should have taken it upon ourselves to make sure the photographer knew but we made the same mistake an assumed it would be fine. POINT BEING- Unplugged ceremony/reception, make sure your photographer knows who is important AND what they look like 🙂

  9. I think unplugged ceremonies can be a great idea, especially in theory… but they are also becoming more impractical as people become accustomed to using their phones every second of the day. Asking someone to put down their phone is almost like telling someone to cut off their fingers.

    There are some great points here, but there are other things to consider as well. I wrote some of my thoughts in a blog post which I left as my website link for this comment.

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