Having an Unplugged Wedding | Wedding Photography

unplugged wedding, wedding cake in ashburn virginiaMaybe you’ve heard people talk about an ‘unplugged wedding‘ and didn’t know what it was. Well, I am here to tell you! An unplugged wedding is when a bride/groom politely ask guests to leave their cameras at home, and let the professional photographer(s) do their job with minimal interruptions, interference and distractions.

Why Do People Choose an Unplugged Wedding ?

There are a lot of reasons, but at the end of the day, they end up with more quality photographs by having an unplugged wedding. The majority of photos taken by cellphones, tablets or guest cameras have flashes that blind the subjects, or are blurry , or dark/grainy. This is not to say that a guest can’t get a great photo…absolutely they can. But there is a lot of damage done in the meantime, so let me explain.

Let’s say that twenty different guests are all taking photos of the bride as she is walked down the aisle. Not only will some of the guests’ flashes ruin some of the professional photographer’s photos, but there are two other reasons why this is not the ideal situation: (a) you have a background of a lot of faces with cameras in them, instead of seeing guests’ faces enjoying the moment, and (b) the subjects in the photograph are in such a whirlwind that they often look at the wrong cameras, because it’s all a blur, and over in just seconds. The REALLY SAD part about that is that sometimes a guest will block our shot or fire their flash into our shot, in a moment that we cannot reproduce…so that shot is simply lost.

So with an unplugged camera, the professional photographer is free more unhindered images for the wedding couple.

Some photographers even provide a rebate if a wedding turns out to have been unplugged.

And finally, some wedding couples have an unplugged wedding as a courtesy to the hired photographers.

Does an Unplugged Wedding Mean ‘No Cameras’ at all?

Not necessarily. It generally means no cameras at the ceremony, and at key moments (first dance, cake cutting, etc.) Guests are encouraged to keep their phones/cameras in their pockets, purses, etc. and just enjoy the moment, to live in the moment. It’s unrealistic to think that guests will not take photos during a reception. We love that guests are having a good time and want to remember those moments. One thing that does trouble me, is when I notice someone at a reception who is behind a camera the entire time (perhaps that’s how they enjoy themselves at a function, but I lean towards thinking they’d be happier not behind a camera all night).

How do I (Brian Clary) Handle Guests With Cameras?

I’m a nice guy and I avoid confrontation. That being said, if a guest is blocking a very important shot, I have to step right in front of them and block their shot to get my own if I can. That’s what the bride and groom hired me to do. But I won’t have words with anyone. It’s not my place to ask someone’s grandmother not to take photos, lol. If I notice that guests are causing a problem by having the bride/groom/etc. look in different directions, I simply halt the photography, and nicely announce to the guests that they have 60sec to take as many photos as they want, and I will put my camera down. Once they’re done, I start up again. Sure it’s a delay for the wedding couple, but it’s a compromise that I personally don’t mind.

How Do I Plan an Unplugged Wedding ?

Very easy! There are generally four things you can do (and it’s best to do as many as you can):

  • In your invitation, you can simply include some polite text such as “We respectfully ask that you leave cameras at home, our professional photographers have everything covered!”
  • At the wedding location (especially ceremony location), have a chalkboard on an easel that says something similar to above, to reinforce the idea. Make sure it’s placed right where the programs are located, so everyone sees it.
  • If possible, an officiant can even make a statement before the ceremony, asking guests “to be in the moment, not behind a cellphone or camera, please.”
  • Your DJ can certainly remind guests at key points of the evening (such as when announcing the cake cutting) that it is an unplugged wedding
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