Protecting your Photography Investment: Consider Going Unplugged

You’d be amazed at how many times I’ve started writing this exact post, only to delete it after countless revisions.  The subject of unplugged weddings is a little controversial and as much as I enjoy the occasional rock of the boat (it’s necessary to keep things fresh, right?), I’ve worried that this topic would capsize the vessel entirely.

Unplugged Weddings.  (Deep breath) Okay, so it’s out there now and the majority of you are still reading.  Not a bad start… so here we go.

The definition of an unplugged wedding is a wedding in which the guests are asked to turn off all their electronic devices (cameras, cellphones, iPads, etc.) throughout the course of the ceremony, or in some instances, throughout the entire day.  The length of the unplugged portion of the day depends on the bride and grooms wishes; some brides request only an unplugged ceremony while other brides choose to have their entire day, reception and all, unplugged.  Unplugged weddings, in my opinion, are a truly lovely thing!  Not only does it ensure that your guests are truly present and attentive to the day but it also a wonderful way to protect your photography investment!

So why the big deal about protecting a photography investment?  Do wedding day photos really require protection from rampant guests?  Honestly…  more often than you would think.  In the past half-decade or so, guest etiquette at weddings has all but vanished!  More often than not, couples will have a handful of important photos (and in some cases, much, much more!) ruined by guests getting in the way to take their own pictures or videos.  When exactly did it even become okay for guests to get up and walk around during a ceremony and take their own pictures?  Or to hover over the bride and grooms shoulder during their first dance to snap a picture with their iPhone?

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against taking pictures at a wedding, but I do have a problem with guests who are not considerate to the vendors that are present and trying to work.  If all guests had the common sense and respect to know that they should limit their picture taking to within their seating area then I really don’t think unplugged weddings would be as popular as they are today.  Sadly, guests behaving badly as weddings is a trend that is growing exponentially year after year.

The wedding ceremony is most likely the time in which you’ll see this erratic guest behaviour appear, although first dances run a close second.  When a guest walks around during the ceremony to take their own photos it not only causes an unnecessary distraction to everyone present but also results in many photos being “photobombed” by the guest.  The guest may not realize that the photographer is trying to get a big, wide ceremony shot and their presence in the side aisles is ruining it!  The guest doesn’t know that they’re blocking the second shooters view and is causing them to lose numerous candid shots and the guests definitely don’t know what the photographers next move will be and often get in the way by the end of the ceremony.  (And yes, I have actually tripped over “faux-tographer guests” who refuse to move as I’m shooting the bride and groom exiting the church.  This has happened on more than one occasion.  Oh, and did I mention I’ve been pushed, too?  I’m not making this up, folks.)

I’ve included a few sample images in this post as examples as to guest behaviour at weddings.  I chose images from a recent Barry’s Bay wedding for the examples not to pick on anyone in particular, but because I felt they were the best examples for this post – but in all honesty, the images could have come from about 80% of the weddings I shoot.  You’ll see from these images that not only are the majority of guests watching your day through a viewfinder of a camera, but are unknowingly getting in the way of some potentially fantastic shots. I know that these guests aren’t doing this maliciously, infact, it’s quite the opposite.  They’re taking photos/videos because they love the bride and groom and want to create their own memories.  It’s just incredibly unfortunate that they seem to forget that the bride and groom have paid a considerable about of money to have professionals do this and that they (the wayward guests) are interfering with the investment the bride and groom have made with those professionals.

unplugged weddingsguests getting in the way during ceremonyguests getting in the way during ceremony

I write this article not with the intention of scaring all of my current and future clients into having an unplugged wedding but to candidly and openly discuss the consequences of guests behaving badly and their direct effect on your photography investment.  Whether my clients have an unplugged wedding or not, I will always respect their wishes as I’m confident that after receiving all the information I have provided them, that they have made the best choice for their special day.

If you are considering an unplugged wedding, I definitely recommend doing your research online.  There are many lovely websites that offer very details information about unplugged weddings and you should review those thoroughly, as well as discuss the idea with your significant other before printing off “no cameras” on your invitations!  I’ve included a few tips below based on my own personal experience as not only a photographer but as a wedding guest and a bride, too.

If you’re going to have an unplugged wedding, please consider the following:

  • It must be written on your invitation.  As etiquette states that a cash bar should be written on an invitation (so guests can come prepared with money for the bar), the same rule applies for an unplugged wedding.  A request that is out of the norm such as unplugged weddings should be noted on the invitation so your guests can be prepared accordingly – many may want to ask questions and will want information about how they can obtain photos from you if they are not allowed to take their own.  Furthermore, since most guests are not familiar with ‘unplugged weddings’, a brief description of the request should be included or, include a link to your wedding website where you can provide more information.
  • Your ushers must remind all guests as they are seating them that you have requested an unplugged wedding and that digital cameras, cell phones and video cameras should be turned off as well as put away.  If your ushers feel uneasy about asking this, you can always break the ice by having the ring boy and flower girl holding cute signs which remind your guests as they walk through the door.
  • Consider having your officiant remind guests about the unplugged nature of the ceremony before the official ceremony starts, too.
  • Guests need to know that an official photographers have been hired and although they will see the photographerd taking pictures, all the guests are to respect the unplugged rule.  I have seen some unplugged weddings become replugged as soon as the photographer whipped out their camera as the guests merely followed the queue of the photographer.  They think “Oh, so they can take photos?  Well then, so can I!”
  • Be willing to share all of your wedding photos with your guests via a website.  Most photographers will provide you with an online library of photos to view and you should be giving this information to all your guests.  When your guests know that they’ll have photos to see after the event, they are more likely to comply to your unplugged request.
  • If you are having an unplugged reception, too, your MC can also remind guests of the unplugged nature of the evening and remind guests that you will provide them with official photos as soon as you get them from your photographer.
  • If you have any friends or family members who you anticipate may ignore the rule because they believe their awesome skills will for some reason allow them to do what they want on your wedding day, you must deal with the situation before it even occurs.  Find a time to chat with them pre-wedding and explain to them that although you understand that they are passionate about photography and probably have been looking forward to bringing their camera to your wedding day, you want them to actually be present for your day and not watching it through a viewfinder and do expect them to respect the same rules you have asked the other guests to respect.
Whether you are a bride who is considering having an unplugged wedding or a wedding guests about to attend a friends wedding, I hope my insights into the wacky world of unplugged weddings has provided you with some food for thought.

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