Why to NOT Have an Unplugged Ceremony

Why NOT to have an unplugged Wedding


Weddings are not what they used to be.  They are not your cookie-cutter day, filled with traditions that nobody wants to do but everyone says you should do.  Today, weddings are unique!  They are a day that truly embodies who you are as a couple, and you can choose (without anyone batting an eyelash) which traditions you want to uphold, and which to ditch.


One thing that I make sure to mention during every wedding photography consultation, is whether or not to consider an “unplugged” wedding ceremony.

Why Not to have an unplugged wedding | LAD Photography
Photos were allowed without restriction at this wedding

An unplugged ceremony is essentially where you ask your guests to turn off their cameras, cell phones, and tablets for the duration of the ceremony.  There are many ways to handle this request nicely.  Society has become quite attached to our mobile devices, and although it is up to you whether or not they have a place in your wedding ceremony, asking people not to use them can cause some people a bit of anxiety.  Besides, they are immensely proud of you on your wedding day and love documenting this!


Everyone leaning into aisles to get their perfect shot of you at the altar, or the rogue aunt that decides to stand during the entire ceremony because she didn’t get a front row seat and wants an unobstructed video of it on her tablet may be enough for most people to want to prohibit all pictures and videos during the ceremony.  Let alone Uncle Bob who decides he’s going to “do you a favor” and leaves his seat with his expensive camera to stand directly behind the arbor you’re standing under on the lawn and winds up in every single photograph your professional photographer takes.  Or Aunt Joan who, when you kiss for the first time at the end of the ceremony, decides to stand up in the aisle, at that exact moment, to get her photo of you, blocking your photographer from getting the shot.

But I digress….

Aside from all the reasons to have an unplugged ceremony, there is one glaring reason not to.  INSTANT GRATIFICATION!!!

Why Not to have an unplugged wedding | LAD Photography
No distracted guests

We do, truly, live in a society that will have your ceremony posted and tagged on ten different platforms before the ceremony is actually finished!  And if you are the type of couple that wants to see photos or video of you at the altar so that you can share them the next morning when you wake up, then your photographer most likely cannot provide that.  Loading and editing photos is a process that takes dozens and dozens of hours.  Providing you with images of your wedding within 12 hours of your ceremony probably isn’t something that is possible for many busy professional photographers.  Some are even leaving your wedding to drive straight home to sleep for a few hours before waking up and photographing another wedding.

Another, very unfortunate, reason to allow people to take pictures during your ceremony is if you have a budget photographer.  It saddens me to hear “we’re going with someone cheaper” or “we have a friend doing our photography for us”, because this undoubtedly leads to disappointment after the wedding, when you see your photos and realize they are nothing like what you saw on professional photography sites.  That they are underexposed or green or your skin color is unnaturally orange.  Or that the photographer used a wide lens during your ring exchange and therefore stood, literally, three feet from you, blocking the view of your friends and family, in order to take a photo of the ring going onto your finger.  

Why Not to have an unplugged wedding | LAD Photography
This gentleman walked in front of the camera to get a shot on his cell phone.

I understand that everyone is on some sort of a budget.  If you’re not, I’m quite envious of you.  Ha!  But if you in any way think that there is a tiny chance that your wedding photographer or family friend who is taking pictures for you for free might not be all you hope they would be, then by all means, allow your friends and family to take photos of the ceremony.  The photos your guests take might just be the only ones that come out at all, if you have made the very unfortunate mistake of hiring the wrong photographer.

Why Not to have an unplugged wedding | LAD Photography
Not having a cell phone in hand allows guests to clap for you.

If you decide that allowing photos during the ceremony is what you want, but you don’t exactly want it to be a free-for-all, you have a few options:


  • Allow people to take photographs during the ceremony.  This may mean that the guests wind up in the professional photographs leaning into the aisle, or clearly concentrating on taking a photo of you instead of actually listening to your handwritten vows.  But you will wind up with dozens, possibly hundreds, of photos from the viewpoint of friends and family. 
  • Assign one or two people you trust to be the “designated picture-takers”.  Seeing one or two people in the crowd taking photos on a cell phone may prompt others who do not understand that permission was giving to these folks to follow suit, but you will most likely still not get the flurry of cell phone activity you would if you simply allow people to take photos freely.
  • Allow photos to be taken during the ceremony only, but not during the processional and recessional, when your photographer really needs a clear aisle to get the best photos for you.
  • Allow only a limited time for photo-taking.  Ask that no photos or video be taken before the ceremony begins, but also make it clear that once you get to the altar guests will be allowed 30 seconds to take as many photos as they want.  You and your fiancé simply need to hold hands and smile, and then the ceremony can begin without disruption.
Why Not to have an unplugged wedding | LAD Photography
People distracted and not watching the bride come down the aisle.


I’ve photographed more weddings than I can count, having been in business for over a decade.  And while I am a huge advocate for unplugged ceremonies, I also fully understand that this is YOUR wedding, and you may not share my sentiments.  By all means, allow your guests to take photos!  But if you are thinking like me and amazing photos are more important to you than how quickly your day can be hashtagged and tweeted, then there are some steps you can take to have the unplugged ceremony you want and keep your guests as blissfully happy as you are.

  • Add it to your wedding website.  Google some polite, fun, or funny ways to say that you aren’t allowing photos and add a little blurb on your wedding site.  In my experience, this gives people some advanced notice of your intentions.  However, not a lot of people will visit your wedding website unless you’re pushing the links to everyone like it’s your full time job.
  • Have it printed in your programs.  Adding a line or two to your ceremony programs may work, but I seldom see guests ever actually read programs (perhaps this is a place to save money on your wedding expenses by skipping programs altogether?).  Most guests just fan themselves with the programs on a hot day, and the majority of them get left behind and swept away by the wind when guests move on to the cocktail hour.
  • Have a cute sign at the end of the aisle for guests to read while they’re finding their seats.  This is an idea that actually works, for the most part.  However, when your photographer pulls way back to get that epic photo of the entire church, or of the big sky or gigantic oak tree you’re getting married under, that sign will wind up in the photo.  While it’s not a complete eyesore, it does create somewhat of an unnecessary distraction in your photos.
  • Ask the officiant to make an announcement before the ceremony begins.  THIS.  This works… every single time.  People pay attention to the person in charge of this part of the day.  And when it is spoken by a kind voice the request to put away cell phones and cameras is ALWAYS received better than signs or website posts.
Why Not to have an unplugged wedding | LAD Photography
Guests fully present and listening to vows


Either way, this is a personal decision you should make for yourself.  Don’t allow your photographer or your family to sway you in any direction.  Make an informed choice based on what fits your personalities.  If that happens, there won’t be an unhappy person in the room!!!

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