August 6, 2012

The Unplugged Wedding

She told me about her idea months before leading up to the wedding. And I thought it was….brilliant.

As the day got closer, I couldn’t wait to see how it would all play out.

To see whether the guests would actually go along with it. To see if the phones and cameras would really get put away. To see if they would all be shooing us the evil eye the whole time because they thought it was our idea & we made them do it. :) I was intrigued to say the least.

To say that wedding guests have been getting more ummmm…..ambitious ….might just be the understatement of my year. We had two weddings this past weekend, and I got elbowed in the head by guests with cameras at BOTH of them. Once in the eye, and once in the ear. :) One guest went ahead and rested his camera right on my shoulder. And I get it, I really do. Photography is a beautiful thing. And it’s so, so easy to fall in love with it and not want to put your camera down. But when people start throwing elbows- literally– it might be time to reign it back in, no?

Our bride Spring is a wedding photographer herself. And she knew she wanted something more for her wedding. So she decided on what we’re calling “The Unplugged Wedding Manifesto.” And then she did something even bigger….she actually sent it out to her guests. First in the invitation and then again with this sign at the wedding. It says:

An Unplugged Wedding:

We want you to be able to really enjoy our wedding day, feeling truly present and in the moment with us. We’ve hired amazing wedding photographers and videographers who will be capturing the way the wedding LOOKS and we’re inviting you to sit back, relax, and just enjoy the way the wedding FEELS. We respectfully ask that everyone leave all cameras and cell phones turned off. Of course we will be happy to share our wedding photos and video with you.

Now of course as a photographer, when I heard about the idea of an unplugged wedding I was celebrating the idea of not getting elbowed in the head for just one wedding. :) I was celebrating aisle shots without twenty guests jumping into the middle of them. And I was celebrating the idea of family shots not taking twice as long because there are four cameras and no one is sure where to look.

But what actually happened was SO much more.

When Spring & Silas were having their first dance, I was shoot-shoot-shooting away when I realized that something was….different. At first I couldn’t put my finger on it. Spring & Silas looked beautiful & their first dance was going along so sweetly as most first dances do. But somehow, this one was more. I couldn’t get rid of this nagging feeling trying to figure out what it was, and that’s when I looked up and noticed that guest after guest had tears just streaming down their faces. They weren’t focusing their iPhones or trying to figure out the settings on their DSLRs….they were just watching two people in love. And that emotion pouring out in love and hope for them was nothing short of electric. They were actually there and present for this moment when two people were starting a life together.

And that was the difference. That being unplugged actually made them more connected.

There are so many great ideas out there for weddings that spread like wildfire. Wouldn’t it be amazing if this one caught on like that too?

I don’t know about you guys, but the Unplugged Wedding gets my vote for the must have trend this year.

Pass it on.

  1. katie yuen

    I LOVE this idea and I’m so happy to hear it how it went from a photographer’s perspective. It’s something we’ve been considering and we will probably implement it and I am so excited :)

  2. caitlin

    unplugged weddings for the win!

  3. Alison Mish

    That’s phenomenal!!!

  4. Annika

    Yes, yes, yes! As a wedding photographer and a *hopefully* future bride, I couldn’t agree with this idea more. Being unplugged and PRESENT, is so important. I want to remember how my big day feels–and to see my community of friends and family surrounding me, with tears in their eyes, instead of iPhones pointing at me–is what I want to remember. Cheers to being unplugged!

  5. Jenna

    I wish, only wish we would have thought of that in advance… people, their phones, and there cameras, were in our faces all night- the only thing we would change about our wedding, is to leave a large bowl at the front with a sign that says drop your phones here! Hope it went awesome for you two!

  6. Amanda Truth

    I love everything about this. I had decided months ago to have an unplugged ceremony at my wedding this fall, but this just gave me goosebumps and further solidified in my head why it’s an awesome idea. Yay for taking back the wedding day – AND not getting elbowed in the head!

  7. Jessica

    I *love* this idea and wish more people would consider having an unplugged wedding! Isn’t it amazing what being truly present does to people?! I know that whenver I get married, I will be having an unplugged wedding as well! :) The emotion is just something that needs to be experienced by all!

  8. Alicia Candelora

    HUGE fan of the unplugged wedding. :)

  9. ursha

    Totally agree, but sadly not all the guests would agree. But yes it’s a great idea!

  10. Beth

    It’s a nice idea…in theory…and if you truly have hired exceptional and proven photographers. We THOUGHT we did, for our daughter’s wedding. She did not come cheap. Her website was promising. The engagement shoot was good. However….had we had an unplugged wedding, there would be far more tears than there were. Our "pro" was having a horrible day and the results showed it. Who misses imaging the entire wedding party during the ceremony? It was not "pro" to cut off the maid of honor, best man and soloists who were also attendants. It was not "pro" to get images of the bride and her daddy walking up the aisle with guests taking up half of the picture. We were so very grateful for so many of the "amateurs", who, sadly, got the pictures that made us "oooh" and "ahhh". Also, thankfully, the maid of honor IS an exceptional pro photographer – and was able to snap off several shots that day that we often say "saved the day". You’ve really really got to trust your photographers to go unplugged. We ended up spending several hundred dollars to at least re-do the newlywed portraits. There was nothing that could be done to recapture wedding party images. So glad it worked out for you all. Really. It sounds so sweet.

  11. Kasey Loftin

    Love this idea!

  12. ashley barnett

    Amen! We just had a wedding yesterday where the poor GROOM could barely see his bride coming down the aisle because of people leaning in and jumping into the aisles. He commented on it later and it totally broke my heart. That was such an important moment for him and thank goodness he is well over 6ft tall so he could see over heads to see his gorgeous bride coming. I hope more and more people start taking this into consideration!

  13. Joe and Patience

    This is so wonderful! Joe and I were just talking about finding a polite way to have the family and friends understand that we have be hired to do what they keep on getting in the picture of. Since the wedding day can not be re-created and every moment counts. I hope this is something that Brides and Grooms will catch on to. Thank you!

  14. Terri

    I just read another post along these lines at addressing what to do about ‘overzealous guest photographers"! My favorite is when they hand me their camera and say can you get this shot for me! I can appreciate their excitement but it is sometimes hard to work around. Kudos for the unplugged wedding.

  15. Barbara

    love this idea, and hope it’s a trend that sticks around for more than a year. if i ever get married, i’ll have to do this :)

  16. Elizabeth

    I take my camera whenever we walk our dogs by the nature preserve for those "moments", but honestly there are times when my husband says leave the camera and I do….I truly enjoy the moments of just holding my husbands hand and a dog leash in the other enjoying the walk instead of looking for things to shoot.

  17. Emily Crall

    I wish that EVERYONE would do this!!!! Love love love.

  18. Tiffany Bolk

    I love this! And I’ve re-posted it with lots of links! ;)

  19. sharon elizabeth

    what a wonderful idea!!!! i have to remind myself all the time — that time with my nieces and nephews, don’t always have to be times behind a camera!

  20. laura marie duncan

    oh my goodness… I am just dying over this. how can we make this happen for everyone? I mean it… what can we do? As an industry? the thing is, as you’re so beautifully pointing out… it is NOT just in our interest, it is 100% better for everyone! It’s gotten so much worse, I think, in the last year even, with everyone wanting to instagram everything they see. I wish I could make a billboard about this. Thanks for this post. Let the revolution begin!

  21. Tiffany Deming

    Love this!! I’m jumping on the bandwagon and hope that this trend goes viral too! oxo

  22. Kayley Hoddick

    AMAZING idea!! My hat is off to Spring and I cannot wait to share this idea with my brides!! Thanks for always being so inspiring Mary! xo

  23. Sarah W

    There is a lot to be said for unplugging in life for periods of time to. Time to focus and nourish the relationships right in front of you instead of the ones on the internet. I feel so sad when you are out to eat and see both parents plugged in to their phone rather than their kids:(

  24. Spring

    Best decision we made for our wedding was hiring all the vendors that we know, love and trust and asking everyone in attendance at our wedding to trust us and put away the cameras and cell phones. It worked like a charm and the fact that I didn’t see cellphones pointed in my face while walking down the aisle was perfect!!!! XOXO

  25. Tom Hurlbut

    Thank you for this wonderful essay! Sometimes family and friends are perplexed that I don’t carry a camera more. I love photography, but I also love to be present in moments that I want to experience rather than record them. There are times to concentrate on my image making creativity, and there are times to live life and put the camera away. Now, to have the conviction to share your article with my clients! Thank you for sharing your experience.

  26. Kathryn Denelle Stevens

    Bravo, Spring and Silas!!! This needs to be the norm, not the exception!


    SO BEAUTIFULLY put, and so powerful a move… that blessed the guests and the couple. awesome-sauce!!!

  28. GrandmaIna

    Wonderful! Now if only other events were unplugged so people would actually talk to each other!

  29. stephanie

    I agree with this because I’m a photographer and have had many Great Uncle Bobs get in my way or in my shot. So frustrating! That’s why this is a good idea.

    But. I also just got married last month. And although I COMPLETELY trust (and love!) our photographers, they couldn’t catch everything. I LOVED all the "behind the scenes" pics of things I might not have known was happening because I was at family picture time or whatever.

    So as a photog I love this, but I’m glad I didn’t do it at my wedding.

  30. Danielle Acken

    Absolutely Mary! Absolutely.

  31. Karen Trachtenberg

    Hi Justin &Mary-I just took a Sweet 16 party at the High Lawn Pavillion in NJ, it was my first for pay job not related to my Tribune work, and boy did I see first hand what you mean about phones and cameras interfering!!! every kid kept their phone in their hand the whole time and each time I tried to get a shot I hand like 20 hands with iPhones in front of me. The unplugged idea is awesome.

  32. Robin Legendre

    AMAZING…I’m sooo stealing this idea and I hope it does catch on!

  33. Adrienne Ezzell

    I feel in love with this concept the moment I saw it. Our wedding is 2 weeks away and I want nothing more than to walk down the aisle to my future husband without 17 cameras pointed at me…however, his family is not so keen on the idea. I trust our photographer 110% and I think this is a battle that is certainly worth fighting…my intentions for our ceremony were intimate and romantic and in order to achieve that, I will kindly ask everyone to be technology-free for the ceremony at least. Thank you for the inspiration!

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