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Why and How You Should Recommend Your Clients to Have an Unplugged Wedding Ceremony

An unplugged wedding ceremony is one in which the couple ask their guests to put away all electronic devices before they begin. This includes phones, tablets, and cameras – all except for yours. Ideally these devices should even be turned off, to ensure that there will be no disturbance to the ceremony.

It is becoming more and more necessary for couples to request this on their big day, in correlation with how much more acceptable it is becoming to use your smartphone or tablet just about anywhere. Let’s go into this topic in more depth and find out why all professional photographers should be suggesting an unplugged wedding – and how to go about starting that conversation.



Problems for Photographers

If you are shooting at a wedding which is not unplugged, there are a lot of issues that could potentially come up. Even if you have not experienced them yet, you are likely to at some point in the future – and they might cause the ultimate frustration. It’s hard to have to explain to a happy couple why you didn’t manage to get a good photograph of a key moment, but when other guests are getting in the way, it could be a serious problem.

For non-photographers, the art of taking pictures has been reduced to a simple voyeurism: capturing the moment no matter what, without any real knowledge of things like composition or lighting. That means a lot of amateur photographers trying to grab shots of every moment, and it can be very irritating. Here’s how they can get in your way:

  • Flash – if someone else at the wedding is setting off a flash, whether on a camera or a smartphone, it could ruin your pictures. With the white dress catching the flare, the whole image could be one big blown-out highlight. There is nothing you can do to avoid this, and nothing you can do to save the image afterwards. Flash from other sources can also cast huge shadows in the background, making the images look awful.
  • Pushing – when guests want to take pictures, they can be very insensitive to your job, especially where children are involved. Photographers know the frustration of being physically pushed to one side or berated by parents or amateurs who want to get right in the middle of the aisle for their shots. All this means is that the professional photographs end up being off-center or blocked by someone right in the way.
  • Blocking – You may also find that guests stand up in the aisle right in your view, and if you are not allowed inside the venue as you will find in some locations, you can’t do anything about it. You can’t ask them to move, and you can’t shoot around them. You may also end up with small phone screens cropping up in your viewfinder as guests hold them out into the aisle for a better shot. This eyesore can’t be cropped out, and can ruin the exposure of the image if you are using automatic or semi-manual settings.
  • Photobombing – The other huge problem is when you are taking photographs of the first dance or another equally important moment and another guest decides they also want to take a shot. They show up behind the happy couple, in-between their heads, or with one elbow or their head in frame. This happens in a split second and there is nothing you can do to avoid it. The emotional moment is ruined forever – and you can bet that the guest isn’t getting shots as good as yours would have been.
  • Focusing lights – Even when you time it right so that you avoid the flash, the focusing light can also cause problems. These are sometimes white, sometimes red, and sometimes green. They will cause a discolouration on the image, and while you may be able to deal with it in post, it’s a time-consuming and unnecessary issue.


Talking to Clients

The best way to show your clients why they should go unplugged is to actually show them what could happen if they don’t. If you have examples of the above shots, where a guest has ruined the image thanks to their determination to take a photograph, then get them printed up so you can demonstrate in person. Show them that these situations are not one-offs, but actually regular risks!

The client should be made to understand that if they do not opt for an unplugged ceremony, you cannot guarantee high quality images of all the big moments. This is a question they have to answer: do they really want to let guests take photographs after they have spent so much money on a professional photographer? With any luck, they will see it as a no-brainer.

If they still aren’t convinced, the only thing that you can do is give them one last appeal and cross your fingers. Remember to compare how beautiful your shots normally are with those ruined images to appeal to their desire for high-quality photographs.


Informing Guests

Your client may be worried about how to get the message across to guests, but this should be easy to solve. Let them know that they should take the following steps to ensure everything goes smoothly:

  • Invitations – when the invitations go out, include the word “unplugged” to queue people up that the ceremony will be going ahead without electronics. You can also include more information if there is space, but if not, be prepared to answer questions from people who do not know what it means.
  • Signage – on the day of the ceremony, as the guests enter the venue, you can use signage to let them know that they should not be using electronic devices. This can be printed up in the same style as your seating plan and any other signage you are using to ensure it fits with the aesthetics of the day.
  • Officiant – finally, before the ceremony starts, the officiant should announce that it is time to turn off phones and put away cameras. This should hopefully be enough to deter anyone who was thinking of giving it a sneaky try!


Do you have any horror stories about amateur photographers getting in the way? Share in the comments and let us commiserate!

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