Why You Should Have An Unplugged Ceremony (It’s Not The Reason You Might Think!)

There are a gazillion blog posts and articles out there about unplugged weddings and how wedding guests have ruined professional wedding images with iPads, flashes and selfie sticks. But this isn’t another one of those posts. Yes, I’m still going to look at the benefits of an unplugged ceremony, and why you should ask your guests not to take pictures during your wedding ceremony, but it’s not for the reason you might think.

Why You Should Have An Unplugged Ceremony

Although I’m shooting less traditional wedding ceremonies these days, the need for guests to capture the whole event on their phones is still ever present, even when it’s just a couple and their immediate family on the top of a mountain.

An elopement where all guests are taking pictures on their phones

Yes, having people in pictures of a wedding day all holding phones and looking at screen doesn’t look great. But it’s not my place to tell people they can’t take pictures and I will photograph the scene as I see it. And I understand guests want to take pictures. Many of us live (too much) of our lives through our phones and spend a lot of time sharing our stories via social media. A guest taking pictures on a wedding day is their way of showing that they care about the people involved and they want to capture and share the moment too. Their intentions are not ill meant. But what most people don’t realise is that by taking a picture of something, you’re actually removing yourself from that moment.

Iphones in the shot of this couple's winter wedding ceremony

The Science Bit

A study by Dr. Linda Henkel called this phenomenon “photo-taking impairment effect”. Her research showed that taking a photograph actually impaired our ability to remember the thing we are photographing.

“When you take a photo of something, you’re counting on the camera to remember for you,” Henkel said. “You’re basically saying, ‘Okay, I don’t need to think about this any further. The camera’s captured the experience.’ You don’t engage in any of the elaborative or emotional kinds of processing that really would help you remember those experiences, because you’ve outsourced it to your camera.” 

Father of the groom filming the wedding ceremony


Be Present in Body and Mind

When you attend a wedding as a guest, you’re there because a couple wants to share there love and their joy with you. Taking a photo of the bride walking down the aisle means you probably aren’t going to notice the way her partner is looking at her adoringly or the proud tears of joy rolling down her mother’s cheek. Someone videoing the vows isn’t fully listening to the promises this couple is making to each other. To fully be present and experience these moments in a real way, it has to be through your eyes and not through a screen. And if you’re not sure about how to approach this with your guests, just ask your wedding planner or officiant to make a little announcement before the ceremony begins.

It’s when the screens get put away that you realise just how amazing it is be alive and experiencing it for real!

A happy newlywed couple get covered in lavender confetti in France



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