Wedding Wednesday Discussion – Unplugged Weddings



Today I want to discuss the rather contentious issue of unplugged weddings! I touched on this subject a few weeks ago in Diary of a Boho Bride, when Becki was discussing whether she should have an unplugged ceremony or not.

Since then the issue as come up more and more and as a planner and a guest at weddings I am noticing the trend of asking guests to switch of their smart phones and put away their cameras becoming more and more popular with wedding couples.
The last two weddings I have planned both couples requested their guests not take any photos during the service and to leave the picture-taking to the professional photographers. One bride even asked ALL of her guests to not put any of their own photos on Facebook until the professional photographers had uploaded their photos to their page, stating that she wanted the first pictures people saw of her wedding to be the professional ones, not those taken on an iPhone in a drunken stupor! And you know what, I totally get the point!

As you probably know I am an avid amateur photographer, I love any excuse to get my DSLR out and take a few snaps, but as a guest at the last wedding I went to I decided to leave my camera at home. Why? Well I wanted to live in the moment of the wedding and also not get in the way of the professional photographer and I enjoyed the wedding a lot more. I still manged to get loads of pictures of the wedding as the professional photographer uploaded them to Facebook for everyone to share, and if I want a printable version I’ll simply go and buy one for a few pounds from his site! Now isn’t that better than spending all day behind a camera and not enjoying the day itself?

2 Unplugged Weddings


To give us the view from a bride who has decided to go ahead with an unplugged ceremony here is Sara to talk us through her thoughts………..

My name is Sara Williams, and I’m having an unplugged wedding ceremony.
For the uninitiated, an unplugged wedding is where you ask guests to quietly put down their iPad or digital SLR and observe what is occurring.

Debates about unplugged weddings are hot on the blogosphere at the moment on both sides of the Atlantic. I’m not a bridetator or a bridezilla or any of the other monstrous caricatures brides are hit with for having strong opinions about one of the most special days of their lives. I simply don’t believe that guests can enjoy a ceremony to its fullest if they are preoccupied with getting the perfect shot for their Instagram or bookface page.

1 Unplugged Weddings

Over the last couples of years I’ve been to more than 15 weddings and after an initial burst of enthusiasm, I unplugged myself. Firstly, it’s too much effort – what are photographers paid for? Sweat and grime. Secondly, you miss key moments. While you were altering the resolution of your latest snap, the father of the bride wiped a tear from his eye, the groom and his best man shared a glance and a smile and the mini maid and pageboy stole a kiss – priceless memories.
On my wedding travels, I’ve witnessed guests in their quest to get the perfect snap, bumping into photographers, a bride’s uncle getting so close to the bride and groom he could have exchanged vows and beautiful Jimmy Choos ruined as guests trampled each other to get a shot. Weddings are comedy value, but this is crazy.

5 Unplugged Weddings

One US blog recently described unplugged brides as micromanagers who should just ‘let go’. This misses the point entirely, it’s not a case of loosening the reins and letting go, it’s about actually living in the moment. Are we digitally documenting every aspect of our lives for the benefit of others, or ourselves?
The cult of the selfie is at an all-time high and shows no time of abating. That said the tide is turning against the use of camera phones at other events, such as music gigs. Zooey Deschanel recently banned camera phones at her latest She & Him gigs, as she wanted fans to enjoy the music.

Another element of this is amateur photography. I’ve sat in on many conversations with friends whose preoccupation has spilled into the realms of wedding photography. I’ve seen numerous wedding images where guests faces are hidden behind a huge lens. I’ve also heard and read of many stories about how guests have ruined the professional photographer’s shot as they walked down the aisle.

4 Unplugged Weddings

Our photographer is Shelly from Toast Photography. She is an advocate for unplugged ceremonies. We know she’ll get the shots we need to remember our wedding by… we don’t need our guests to record it for posterity whether that be on their camera phone, their point and shoot or their professional grade DSLR.
We are having an intimate ceremony in a stately home and our guests will surround us in a horse shoe shape. As we sign the register we will be able to turn and see a cascade of guest’s faces before our eyes.

I’d rather engage with a smile than a smartphone.

3 Unplugged Weddings

So what are your thoughts? the debate at the moment may be a tad one-sided but I’m going to make no bones of the fact that I feel all ceremonies should be unplugged! But you may disagree?
A photographer is paid to do a  job and I have heard far to many stories lately of guests loosing sight of the ceremony itself because they are stuck behind a camera, phone or even worse an iPad (why????? for the name of God?? Why!!). I have also heard stories and been witness to guests using flash guns at the wrong times, so ruining shots for the professional photographer, getting in the way of the photographer, following the photographer, and generally being a nuisance.
And then there are the photos appearing on Facebook, twitter and instagram before the day is even done or the evening guests have arrived!

So for me it’s a no brainer! Put down your camera, phones, leave the iPad at home (they make rubbish cameras anyway) and live for the moment, enjoy the wedding and let the professionals do the job they are paid to do. Their photos are going to be a million times better than yours anyway!

6 Unplugged Weddings


OK so what do you think? I think I’ve made my view quite clear!  are you a bride planning an unplugged ceremony? Are you married and had an unplugged ceremony? what made you decide to have one? Do you wish you had had one? Are you a photographer with a story to tell about a guest with a camera or iPad? What ever your view I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue! 




Why not visit our Supplier Directory



    I whole heartedly agree with everything you and Sara said there Kelly. It’s a tricky subject and I know not everyone will agree, but as a guest surely your number one priority is to be truly present and enjoy the most important part of a bride and groom’s day. Professionals are there to record it all. We know how to handle the light correctly (trust me, this is tricky in a church setting), we know how to shoot so as to be as discreet as possible and at the end of the day, our brides and grooms have put their trust in us to ensure we get ALL the shots we need to tell their story. If your uncle has decided he wants to shoot you as you walk up the aisle and therefore blocking the professional photographer in the process, there is absolutely nothing we can do…. you will lose that shot from your album. I’m so glad Sara is having an unplugged ceremony and I for one can’t wait to see the lovely smiling faces of all their guests.


      There are points in this that I agree and disagree with. Essentially I think it is mostly about what the bride and groom want – it’s their wedding and they should make those decisions, as they should with all the details of the day. I like to take photos and sometimes I admit I take too many but I try not to get in others ways and if people ask me not too I don’t.

      I would also draw a distinction between the ceremonial bits and the rest of the day. I agree the professional photographer is going to do a far better job than most of the guests (although some of guests may also be extremely good). But also there are the shots that the official photographer won’t get. The photographer will do some group shots but these are always limited. What about the shot that bride and her school friends might want taken together, or the photo of all the cousins together, or the photos you and your friends at a special occasion. Like anyone else photographers can’t be in all places at all times and when I got married I loved seeing all the photos that my friends had taken from the moments when I and the photographer weren’t there.

      If I were to get married again today I would probably ask guests not to take photos during the ceremony (they weren’t allowed to in the church I got married in anyway) and not to take photos during the register signing etc until the official photographer had finished but once the official bits are done I’d be happy for them to take as many as they liked.


    I’ve literally just sent out our invites and I have put a note on it telling guests that we’ve downloaded a free app to enable guests to upload their pictures.
    We’ve also included a note asking for no bridal party pictures to go on facebook.
    It’s a private day and i want to limit who sees the pictures and i think there’s nothing wrong with that, especially as my hubbie to be doesnt have facebook at all!

    Ben Pollard

    Great Article!

    How many times is it disheartening as a photographer to see loads of rubbish diluting my work on someones facebook page… The brilliance we professionals provide becomes lost and doesn’t get fully appreciated as the clients friends feel they have been exposed enough before we the photographers have even the chance to get out finely polished gems to them…

    Selfish photographer? Maybe; but why were we commissioned in the first place?

    Tony Fanning


    Poppy French

    I am a photographer and it is really funny site to look back on the guests when at the ceremony and seeing loads of people holding up ipads. While this does look really funny, but when I know a couple I want the first pictures to be up on the web to be the ones I took. I can never beat the ipad brigade, I want at least two weeks to as Ben said above “to get out finely polished gems”
    When I get married myself, I will be very tempted to go unplugged!

    Sophie Strange Case

    Great post. Working within the wedding industry myself I do get annoyed when I see guests enjoying the moment through their cameras, or even worst tablets. I have thought about this issue lots and think that when get married, I would ask that guests don’t take photos during the ceremony and also ask that none get uploaded to Facebook until the professional ones are up. I’ve heard a few people have altered their facebook settings, so only they can approve a tagged photo. It’s a touchy subject, but I think the guests should respect the wishes of the couple.


    I can understand proud parents wanting their own shot of their daughter or son, or a family looking smart together for the first time in ages, or even just a quick snap of the wedding favours in an inappropriate arrangement. But there’s a time and place. The chances of a camera phone getting a decent shot of a tearful groom during the ceremony are minimal. As Shelly pointed out, even with a DSLR, getting a decent shot in a church is hard work – you have to be in the right place at the right time with the right light. But the tears, the glimpses, the laughs, the looks – the pros have it covered. Trust us!
    But please – iPads make lousy cameras and they really get in the way!

    Andrea Pittam

    If you’ve booked a package where you get full documentary coverage of your day and all the images on CD to print, then there really is no need for guests to take their own photos. Many guests have no idea that professional shots are lost if they step out at the wrong time, but then why would would they as they are not professional photographers. I think unplugged weddings are a great idea and allow everyone to be in the moment and enjoy the day :)


    AMEN to that!
    Totally with this in every aspect that Sara has described.
    I had read a little about it before I posted the question in my diary post on these lovely pages not so long ago and it really does spark controversy doesnt it. I get the impression that pro photographers will love you for having an unplugged ceremony, guests may embrace the freedom you’ve given them to really be there on your day and not looking through a camera all the time.. then some people with think you are being totally over the top and a bit like Hitler for demanding such a thing of your guests as though you have asked them to leave a limb at home or something!
    I really dont understand why anyone would ever consider taking photo’s on a ipad at a wedding.. I mean an ipad really? yes they are small compact computer type things great for a lot of different reasons, but as a camera it’s like a flipping TV screen being hoisted in the air. If big hats are frowned upon in church weddings because no one can see past them then why are we allowing such huge technology through the doors?
    As for facebook.. do we think shutting down my profile for a few weeks is a bit extreme? I have a fear of very bad double chin photos of me appearing and i’ll have no control over it haha!

    Great post Kelly and Sara, love it xx


    This is such a fantastic article!

    In recent times we have seen a real rise in this thing happening, maybe its because ‘good’ cameras are becoming more accessible to people and they want to get out there using it at weddings but it really is sad to see the father of the bride snapping away behind a camera rather than watch his elderly mum and dad showing that they are very much still in love by having a romantic dance together or having guests standing up during speeches and wondering around taking pictures as the groom is delivering a speech that he has agonised over wether it says the right things or not.

    We are not against guest photography, far from it (we’ll even get a picture for a guest on their cameras if they ask) and we even Instagram pictures from a wedding day with the couples permission but there are certain times of a wedding day where guests should be totally tuned in to what is happening in front of their eyes and not a 2 inch LCD screen. After all the couple have likely spent a lot of money for you to be present in the first place.

    We will never force unplugged weddings on people however we will discuss all the points to it with all our couples so they can make their own judgements on it.

    anna | far from the wedding crowd

    Great post.

    I love our “Uncle Bob” shots (well some of them!) but I didn’t love the idea of people uploading them to facebook! I wish I’d gone for a blanket ban, oh the untagging!

    I would have preferred seeing smiling faces that ipads and what not!


    Good article. I didn’t have an unplugged wedding and how glad I was I didn’t as some of the best shots of the day were taken by our guests. Not only of me and hubby in moments missed by the photographer, but also of guests enjoying themselves and of parts of the day we weren’t there for (because we were having our professional pictures taken). It’s the same with other brides I have spoken to, including one who was very upset with her professional pictures, and so cherished the ones taken by guests all the more. But, as with all things wedding-related it is very much a personal thing. If going unplugged is what you want, it’s your day so go for it! I also now understand why brides and grooms ask their guests not to upload pictures to Facebook – the first picture of me to go public I looked like a bulldog chewing on a wasp.

    mark tattersall

    I think it is more about education and a culture change in how you should conduct yourself at a wedding as a guest. I love guests taking pictures at weddings I am shooting, but twice recently a mum has stepped in front of me to take a picture as the couple walk down the isle totally ruining the shots. If I was a guest and not photographing I would probably take a camera to get shots of those closest to me but wouldn’t dream of taking pictures during the ceremony etc knowing that there is a paid pro covering that bit so I don’t have to. Ipads….. please no! I have seen this loads: Guest takes picture on ipad then gets distracted by facebook notifications and emails and remains stood in the same spot for 5 minutes online. Honestly.


      Yep iPads are a complete nuisance at weddings. At a recent wedding there was a guest with an iPad stood right where I wanted to be. To be courteous to the guest I quickly told the couple to wait until he had his shot before actually doing anything and then I would step in and get my shots. I am not joking when I say I had to wait 3 minutes for him to get his shot. Tapping on the screen trying to get the stupid thing to focus correctly then re-composing himself and losing the focus. Most couples are un-aware of ‘unplugged weddings’ so that is why we now educate them with alternative options so they can make a decision.

    Chris - Smudged Photo

    There’s a fine line, it’s similar to bands not allowing photos at their shows. I find it funny that people like to experience things like shows and weddings through a little 2 inch screen instead of being present. At any wedding, I’m a guest at, I purposely don’t take my camera so I can just enjoy the day for what it is. The majority of people snapping away all the time are taking photographs for photographs sake rather than really thinking why they need that shot when the professional has it covered. Saying that I quite like it as a photographer to be able to upload my images and really show off the comparison between a professional and someone with a direct flash point and shoot camera. It certainly highlights the benefit of hiring someone!

    At our own wedding we allowed photos, but put something on all the wedding breakfast tables saying, please don’t upload any to Facebook as we’ve invited everyone we want to see our wedding, we don’t need the world seeing them.

    Nikki @ Knots&Kisses

    I’m totally with the ‘unplugged’ party on this one. Call me old fashioned but I’m fed up with people living their lives through their phone or camera lenses! Enjoy the occasion people and stop missing moments you might treasure whilst you’re ‘uploading to facebook’!


    We had a semi unplugged wedding. Our photographer asked for guests not to take photos with flash during the ceremony as it could destroy her photos and she wouldn’t know until she got them back from the lab. Because of this, it meant that many guests put away their cameras for the ceremony and it was absolutely BRILLIANT walking down the aisle and seeing faces, compared with having flashing cameras from when I was a bridesmaid the year before last.

    On the other hand, we’ve had to wait for our photos (and rightly so) and its been lovely to see the amateur photos from our guests in the meantime. I’ve also seen some shots from other angles our photographer won’t have got and there are some, such as my Dad lifting my veil and kissing me at the top of the aisle, which I can see the photographer hasn’t likely got a shot of. Luckily, a friend with an Iphone snapped one of my favourite moments of the day and its probably one of the photos I’ll actually choose to display around our home.

    There are no right or wrong decisions in a wedding day and the most well meaning plans can be dashed (I’m not even going to tell you how much stuff I found in the boot of the car I’d meant to use on our wedding day!). The bride and groom should be able to do what they like (within reason – you can’t tell people what they can and can’t do!) and guests should respect that.

    Jaye Cole | Tux & Tales Photography

    Life is what happens to you while you are busy making plans…..

    Taking a photograph is a plan for the future. It is the intention to look at the photo again at a later moment in time and relive and re-experience the moment. Instead of spending the ceremony ‘making plans’ to ‘someday’ look at the photo you just took – be there – experiencing real life in real time.

    I think guests SHOULD take photos. When they are hanging out with one another chatting away – making silly faces and visiting with one another. But not during the ceremony or speeches. In those moments it is not about them – or their needs – or their plans to someday look at that photo in the future. They are the moments to be there for their friend/family member 100% in real time.

    Gee | EverythingWeddingsAndMore

    I honestly wont mind a Bride telling me not to take photos with my phone and upload them…but just at least not make me turn off my phone or be without it.

    Personally the only valid point I keep hearing on this case is when those taking photos interrupt the professional photographers from doing their job. Apart from that…I really don’t see what the fuss is all about, however if I was a guest at a wedding I know I would have to respect the couples wishes -put on my big girl panties and respect it.


    What a brilliant post and a topic close to my heart. The last wedding we photographed was a nightmare, battling amongst the iPads, mobile phones and cameras held at arms length and ruining our vantage point . . . and even with two of us it still made it difficult to get the shots we had been paid to get. We even had one guest dressed in bright red wandering around during the ceremony with her DSLR!
    Personally I think it is selfish. We are there to capture the moments as they unfold. We understand lighting, exposure, composition, we know to anticipate the moment . . . that is what we are paid for and to have the moment ruined because a guest decides to step in front of our lens or wave their mobile phone in front of us is a precious moment missed by us.
    We have photographed an unplugged wedding and it was liberating for us. The Bride and Groom also requested no photographs on Facebook and I can fully understand why any couple wouldn’t want this . . . it potentially dilutes the photography and there is no guarantee about the quality of the images as Hayley said with her ‘bulldog chewing a wasp’ experience.
    Being invited to share in the most important day of a couples life is a privilege so enjoy it, live the moment, put the digital devices down during the ceremony and speeches and have fun taking photographs during the less serious moments of the day. Guests are bound to capture great candid pictures and these make a wonderful compliment to the professional ones.
    Thanks for bringing this hot topic into the open.


Please leave your comment

We reserve the right to remove any comment that we feel is distasteful, rude, hurtful or inappropriate, so please be nice. Remember the weddings featured on this blog are real people and their weddings mean a lot to them. Please be mindful of this and other people's feelings. If youhave a problem with any of the content please contact me directly.

Thank you xx

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.