An Unplugged Wedding & What It Really Means

I’ve seen dozens of articles on the pros and cons of cell phones at weddings, and everyone has their different reasons for wanting them or not wanting them at their own wedding. But since our mission at Snippet & Ink is to provide advice on how to have the most meaningful wedding, we thought it would be a shame not to share our own thoughts on the matter! And I thought it might be interesting to share my perspective, not only as the editor of Snippet & Ink, but as a wedding photographer who sees these things firsthand.

When my husband and I got married almost six years ago, even then everyone had their cell phones out. I remember purposely blocking any photos my guests tagged me in on Facebook. I did this for a couple of reasons: I’m a pretty sentimental person, and I wanted to share my wedding publicly or privately in my own way. The thought of my friends and family instantly uploading photos while the event was happening (though a sweet gesture!) didn’t really sit well with me. It was our wedding to share, after all.

(This bride & groom allowed the guests to “take their shot” before the ceremony began and then guests were asked to put them away for the duration of the ceremony. Photo: Christina McNeill.)

I have to admit, it was hard for me to list the pros of having cell phones at a wedding. Why? Ultimately, I believe you’re having a very sacred, special day with your near and dearest friends and family whom you choose to invite to your wedding. I know this might sound completely one-sided, as my views do benefit photographers and videographers, but photographer or not, I still wish I would see more guests staying present at weddings. The alternative, sadly, is guests blocking the groom’s view of his bride walking down the aisle (and for many who opt out of a first look, the groom’s reaction is a big deal!), cell phones ringing at weddings, dads answering phone calls during the ceremony (shocking at first, but read on for a very happy ending!), guests more interested in their phone notifications versus what’s happening in front of them, giant iPads invading beautiful ceremony vistas, photos of cell phones in people’s hands (they become dated so quickly)…the list goes on and on. I guess the real question to ask yourself is: How do you want you to remember your wedding day?

We know it’s going to be nearly impossible to ask your guests not to take their own photos, so we pulled together a few tips in case a compromise is in order. 

Getting Ready

It’s hard to ask your besties to put your phones down while you’re getting dolled up for your big day. Champagne is flowing, the music is blasting and you’re having a good time! There are so many fun moments that your friends will want to take photos of and remember. At my own wedding, my photographer had to get to the venue early, so she wasn’t able to capture the last-minute getting ready details. My BFF sprang into action and took a few photos of me putting my veil on—even though they were shot on an iPhone, they are some of my favorite photos from the day! There is definitely a time and place for cell phones while you’re getting ready, but I encourage bridesmaids to be present for your bride. Do you really want your phone in your hand while you’re trying to help the bride get in her gown, laughing about all your favorite memories together, or giving her one last hug before she walks down the aisle? The point of the morning is to soak up every minute with your best friends! So my tip? Bridesmaids (or brides or grooms!) should definitely feel able to take a few photos while getting ready, but there’s a time where you don’t need your phone (or wallet), so put it away and let the professionals shoot the fun moments!

(A bride & groom take a selfie at the beginning of their ceremony and then carried on with an unplugged ceremony once that playful moment was complete. Photo: Christina McNeill)

The Ceremony

“Unplugged” weddings are becoming increasingly popular. Couples are realizing that they want their guests to be absolutely present during that time (your wedding is a BIG deal, after all!). As sacred or simple or elaborate as your wedding ceremony may be, couples certainly recognize the significance in having their ceremony be cellphone-free. It’s ultimately up to you how you want your wedding day to go, but here are a few tips for your ceremony:

  • If your family absolutely needs to take photos during the ceremony, my suggestion is to designate the first minute of your ceremony to allow your guests to take pictures (as seen in the first example above). I have seen this at weddings a few times, and it’s brilliant! Before the ceremony starts, your officiant will allow everyone to take their phones out while the bride & groom stand in the center of the aisle. Just like that—you make everyone happy and have a sweet moment at the same time! Then, the officiant asks that all guests refrain from taking any photos the rest of the ceremony. I’ve also seen my couples do a quick ‘selfie’ at the beginning of the ceremony which I find to be such a playful ice-breaker and a great way to let guests know they can relax and enjoy the ceremony.
  • Do you really need your guests getting in the way of the professionals? I know this is all coming from my personal experience as a photographer, but I really don’t mind people taking their own photos as long as they’re not blocking me from doing my job! But when a guest blocks the groom’s view, or their phone is out for pics (even while sitting down), it’s a distraction. And iPads might even be worse than cell phones! Not only are they so large they obstruct views, they don’t even take quality photos.
  • Like a ‘coat check’ – I have seen cell phones checked prior to a ceremony.  This one is pretty extreme, but could be effective if you really think your guests will violate your wishes.

Hashtags and Social Media

Another popular movement of late: hashtags at weddings. You want to see all the fun party pics from your friends and family’s point of view.  It’s the way of the future, so hashtag and share all you want, but just take the photo—don’t check Facebook, then Instagram, then email, then Facebook again. Be present and share in the couple’s happiness instead of trying to get the perfect photo to post on social media before anyone else. Plus, what a surprise for the happy couple to see fun photos rolling in days after their wedding.

  • Technology changes so fast! Do you really want a bunch of people holding old cell phones or iPads in your wedding pics? A few years ago, one mischievous guest didn’t listen to my bride and groom’s request to “unplug” and took her phone out during the bride’s recessional. My bride was so upset and wanted me to retouch the photos. Ultimately, it didn’t work—we either would have had a hand with a weird pose (no cell phone) or the cell phone, and my bride was disappointed.
  • Remember that the bride and groom paid a lot for professionals to take the photos! Be mindful of this, and don’t get in the way, even if you need to take your own photos.

Will you allow cell phones at your wedding?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.


  • I like the idea of ‘everybody take your shot now.’ I’ve only had one wedding where the audience photography was simply obnoxious. Trying to be understanding, I figure that most in the audience have never seen any couple’s professional photos, which end up sitting on a thumb drive in a drawer, so they take their own so they have something to remember the day by. So I started offering a guest gallery as an option to brides and grooms. Guests can swipe a QR code from a small display and get access to the online gallery usually about two weeks after the wedding. Sometimes the couple will even have an announcement made so that guests know they will get to see and download photos. It’s a little less bossy than telling them not to take their own pics. So far so good.

  • Laura says:

    Oh I could not agree with this more! There is nothing less timeless than an iPhone in a ceremony photo. There’s a time and a place for cell phone photos and someone’s wedding just isn’t one of them when the couple has hired a photographer.

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