From impersonal to personal: Hosting an unplugged wedding

Story: Debra Bell
When Lauren and David Yancey decided to wed on September 3, 2011, their greatest wish for an event where guests could truly be in the moment.

“Honestly, I wanted to be able to walk down the aisle and see the faces of my closest family and friends smiling back at me,” Lauren said “Seeing everyone’s expressions as I walked down the aisle is one of my favorite memories of the day. It also made the ceremony feel much more private and personal without pictures and videos being instantly shared online.”

To achieve that vision, the couple chose to hold an “unplugged” wedding ceremony. That meant asking guests to put down their cameras, cell phones, and iPads and pick up their faces to watch and hear what was happening.

“We asked that during the ceremony they not take any photographs with phones or cameras and just enjoy the wedding,” Lauren said. “We trusted our photographer, Leah Haydock, to capture the ceremony for us and promised to share photographs with whomever wanted them.”

More couples are choosing to ask guests to put down the technology for one day by holding unplugged weddings or unplugged ceremonies.

“I’m typically the photographer for my family and friends, never without a camera in my purse,” Lauren said. “It was extremely liberating to forgo this responsibility on our wedding day. I have such vivid memories from the day and stunning photographs to complement them.”

The couple turned to Leah Haydock from Casco-based Leah Haydock Photography to capture those stunning photographs.

“You get married because you want a public declaration of a very private [event],” Haydock said. “[Couples] ask friends and family to come and witness it, but if they are behind a camera, an iphone, or are tweeting it, then it’s not as personal.”

Helping create memories: Unplugged weddings provide the couple with flattering pictures to remember. According to New Hampshire-based wedding photographer Andrew Davis, those moments count. Davis and his wife Meg had an unplugged ceremony in 2011.

“The day was a whirlwind,” Davis said. “It was nice that when I glanced out to see everybody they were looking and watching us instead of their [devices.] Looking back through the photos, it was so nice to have audience reaction. That really came through in the photos.”

Preventing unintended memories: Sometimes excited and well-meaning guests can cause unintended memories. Haydock recalled an occasion where a couple chose not to do a “first look” (where the couple sees each other for the first time before the ceremony). However, an excited bridesmaid snapped a photo of the bride getting ready on her cell phone, posted it to Facebook, and tagged the bride.

The groom was getting ready to change his Facebook status and got his “first look” through Facebook.

Helping the photographer: Couples commission the work of a wedding photographer to ensure that moments large and small are captured for posterity. However, well-meaning guests can sometimes cause big problems for pros, which means big problems for the couple.

For instance, many churches or synagogues put restrictions on what photographers can do during the ceremony, including movement and the of flash. Well-meaning guests angling for “the shot” can not only get in the way of a pro’s lens, but cause unwanted distractions for other guests.

Other things that can compromise the professional photographs include:

• Flashes and preflash beams bouncing off the subjects.

• Guests getting out of pews and following the procession or walking behind or in front of the wedding party to get “the shot.”

• Formal photographs can be delayed by too many guest cameras.

“[Weddings are] personal experiences,” said Portland-based wedding photographer Rachel Bell of Rachel Bell Photography. “The experience for everyone is getting lost. We’re finding guests who don’t know if they are enjoying the ceremony like they should. They should be listening during vows, but instead of really listening to the messages they have their faces stuck in something.”


Think an unplugged wedding, or at least an unplugged ceremony, is for you? Here are some ways you can let your guests know that you want to enjoy their presence, technology free.

1. Let guests know ahead of time. In their unplugged guest request, Lauren and David Yancey promised to share their professional photographs with anyone who wanted them in exchange for the absence of cameras, phones, and tablets.

Sharing galleries of images is one of the best ways to appease photo-hungry family and friends. Ask your photographer how you can share their work easily.

2. Post a notice. A simple sign saying that you want them to enjoy the ceremony sans technology should be enough. Consider also listing it in your program — and having your officiant make an announcement.

3. Provide activities for guests. Provide things for your guests to do that will enhance their experience and allow them to reminisce about the event they just witnessed.

For instance:

• Ask guests to write a favorite memory of the bride and groom.

• Have a photobooth at the reception and paste the photobooth strip onto pages of paper with space for the guest to write a note.

• Encourage guests to interact with ice-breaking games.

Not only will they have a blast, but they’ll be so busy that they won’t even be thinking about taking photographs.