How to Have an Unplugged Wedding

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It is beautiful to see how many couples in the world have been honing in what they want on their wedding day, to ensure they create an experience for their guests and themselves that is meaningful. One definite shift has been in a shirt toward unplugged ceremonies. Has the thought crossed your mind?

unplugged wedding ceremony photo

What I want to do for you is draw a parallel that I am seeing around the world.

I have three main hubs of clients: Chicago/Milwaukee, Toronto, and Croatia/Italy. My couples work with me in photography, art direction and consulting. We spend time discussing what works on photos, but we also discuss what elements will make their wedding pleasing to the eye, current yet timelessly memorable, and personalized. In all markets my clients are asking for unplugged ceremonies.

I originally wrote this post about a year ago, but wanted to bring you an update that’s current for your 2021 and 2022 wedding planning. Since about 2017, I’ve seen ceremonies make the request of guests to “unplug,” meaning ever so kindly asking guests to “please leave the phones in the car” or “be in the moment” with the couple. But in 2019 and 2020, it was becoming an expectation by not only the couples, but also with guests. In 2021, it’s almost exclusively this way in my experience.

Unplugging has yielded incredibly intimate ceremonies. Guests are looking up, phones are away. They are engaged, and officiants and religious officials have stepped up to use this engagement in the ceremonies. “My priest took time to involve my guests in the ceremony. In his sermon, he asked questions, guided the guests through a beautiful song, and had us engage with the guests by facing them. It was such a moving ceremony, I couldn’t believe it was ours. The only reason it worked was because guests were engaged and present,” said Jessica Dickinson a 5th Photography Milwaukee 2020 bride.

Jessica and her partner Philip used a kind message with their guests, delivered via text messages sent to all of their guests and on a large hand-written calligraphy artwork placed on an easel situated just outside the ceremony doors. It read:

Thank you for being here with us today. We have a special ceremony planned and would like you to be present with us. We kindly ask that you tuck away your phones and cameras for the duration of the ceremony.

Clients have been making the request in many ways. The most typical approaches I see are:

  1. Including the request in the invitation (accompanied by a reminder on the day of the wedding)
  2. On the wedding program (and stated by the hosts distributing the wedding programs to guests)
  3. On a large sign as you enter the ceremony (in a very conspicuous location)
  4. On each of the individual ceremony seats (as a small tent or on a paper accompanying the program)
  5. As mentioned above, via text message to all guests.

William and Alexandra, a Toronto wedding client couple of mine from early 2020 used a genius approach. Prior to the wedding, the couple made arrangements with my team to prepare a same-day slideshow to present to guests via phone during the cocktail hour. We prepared an online viewing gallery link ahead of time that the couple had printed on programs and given to guests as they entered the ceremony. As soon as the ceremony was concluded, my team uploaded a selection of photos photos from the day to share with guests. The guests loved this.

The results of going unplugged is an intimate and beautiful experience for everyone in attendance. Guests are able to focus on the words and mood of the ceremony. The couple can look out into the crowd and see engaged faces, looking up, smiling and sharing in the moment. As the photographer, I am then able to get every shot, find more emotion in those photos and avoid cell phone photo bombers in the background. You’ll have a beautiful set of ceremony images that capture celebration and emotion…over the mediocre, instant gratification of cell phone images.

Bride’s Tip:

Thank your guests during the reception for respecting your sacred day and for celebrating by being in the moment together with you. Their presence means the world to you, having them there along side you, is a compliment to them and are words spoken from you heart.

Thank you for inviting me into your day.

Reach out to Steph directly at steph@5thPhotography.com

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I truly hope this article serves you. I would love to hear your plans. Together we would create photos that will stand the test of time and that will be ready to grace the pages of a magazine.

Contact me via below for a complimentary consultation.

"Steph captured the beauty of us as individuals and our chemistry as a couple. I sobbed when of joy when we saw our photos. She captured our love - the what I felt when I held him, the fullness with which he loved me, the way we felt when we kissed. I didn't think those things could be captured on camera. But Steph did that."

- Olivia & Enzo

Toronto Bride & Groom

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