It's a scene I've seen play out again and again: as one partner waits at the front of the aisle, beaming with anticipation, their counterpart enters through the door on the arm of a loved one. He wipes away a tear. She lights up. Their eyes hold one another as they breathe in the moment. They look out to the friends and family who have joined them to celebrate this momentous occasion in their lives...and phone screens stare back at them.
As someone who thrives and is inspired by human emotion and interaction, it breaks my heart to see these missed connections . I understand the power and importance of social media and capturing our lives on our devices has on us right now. Snapping that selfie with my dear college friend during the reception dancing and having it to enjoy on my phone in the months to come is something that is impossible to pass up. Yet I offer for your consideration some thoughts on why an unplugged ceremony may be right for you and the people you love.
* It's a Ceremony (capital C). This isn't just another event. It's a formal observance and declaration of intent to make a lifelong commitment to one another. It doesn't matter if you are going the super-formal route or having a non-traditional, fun ceremony, this moment means something special. It deserves reverence and weight. Give it the respect it deserves by keeping the distracting gadgets out of the picture (figuratively and literally).
* You want your family and friends to really be present. By being in your lives they are also making a commitment to love and support you and this relationship and marriage. By putting away the phones they are actively participating in the occasion as it unfolds.
* You want to literally see your loved ones. When you turn out to the crowd to drink it all in do you want to be faced with tons of mini cameras and screens or the eyes of your wonderful support system?
* A guest may inadvertently ruin your professional photos. It happens to us all that we get so wrapped up in setting up the shot with our phones, possibly shifting position to grab the perfect snap, that we don't quite realize our surroundings. I've had multiple instances where guests have jumped right in front of my lens and caused me to miss a photo (or I get the photo of the back of their head). Your photog is hopefully a pro and can work around this but there are instances where this could happen at a key moment that passes in a flash. There are horror stories of wedding photographers missing a short first kiss because of an unaware guest hoping into the aisle in front of them and being unable to shift in time to capture the moment. Sure, maybe you will get that cell phone photo from your friend, but do you want it at the sacrifice of the one from a pro who understands light and composition and has high quality gear?
* It's only a small portion of the day. There are some folks who would rather have their whole wedding unplugged, but the majority of couples just chose to observe this during the ceremony. During the rest of the day guests can snap and share away with your #rockingcustomhashtag.
If this all sounds just right to you, how do you let guests know that the wedding/ceremony will be unplugged? I recommend starting with putting it on your wedding website and social media pages. Let key players in the wedding know early on (wedding party, immediate family) so they can spread the word. It's great to have a sign at the ceremony entrance as well, but I'd also recommend having the officiant announce it before the processional for anyone who's missed the hints elsewhere.
One final note on social media on your wedding day: let your wedding party and immediate family know that they shouldn't be sharing images of you or your partner on their feed until at least the reception (maybe even asking them to not share anything at all wedding related until the reception has kicked off). You've spent so much time planning this epic event, picking out the perfect outfit, hiding it from your significant other, building up anticipation to the first look or the walk down the aisle. Can you imagine ruining that surprise because your brother posts a photo of you in your gown/suit that your soon-to-be-spouse sees scrolls past an hour before the first look? The wedding day is a great excuse for a little suspense and restraint from the share-it-all nature of our lives.
Cheers to your wedding full of personal, real life connections!