What is an unplugged wedding and why it matters

This simply means that all wedding guests without exceptions (including Uncle Bob and Auntie Sue) are asked to leave their phones, cameras, tablets and electronic devices in their cars, or at the very least, switched off and in their pockets.

The benefits of this approach cannot be exaggerated. Firstly, your professional wedding photos are going to look so much better without all those limbs, mobile phones and bright iPad covers protruding into the frame at key moments.

As a couple, you will be able to spend more time with guests and family in genuine personal exchanges, rather than constantly having to smile the whole day as every guest attempts to get a photo of you, and then devote their attention to posting it on social media.

At almost every wedding I shoot these days there are disruptions and distractions caused by mobile phone cameras and quite often other digital cameras.

The most memorable (not in a good way) was a small wedding at the Brisbane wedding registry where both the father of the bride and groom had their own large digital cameras.

It was a sight to behold. These two middle aged men jostling for the best angle on photos during the ceremony. They emotionally missed the entire ceremony, and many of my photos had them walking through the frames in the background which looked ridiculous, which I still had to deliver, because they were critical moments like the exchange of rings etc.

By restricting electronic devices, you will also have the jump on everyone in terms of getting the first photos of the wedding. I deliver wedding photos in 21 days with all my wedding coverage. I also deliver a few highlights photos the very next day after the wedding for social media.

That means the first photos that are seen at an unplugged wedding will be the professional photos, and not blurry and dark camera phone photos taken from less than ideal locations.

Even my own wedding was affected by the scourge of electronic devices. My dear mother brought along her full size iPad (a particular favourite of grandparents who don’t own smartphones) and several key photos were overshadowed by a bright red iPad case, as the beautiful bride was walked down the aisle.

Camera phones are getting better and better, but there is one thing they are still not great at despite what the manufacturers claim and that is low light. They compensate for this by automatically lowering the shutter speed, and increasing the gain (sensitivity). This means that camera phone photos indoors in particular are often blurry and lack sharpness and colour due to the high automatic settings.

A professional photographer will almost certainly be using a full frame camera with a much larger sensor, which allows for sharper, higher contrast, more vivid and more professionally composed photos, that will never be outclassed by a camera phone photo.

For whatever reason, people with camera phones seem to always hold them at an angle pointing up or down at subjects causing distortion to body shapes and faces. A full frame camera is easier to hold straighter and steadier, and this also makes a huge difference.

A professional wedding photographer will be able to carefully and quietly move around the scene and get into the best position, often with the focus point being on the eyes of the Bride and Groom, whereas this is just not possible for other guests without longer lenses and less accurate focusing.

One of the most epic and memorable photos at any wedding is the Bride walking down the aisle. Unless the wedding is unplugged, you can almost guarantee that someone will lean into the aisle and start taking pictures, overshadowing and upstaging all the professional photos, and distracting the bride and groom.

I was shooting a wedding recently where even the celebrant couldn’t resist getting in on the action by taking photos during the signing stage. It was just another example of what wedding photographers are up against competing with digital devices everywhere.

The other problem that I face as a photographer throughout the day is that you will never really know where to look with so many cameras and phones pointed at you. Insisting on an unplugged wedding ensures the most authentic expressions for everybody, throughout the day.

I recommend to couples who I am fortunate enough to encounter early on in the planning stages to suggest an unplugged wedding on the invitation. The thing to be wary about here is that many people do not know the definition of an unplugged wedding. They may think it doesn’t extend to cameras, tablets or other devices.

Are there any negatives insisting on an unplugged wedding? It really depends on how much you can trust your photographer and their backup and contingency plans in the event of memory card failure etc. Most professionals will shoot to two memory cards at the same time meaning a complete loss of all photos is extremely unlikely.

You might also consider hiring a second shooter (second backup photographer) as part of your wedding photography coverage (especially for large weddings of more than 150 people).


Long Version (For invitation or reminder emails)

We respectfully request that electronic devices such as mobile phones, tablets, cameras and video cameras are not used throughout the day. We would love you to celebrate with us, and our photographer will provide unlimited access to professional photos for all guests, within a few weeks of the wedding. Highlight photos will also be available the next day on social media.

Short Version (For invitation or a sign at the ceremony)

We respectfully request that cameras and digital devices with cameras including phones and tablets are not used during the ceremony until after the signing.

If you have already sent out your invitations then either a reminder email sent out a week before can request the wedding is unplugged, or the MC, Celebrant or Best Man can announce this at the wedding, just before the ceremony.

If at all possible, it is better to ask for an unplugged wedding on the invitation, and also announce it before the ceremony. Sometimes announcing it alone on the day is not enough to discourage everyone from using their devices, in my experience.

At least consider making the ceremony unplugged and allow electronic devices at the reception or after the photographer has gone home (normally after the first dance).

Having said all of this, I am of course very happy to shoot a wedding that is not unplugged which is most weddings. I always try to accommodate whatever the couple wants, and it is 100% your decision whether to allow electronic devices or not.

Choose an experienced wedding photographer who has solid backup and contingency plans in place for everything, and trust them to capture your wedding in the best possible light. You will be left with many more beautiful and meaningful photos and much more time to enjoy yourself!

Chris Jack