Miss Mink Ponders the Unplugged Wedding

I came across an interesting picture on a wedding blog a few weeks ago. It showed a sign that asked guests to turn off their phones at a wedding. It was the first time I even considered the fact that people might take pictures with their phones to post on Facebook or Twitter during our ceremony.


Photo by Jodi Miller Photography

A quick Google search led me to an article on Offbeat Bride about “unplugged weddings.” It seems some brides are walking down the aisle to a crowd of people hunched over their devices or people staring at their screens. I also read an excerpt from a photographer’s memoir in which she complained that guests who think their job is to take photos and video get in the way of the shots that the professional photographers are there to take. She wrote that every wedding has an “Uncle Bob” who wants to play professional photographer for the day.


From Offbeat Bride / Photo by Nora and Troy at Aurora-Photography.com

I originally hoped that our wedding venue wouldn’t have cellular reception. Our first visit confirmed that the signal is strong, and a Facebook update soon after announced that they have WiFi as well. The social-media addict in me was a little happy, but I know I’m going to turn off my phone and leave the iPad at home on our big day.

I’ve been to two weddings in the last year and I didn’t notice anyone holding up devices, though I did see the bride from one of the weddings tagged in some Facebook photos soon after. I’m curious about whether anyone has been to a wedding where guests on phones or taking photos/video have gotten in the way. Do you think signs or notes in programs announcing that a wedding is “unplugged” are becoming necessary?

Along those lines, what do you think of this?!?


Mrs. Mink

Charlottesville, Virginia
Wedding Date:
June 2012
Spoonful of Love: Hands in Pockets

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  1. Member
    natp1982 43 posts, Newbee @ 12:50 pm

    This is an awesome idea! I have not been to a wedding recently, it has been a while, and I really don’t recall that being a problem, but I can see how it would be a problem now. I went to a friend’s a few weeks ago for a small family get-together and I noticed that out of the 25 people there, 18 were on their phones! I am a tech freak, I love being online, but there is a time and a place for all that, and I do not believe the time and place for it is a wedding or a family gathering. People just need to learn to be polite and learn cell phone etiquette.

    Thanks for the idea, it really hadn’t even crossed my mind.

  2. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 12:56 pm

    @natp1982: I love technology, too…but I joke that every home needs a “kill switch” to cut the use of phones and ipads at times. :)

  3. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 12:58 pm

    FWIW, I’m not even sure this is something that needs to be addressed. Every couple probably knows their audience and whether they’d need the nudge.

    I’m curious if anyone has seen phones in the air at weddings or if anyone has been to a wedding where there was some sort of reminder to silence or turn off devices.

  4. Member
    zippitydoodah 210 posts, Helper bee @ 1:04 pm

    I LOVE the idea. Our photographer emails that offbeat bride article to all his couples (as well as photos of weddings he’s done were the videographer is in EVERY single shot- but that’s a different discussion :P). My sister was at a wedding recently were before the ceremony started, the priest made an announcement about how people can take photos at the beginning and end (the walks up and down the aisle), but otherwise that the bride and groom wish for their guests to keep their phones and cameras away and just sit back and enjoy the wedding. I thought that was a good idea… My photographer is one of my biggest budget items and I don’t want 100 tiny screens ruining the photos (and I also don’t need photos from others… I don’t want everyone staring at a screen!).

  5. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 1:06 pm

    @zippitydoodah: What a proactive photog! I bet he’s had his share of Uncle Bob encounters!

    That Off Beat Bride article has a photo where a guest is BEHIND the officiant, taking a picture. Can you imagine?!?

  6. Member
    zippitydoodah 210 posts, Helper bee @ 1:08 pm

    Oh, and by noon the day after my cousins wedding last week, there were photos of their wedding from 9 different guests. another wedding I was at a few months ago, they announced that they want as many photos as possible and there were hundreds online in the days after the wedding- they didn’t send a lot of money on their photographer and wanted guest photos (I’m just a bit more picky than that :)

  7. Member
    bRooklynRocks 4048 posts, Honey bee @ 1:10 pm

    Em, the iPad bridesmaid? Oh, I don’t want to go into that. I guess it would make sense but…I don’t think I would do it. Maybe if a parent was ill in the hospital or off fighting a war? Anyhow, about being unplugged, I totally feel you on that. I made sure my DOC made an announcement before the ceremony started for folks to turn off their phones AND not get in the way of my photographer (whom I’d paid a small fortune :)) I once went to a wedding where folks were blocking the aisle of the church to take a picture of the bride and groom. So distracting :(

  8. Member
    zippitydoodah 210 posts, Helper bee @ 1:10 pm

    @Miss Mink:

    I’ve seen it happen! My grandpa was a professional photographer, and while no one has followed him to the point of taking it as their profession, pretty much all of my 20 aunts and uncles and 60 cousins (no lie… thats just my mom’s side) has a dSLR camera and a lot of them decide that gives them the “right” to just jump in whenever they want… :S I have a nice camera too, but I know when to let the pros do their job haha

  9. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 1:13 pm

    @zippitydoodah: If I bring my good camera to a wedding, I try to upload my pictures and share a link with the couple by the next day, but I usually let them decide what they want to do with them from there. I have never put a picture from a wedding on Facebook. I assume the pro photog will do that…and the editing will be better than what I do to mine!

  10. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 1:16 pm

    @bRooklynRocks: This is something I never even considered before I saw that picture at the start of my post. Add it to the list of things to talk about.

    @zippitydoodah: Oh my gosh, the prosumers! I heard that term used to refer to hobby photographers with nice cameras. I guess I’m one, too. :)

  11. Member
    MissTurtle27 117 posts, Blushing bee @ 1:38 pm

    I think its a tad rude to tell people to turn off their devices. Whether we like it or not, we live in a world of cell phones.

    I have a hard time believing guests are a significant problem to a profession photographer’s shots. I think those cases can be dealt with tactfully without banning digital devices.

    Even the best photogs take a while to get back your pictures. I loved seeing all the snapshots my friends took and posted on facebook! And, if you ban digital devices your friends can’t take pictures of themselves. Your photographer isn’t going to take photos of all your guests whenever they want too.

    Many of mine enjoyed the time to snap a few pics while they were all dressed up in front of a pretty backdrop. I think this will confuse guests as to whether you are banning digital devices from the reception as well.

    I just really think its overkill. If your guest doesn’t know its bad manners to text during the ceremony a sign won’t stop them. Those people probably talk on their phones during movies even when they’re explicitly told not too! :)

  12. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 1:41 pm

    @MissTurtle27: I can’t totally speak for the people who made announcements, but I assumed that they were talking about pictures during their ceremonies, not during the reception.

    As I wrote above, you have to know your audience. I don’t think this will be an issue with my crowd, but we’re a little older. :)

  13. Member
    WinterWhite2012 263 posts, Helper bee @ 1:50 pm

    We are going unplugged. We are including a note in our wedding program asking guests to kindly turn off their cell phones and refrain from taking any photos during our wedding ceremony. Our note will also ask guests to refrain from posting any photos to Twitter or Facebook before we have a chance to do so. This was very important to my fiance, and after the last wedding when I couldn’t see the bride and groom because of all the cell phones in my face, I agreed with him.

  14. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 1:53 pm

    @WinterWhite2012: Interesting to another opinion from someone who has seen this first hand!

  15. Member
    reebee 1265 posts, Bumble bee @ 1:54 pm

    I didn’t mind folks taking photos during the wedding with their cameras or phones. What I did mind was the phone ringing in the middle of the ceremony… I had considered making a sign reminding people to turn off their phones, but I decided it wouldn’t be necessary because everyone would KNOW to do that… of course I was wrong.

    What I did mind was people getting in the way of the photographers and videographer throughout the evening. I will be pretty ticked at one guest in particular – who happens to be a professional photographer (but not a wedding photographer) – who was completely in the way of the videographer during most of our first dance. Seriously, do people think that their personal photo of my first dance should come before my professional video of the same moment… And this guest hasn’t even uploaded his pics to our flickr site yet, he better though because they may be the only non-obstructed photos I’ll get of our dance!

  16. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 2:01 pm

    @reebee: Oh no! I’m so sorry a ringing phone interrupted your ceremony! :(

    Boo on your guest for getting in the way, too.

  17. highwire Member
    highwire 1021 posts, Bumble bee @ 2:08 pm

    There was no cell reception during the whole weekend of our wedding. (We stayed at a guest house on the property)

    It was a little challenging b/c vendors/guests were trying to call and couldn’t get through, but it was nice to be forced to be unplugged and not be able to do anything about it.

  18. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 2:11 pm

    @Mrs. High Wire: I was really hoping we’d have weak cell phone reception at our venue. :)

  19. Member
    lolo7835 645 posts, Busy bee @ 2:33 pm

    I’m torn on this. Before our wedding, I was all about the being totally unplugged. Def. no cell phones, but I wasn’t going to tell people they could and couldn’t do. Our priest did make a announcement about cell phones and pictures during certain parts of mass.

    But our friends and family actually took some pictures that were better than our photographers. There were moments between guests that were captured and were amazing. Everyone checked with me before facebook (we were lucky), and we ended up doing a flickr pro account. I didn’t see to many shots from points in the ceremony, but I’m also thinking that since we had a mass and most of our guests were catholic that they were respectful of that. Our guests also were respectful of the pro photographer (who jumps in front of a pro? Honestly.)

    So I can see it for the ceremony, but I think having cameras at the reception is a given. Guest photos at their tables are some of my favorites from the wedding.

  20. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 2:41 pm

    @lolo7835: Agreed! I think guest photos are sometimes going to pick up people and pairings that the pros wouldn’t know to capture.

  21. Member
    zippitydoodah 210 posts, Helper bee @ 3:01 pm


    If it’s rude to turn on a cell phone during a movie theatre, how is it okay to have your phone on/using a device in a wedding ceremony? I think it’s exactly because of the way people are with their cameras and phones that people need a reminder to sit back and enjoy their surroundings without a digital screen sometimes. I know that when I’m on vacation sometimes I realize that I have my camera out the whole time and I’m missing the trip! If my friends and family can’t make it through the most important 20 minutes of my life without their cameras and phones out, they probably shouldn’t be there :) In the wedding’s I’ve been to where they’ve asked people to keep devices away, I’ve never seen anyone offended except for one 14 year old who couldn’t go 5 minutes without texting her bf haha

  22. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 3:07 pm

    @zippitydoodah: Hee hee! I hoped that mentioning age above wouldn’t be an issue, but you made the point I was thinking about. I could see the younger guests being part of the reason someone would make an announcement about putting devices away.

  23. Member
    lisaelanna 530 posts, Busy bee @ 4:18 pm

    There weren’t too many people who were on their phones or took photos during the ceremony, but honestly, some of the pics snapped by my friends and family during the ceremony and reception were as good as those from our photographer (and some were actually better). I have been so happy to have all of those extra photos, I’d hate to have prohibited anyone from taking them (as long as they aren’t disruptive to the main events). On the other hand, I can totally understand not wanting anyone to be posting random stuff of you on facebook/twitter etc…but perhaps that is sort of like when you prefer money over registry gifts-something you spread by word of mouth with the help of your family and close friends.

  24. Member
    Lexy 404 posts, Helper bee @ 4:22 pm

    I think asking people to turn off (or silence) their cell phones is fine… having someone’s cell phone ring in the middle of my ceremony would throw me off and make me even more nervous (plus more than a little mad).

    However, I think letting people take their own pictures is just plain polite. Not all of my guests are going to get prints from the photographer, and plenty of people just *like* taking pictures at important events.

    That being said, if you know you have an “Uncle Bob” coming it is probably a good idea to ask people to remain seated or not use cameras during the ceremony. Walking up & down the aisle, fine but distracting from the actual ceremony, not fine.

  25. mspony Member
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 4:45 pm

    I love that technology can bring everyone closer together, but I was tempted to institute this rule for our wedding after the holidays last year. Some family members just don’t understand that there are times it is inappropriate to be texting people incessantly (like during Christmas with grandma). Luckily, everyone was respectful of our ceremony, but I definitely considered it many times prior to our wedding day.

  26. Member
    szaerpoor 242 posts, Helper bee @ 4:49 pm

    thank you so much for posting this. this issue hadn’t even occurred to me for those of us who haven’t been to a lot of weddings it’s so helpful to read what other people have encountered.

  27. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 5:13 pm

    @Mrs. Pony: The post was kind of prompted by Thanksgiving. There were a lot of devices out…thankfully, no one had them at the table and most were playing games. Some were even playing games together over the WiFi.

    @szaerpoor: Until I saw it, I have never ever considered that there might be a problem! I’m going to hope I don’t have to do anything formal…maybe just a gentle reminder about silencing devices.

  28. dalmatian Member
    dalmatian 592 posts, Busy bee @ 5:50 pm

    Honestly, I hadn’t really thought about this. I agree with Lexi that I would certainly expect people to silence their phones, but I wouldn’t have a problem if they took pictures (as long as they are not too disruptive, of course!). Thanks for sharing – super interesting post!

  29. Member
    gcwest 697 posts, Busy bee @ 5:55 pm

    @MissTurtle27: I totally disagree that it’s rude to tell people to turn off their devices for the ceremony, which is what I assumed Ms. Mink was talking about. We had a few guests at our ceremony who took pictures and it drove me bananas – I majorly regretted not having our officiant make an announcement that people didn’t need to be taking pictures. It was so distracting seeing camera flashes go off out of the corner of my eye throughout the ceremony, and the pictures they got are not worth the distraction… I think it’s worth the announcement. Obviously after the ceremony I think it’s much less of an issue, and our guests did get some great shots that our photographer didn’t. But in my opinion the ceremony should be… sacred, for lack of a better word.

    Same goes with cell phones, obviously those who don’t think it’s rude to text throughout will do so regardless, but it can be helpful for the rest of us to have that extra reminder to make sure our ringers are off! I don’t see how it’s rude to request people to focus on the ceremony.

  30. Member
    Weddingmuse 81 posts, Worker bee @ 6:54 pm

    I’ve been to a lot of weddings lately, and I can’t say that I’ve noticed a lot of obnoxious devices.

    Conversely, at a reception I attended, the two professional photogs plus the videographer were so intrusive that guests couldn’t see the bride and groom. Guess I’ll have to buy the pics to see the cake-cutting for that one since the shooters were in the way.

  31. mole Member
    mole 1242 posts, Bumble bee @ 6:59 pm

    One perk of having a small wedding is that a lot of these concerns don’t come up. For example, I can’t imagine that anyone at our wedding is going to be surfing the internet during our vows because we are all so close. I think some of the multitasking comes in when you have spouses of acquaintances present who don’t really know the couple and thus don’t feel interested enough to pay total attention. (Who knows, though: maybe I am assuming that my family cares! Haha.)

    Also, I welcome my friends and family taking photos! Some of them are pretty good shots.

  32. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 7:15 pm

    @Miss Dalmatian: I love that there are so many different takes on this one. Not too many comments about the ipad bridesmaid, though!

  33. Member
    maery1 263 posts, Helper bee @ 8:42 pm

    I’m generally a skeptic, and have seen this article passed around by photogs. My gut reaction is that this is financially beneficial as then any guests who really cherish photos they’ve taken of loved ones ceremonies would now have to be purchased from the photographer. I can only imagine more professional photos are ordered if this is the case. It doesn’t mean the other points aren’t valid, but this was by far the first thing that jumped out at me. That said, I’m still mulling this over. I don’t mind people taking photos or posting them before I’ve been able to screen but it’s more the distraction of flashes. I may ask for flashes to be turned off. Our venue is too tiny for people to be moving about for photo purposes.

  34. Member
    Wonderstruck 4867 posts, Honey bee @ 10:04 pm

    I was so so worried about this – that my pics would be wrecked by other guests taking pictures, that it would take away from the moment, etc. I am happy to say that none of these fears were realized – of course there were some people who took pictures and such, but I honestly never even noticed (I onyl now know because I’ve seen the pictures!) and it did not affect our photog.

  35. Guest Icon Guest
    Paul Cummings, Guest @ 1:31 am

    Hmm, interesting. Although I completely understand professional photographers frustration at having a beautifully traditional framed scene ruined by an idiot waving a giant DSLR, the other part of me still thinks that allowing people to capture their own images and the reflection of those images is all part of the experience…

  36. Member
    posh_princess 291 posts, Helper bee @ 8:11 am

    Since I couldn’t fit a videographer in my budget, I actually encouraged guests with video cameras to take video if they had the ability. I had my parents spread the word to friends they spoke to often. One guest was nice enough to take footage from several guests cameras and put it all together into a video for us!

    I knew our crowd would be limited with photographs and nobody donned an ipad (kind of odd to bring to a wedding if you ask me!).

    I think that it’s not as big of a deal if you don’t have a super tech-savvy crowd or if you have an outdoor wedding.

    I can see constant flashes in a church being distracting.

    Overall I think its kind of nice that guests take photos and post them, but again I can see if every guest does this in an enclosed space it can be annoying and take away from the day.

  37. hawk Member
    hawk 1117 posts, Bumble bee @ 8:32 am

    This is something I’m truly considering (for at least the ceremony). I can’t imagine people snapping cell phone shots of us in the chapel. For some reason, the idea of it disturbs me…

  38. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 8:40 am

    @Miss Hawk: Agreed. I could see having a different expectation in a chapel or church.

  39. Member
    zippitydoodah 210 posts, Helper bee @ 10:33 am

    I’m curious as to how many people have taken nice photos during a wedding ceremony? I’ve tried to take photos a few times (at a few weddings the couple have opted to not have any photographer or just got a friend, and rely on guests photos), but frankly my view is the heads of all the guests in front of me, and maybe a bit of the top of the bride and grooms heads during the times they’re standing on the alter. I took lots of nice photos, but they’re from the reception or outside the church after the ceremony… and I have no problem with guests having their cameras out then. My sister once took a great shot of the bride coming up the aisle… by standing in the middle of it, blocking the groom’s first glimpse of his bride (oh BOY was my mom mad at her after!).

  40. Member
    CharmBracelet 209 posts, Helper bee @ 10:46 am

    I took photos at a friends weeding and later made a scrapbook for them, They received this way before the professional photos. The bride actually thought my gift with the pictures was her favorite. I captured a picture with her as well as her father and her son while she was walking up the aisle. No one else captured them all together. I didnt even do it on purpose. Sometimes the unexpected turns out to be something that you appreciate the most. My camera was not that great either. Hehe.

  41. Member
    joyous0529 136 posts, Blushing bee @ 10:13 pm

    The ipad bridesmaid, Im not going to lie, I get it! My cousin (and bridesmaid in my upcoming wedding) has Cystic Fibrosis, shes been getting way worse over the past year & I can’t imagine her not being there. We are only 2 years apart and she is more like my sister. Just recently she got out of the hospital and in 3 weeks was back in. I would do anything for her to witness our marriage & over the summer almost got married by her bedside because she was in the ICU and things were not good AT ALL, pastors were called in & me & the Mr. almost made it a done deal right there. She is my most important person I NEED at my wedding (besides my groom of coarse!) I can’t imagine my day without her. So I would consider doing the ipad thing… probably not walk it down the aisle, but have it sit in the front seat so she could see the ceremony :) For our favors we are doing something small with a note attached that we’ve decided to donate to the Cf foundation. It is more important to us then most would ever realize. That is a complete secret from my guest, and bridal party, only people that know are my mister & my parents… My family will be exteremly touched by our gesture.

    Also my (was going to be) man of honor got news after our wedding date was picked & set that he will be over seas serving in Afghanistan. I will no matter what say a prayer for service men & women also write a special thank you in our program to them. I can see us doing the ipad in the front seat for him, if its available for him to do that.

  42. Member
    joyous0529 136 posts, Blushing bee @ 10:17 pm

    also I’ve noticed, if the ceremony is done in a church less people take out their phones for pictures. When its outdoors or in another facility MOST people will take them out and snap away

  43. Member
    justelope 771 posts, Busy bee @ 9:42 am

    I think this just speaks to the idea that the person most interested in your wedding is you. The idea that your guests need to turn off their phones to devote every waking moment of what are often five to seven hour events just seems ridiculous to me.

    I get not wanting people on their phones, but personally I do not care. The people who are interested will turn them off, and the rest will punctuate their attendance with taking care of other things.

    I often go to friends weddings by myself since FI doesn’t always know them, is often traveling, and I don’t see the point of bringing a disinterested date that my friend then needs to feed, all at a big added expense. So sometimes, I like being able to check my email and entertain myself when I am sitting around waiting for the ceremony to start, for the cocktail hour to start, for dinner to start, for the dancing to start. I feel like there is a lot of sit around and wait that goes on at weddings that I don’t feel I need to spend my time being intentional and phone free about.

    Also, when I do get FI to go, he uses his phone. He blogs and does a lot of online stuff for work, so he kinda needs to check it, but more importantly wants to. And I don’t have a problem with that.

  44. Member
    zippitydoodah 210 posts, Helper bee @ 6:57 pm


    Unless I’m totally mistaken, I don’t think anyone is talking about the ENTIRE day. It’s the wedding ceremony itself… you know, the important part (and generally the only time they are of any length are when they’re in a church, in which case I should hope their phone wouldn’t be on :S). I would never expect other people to not use their phone the entire day (people have babysitters and stuff). That being said, I’ve only ever seen teenagers use their phones during dinner at a wedding (texting), so I assume if others need to they go out the room or are less obvious about it maybe. Either way, I would never, ever tell people to turn their phones off for an entire wedding reception! I think you just are reading the article and comments wrong, it’s the actual WEDDING that is in question. Even cameras I don’t care about except for during the actual ceremony.

  45. Member
    seahorsey 586 posts, Busy bee @ 12:35 pm

    @justelope: I have to disagree with this part of your comment: “I think this just speaks to the idea that the person most interested in your wedding is you. The idea that your guests need to turn off their phones to devote every waking moment of what are often five to seven hour events just seems ridiculous to me.”

    I TOTALLY agree that I care most about the wedding. I know that even FI won’t care as much as I do. BUT that being said: if my guests can’t stay off their devices for the 20 minute ceremony, they should skip the ceremony and only attend the reception (where I will happily allow guests to use their devices!) I just think that the ceremony is a sacred, important moment and I really don’t want anyone on devices during that moment. If that’s too big of an inconvenience, they’re welcome to come to the reception only :)

  46. Member
    veggie_rachel 575 posts, Busy bee @ 6:56 pm

    Love this!

  47. Member
    MrsPeachMartini 679 posts, Busy bee @ 8:40 am

    That picture of all the guests watching the ceremony through their camera is hysterical!! (and sadly, true)

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