The Beauty of the Unplugged Ceremony

Almost every week a new post about someone ruining the photographer’s shot with a cell phone at a crucial moment makes its way around social media. A lot of brides now include notes in their wedding programs or create a decorative sign requesting their guests keep their cell phones out of sight during the ceremony. You’ll never meet a photographer who doesn’t appreciate being trusted enough by their couples to request that guests put their cell phones away. Seriously!! But, as a wedding guest who presumably truly loves and cares for that bride and/or groom, what if you just really neeeeed to take just one teensy picture? Does it really do that much harm? Well, keep reading. Today we’re doing a deep dive on the unplugged ceremony. 🙂

This emotional moment was unspoiled by cell phones at this beautiful unplugged ceremony

What Is an Unplugged Ceremony?

I know we’ve all heard people talking about the Unplugged Ceremony lately, but what does that even mean? An Unplugged Ceremony is, quite simply, a ceremony where the only visible electronics are in the hands of the photo/video team. Everyone else puts their personal phones and cameras away for the entirety of the ceremony. Of course, personal devices and cameras are more than welcome to come back out at the reception–the more party pictures the better, right?! But, wedding ceremonies consist of a few key moments, and no bride wants a cell phone-wielding hand in the middle of their ring exchange shots!! And no photographer wants to have to edit out the cell phone-wielding hand!! 😉 An Unplugged Ceremony prevents that from even being a thing.

This emotional moment was unspoiled by cell phones at this beautiful unplugged ceremony

Is An Unplugged Ceremony Really Necessary?

This is a really good question, and my answer comes from a unique place. When Kyle and I married, something tragic happened with our wedding photographer’s memory card. It crashed and lost all of our ceremony images. We’ll never get those back. So, for that reason alone, I am so happy that no one had even heard of an “unplugged ceremony” back in 2012! All of our ceremony images might be off-center or from funny angles and taken with an iPhone 4, but they’re better than no ceremony images! And for this reason, I’m inclined to say that maybe an unplugged ceremony isn’t 100% necessary. But, that being said, cameras have come a loooong way in the last 10 years, and there are a few key precautions that I (and every wedding photographer I recommend) take to ensure that the same tragedy never hurts one of my (our) couples.

This emotional moment was unspoiled by cell phones at this beautiful unplugged ceremony

Will That Happen To Us?

First of all, every image I take is automatically taken on two memory cards. So, if one card crashes, everything is already backed up to the second memory card in my camera. I’m constantly reviewing the images I’ve taken throughout the day/session, and, at the first sign of an error or trouble, I switch out memory cards. I also shoot everything on smaller cards, so I have to change them out frequently, anyway. I shoot every wedding with a second shooter, so they are also taking “backup” shots. And, finally, when I get home from weddings, I back up every image from every memory card to two external hard drives.

So, within 24 hours of your event, all of the images I took are backed up in 4 locations. I do everything possible to minimize the chance of losing images from a wedding day. And, understanding that most couples want images of their wedding on their own phone ASAP, I also edit and send a next-day gallery of about 50 images to each couple within 24 hours. They can download and share these images the very next day.

The Final Verdict

So, is an unplugged ceremony really necessary? I definitely think they’re helpful! I encourage all couples to choose a wedding photographer they trust enough to ask their wedding guests to put their personal cameras away. Hire a photographer you can rely on, and then let them do their job. This is always your best bet. But, if you just really want some images on your phone that very same day, then perhaps a compromise can be reached. Still request the unplugged ceremony–have the sign or the note in the program asking everyone to keep their cell phones and cameras away during the ceremony. But, put one trusted guest in charge of the bride or groom’s phone/camera. Ask them to respectfully (without blocking the photo/video teams) snap a few shots just for you. And leave it at that. Maybe this could be the best of both worlds. 🙂

What do you think? Did you/will you have an unplugged ceremony?

March 16, 2021

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Charlotte, NC Wedding Photographer