Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Unplugged Wedding by Nicole Clark

Wedding guests playing photographer.  It's been a pet peeve of mine since the beginning for so many reasons.  I was so thrilled when one of my brides, Nicole Clark, told me she was having an UNPLUGGED wedding.  At first, I've never even heard of this term and she had to explain it to me.  When I knew what it was, I wanted to give her the biggest hug I've ever given!  It was like Christmas for me, and this was the best gift she could ever give me.  After reading an article about unplugged weddings, I asked Nicole if she could write a blog for me, from her perspective as an unplugged bride.  And because she's awesome, she agreed and wrote this AMAZING post.  I present to you, Nicole Clark, the Unplugged Bride.


Many of us are guilty of becoming an amateur paparazzi, hiding behind the camera to capture the moments of our loved ones on their wedding day. But it wasn't until I was planning my own wedding that I actually realized how obnoxious it can be. 

When our friends and family members heard about our decision to have an unplugged wedding, we got the same 2 questions, in order, every time. The first; "What is an unplugged wedding?" An unplugged wedding is where the bride and groom request that their guests put their cell phones away, silenced or off as well as their cameras. 

The second question was always, "Why can't I take my own pictures?". The reasons can vary from each couple and their feelings towards this issue. Some choose to do so because they don't want anyone beating them to the punch by posting photos on social networking sites. Let's face it, this can cause a lot of issues, especially if someone happens to post a picture of the bride or groom before they even see each other. For others, it can be an issue of distraction because who really wants to hear the sound of all those cameras snapping away as you say your vows to your husband or wife. Some couple want their ceremony to be a private and sacred event so cameras are banned to uphold the wishes of the couple. For others, it's a control issue because they want to be the only ones distributing photos of their wedding.

Our reasons were a bit different. 

When we told our family that we were having an unplugged wedding, we were asked why and people even got upset to the point to argue. We got married in front of a giant fish tank in low lighting and we knew that most people would not think and use their flash. That would cause a reflection off the tank, thus ruining the professional pictures we were paying for. 

That reason was not simple enough because the general response was "Well, I just wont use a flash". yeah, doubtful. 
To tell you the truth, even if we had picked a different venue, our decision would still be the same. For me, it was about respect for my photographers. You spend so much time seeking out a professional that best suits your needs, vision and budget, do you really want your memories to be ruined by Aunt Sally, Cousin Joe and anyone else sticking their camera in the air which will more than likely block your photographers view?
These people are professionals and it is their job is to blend into the back round and get those special shots that will last a lifetime. Most guests don't even realize they are even in the way. It makes your photographer's job difficult when they have to try to dodge all the guests taking their own pictures so they can get the shots you are paying for. 

We also chose this because because we wanted our guests to emerge from behind their electronics and be fully present in the moment with us. This is such a special time for the couple so the friends and family should do nothing but enjoy being witnesses to the union of husband to wife. They can always request or order copies of all the photos at a later date. 

Most couples only think about the the ceremony and reception but what about during the "posed" photos? 
Think of it this way, would you want someone watching over your shoulder as you work? So we took it one step further with the "ban on electronics". As most families do, I knew my parents and grandparents would attempt to get their own pictures during the times we were taking family formals or wedding party photos. This is something most photographers hate whether they say it or not, so I wanted to prevent it.  

Implementing this request helped our photographers to do their jobs with the freedom of knowing that our guests weren't going to be a problem to overcome. In my opinion, it helped everything to run a bit smoother and we were left with beautiful memories and the photos to show it. We did not ban cameras at the reception but by that time, nobody was worried about taking pictures and I have never seen my family enjoy themselves so much without the need to take pictures.

It has been over 2 months since my wedding and we are still getting remarks from our guests saying things like they never realized how distracting it is to be a shutterbug at other weddings. 

I hope after reading this, more couples will chose to help themselves and their photographers by having an unplugged wedding, or at least as a guest, remember to put those cameras away and stay in the moment. Remember, the bride and groom have hired and paid for a professional for a reason so relax and let them do their jobs!

~ Nicole ~


Catering By Robert said...

While I agree in most part for the respect for a pro photographer like Jessica, the reality for many couples is that the photographers they hire don't capture all of the candid moments that may be "saved" by guests in attendance.

I have been fortunate to work with Jessica and realize she is tune with the couple's wishes for all of the important wedding and reception shots.

I cannot tell you how many disappointed brides I have had when they realize the photographers they have hired have passed over pro photos of the gorgeous, un-touched guest tables they spent thousands of dollars on in decorating fees.

Also, I have to say that Facebook photo postings the day or week after by well-meaning friends, KEEP THE EXCITEMENT flowing until the pro photographer's final edits are completed.

In tasteful ways, a "plugged in" wedding celebration can work in harmony with the professional aspects of of a celebration.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to express a view!

Susan Stalnaker
Catering By Robert / Event Concepts . FL

Jessica Charles said...

Thank you Susan for commenting!
While I do see your point of view, what Nicole was mostly referring to was having the ceremony unplugged, so (1) they stay out of the photographer's way and (2) so they can enjoy the special occassion without having to see it through their camera screen. I know having unplugged weddings aren't for everyone, but this was just Nicole's perspective because she did it for her ceremony.

Anonymous said...

The bride posted this blog link on WW so I thought I'd go ahead and comment ;)
I absolutely agree with an unplugged ceremony! I recently married in a courthouse and I am due to have a celebratory ceremony in September. There were 4 loved ones, my photographer and a videographer present for the ceremony. All of my guests had their cameras out at some point after the ceremony and then just after.. How many of those pictures did I see from them? One. One poorly shot phone picture with heads in the front. I'm not complaining because of the horrible photo, but had that been my other ceremony and had THAT photo disrupted the beautiful ones that my photographer took, I would have been hurt and engraged (yet forgiving because I do love my family :)
Anyway.. my ceremony in September WILL be unplugged and I am thrilled to see the pictures back from my photographer who is absolutely AMAZING at what she does!

Anonymous said...

To Susan (the caterer): Guests take photos of other guests. They don’t typically don't sneak into the reception hall to capture pro quality photos of the guest tables. In fact, the doors are usually closed so that the guests cannot trickle into the hall until the venue invites them in.

They don't carry macro lenses to get really nice close-ups of details. &, if they do wander into the reception area (say it’s in a tent that can’t be blocked off) they are just one more thing (in additional to the wait staff) that the hurried photographer has to work around as she tries to get (people-less) photos of the tables.

A challenge that pro photographers face is that in the hour or so between the end of the ceremony & the throwing-open of the reception hall doors there are many important things to photograph. If the couple didn’t agree to see each other & get their “formal” posed photos out of the way before the ceremony, then the photographer needs to do that immediately after the ceremony before folks scatter. Some couples will have such big families & wedding parties that “the list” could eat up an hour. Plus, there is often a lovely spread of tables for the cocktail hour where shots have to be grabbed immediately before guests pick over the foots. Plus, the cocktail hour is a wonderful time to take candid shots as guests are often spread out on a porch, over a lawn or another relaxed area with lots of wonderful expressions. &, yes, the photographer also has to sneak into the hall & get the cake (because it was not delivered early in the day) & the flowers, & the place cards, & the menus because none of that was set up when she/he had time to photograph it earlier. So, there is a whole lot for a photographer to do in that one hour.

If the couple is smart enough to agree to see one another & do all the posed photos before the ceremony, that takes one huge chunk off the photographer(s) for that specific time slot (& also means the couple & the guests in the formal shots get to enjoy the cocktail hour.)

If the couple hires a team of photographers (at least two shooters), that’s even better, because then there are two people to share the duties & more can be accomplished in that hour. So, typically one photographer will go get the posed photos while the other grabs quick shots of the cocktail hour tables before heading inside to get cake, flowers, place cards, etc.

Unfortunately, even when there are two photographers to share the duties, candles aren’t usually lit, water glasses aren’t filled, & those gorgeous tables usually don't come together until just five or so minutes before the doors are thrown open to the reception hall, & those tables are no longer "untouched" once guests start entering the room. The ideal situation would be to have the tables finished & all candles were lit at least 20 minutes before the doors were thrown open, but in my 10+ years of photographing weddings I've never seen that happen. Instead wait staff is always scrurrying around at the last minute.

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