Wedding Planning Tips

The Case for an Unplugged Wedding Ceremony

Can you even remember how we did life before cell phones? For most of us, it’s a real stretch, and for some of you the reality is that cell phones have always been around to make your life more convenient.

For the most part, I love them.  I love to know everything about everything.  The power to have research on just about any topic at the touch of my fingers, any time of the day is a fabulous thing for me.  They make us safer, help us get around, let us track our health….and have really awesome cameras in them.  Honestly, the camera in your cell phone is probably better than most consumer level digital cameras.  It’s great to be able to just whip our your phone and capture a special moment, or take a pic of something you want to remember.

They have their drawbacks though.  If you’ve ever visited a truly gorgeous place or attended an event, it’s hard to miss the sea of cell phones recording every second.   Like me, you’ve probably struggled to detach yourself from that handy little piece of technology and be fully present in the moment.

You’ve probably also read half a dozen articles from other wedding professionals about why you should have an unplugged wedding.  Usually topping the list is that you’ve hired professionals to capture that event, guests with phones and cameras get in the way.  Let the professionals work.  It’s definitely true….but that’s not my argument against phones.  Because while they may make my day more difficult, even if your friends and family paparazzi you all day long, I’m going deliver you a great wedding film.  Your photographer and I, this is not our first rodeo.  We will move, reframe shots, and if need be, tap a guest on the shoulder and politely ask that they sit.  Your guests want you to have great photos and video (and generally don’t realize that they are in the way) and are happy to comply.

Unplugged Wedding
Cute sign helping to tastefully communicate your wishes with your guests available at Glamazon Graphics.

Not going to lie though.  My eye twitches a little when I realize that my perfectly framed shot of the bride dance with her dad and the groom looking on is ruined by a guest scrolling through her FB feed while standing beside the groom.  And officiants who have an extreme distrust of anyone with cameras after someone tiptoed up behind them during the ceremony to get that perfect shot can really restrict what I’m able to do (but you know, they wouldn’t make those rules if people acted right in the first place, so I totally sympathize with them).

My argument against cell phones isn’t to make my job easier.  It’s about you.  To make your wedding better, for both you and your guests.

As a bride, when those doors open (or you come around the corner, or step out of the car) my greatest hope is that you see your friends and family staring back at you.  That you are able to look into their faces and see them overflowing with joy for you.  That you will be able to stare down the aisle and see the person you are about to pledge your life to staring back at you, doing their best to hold it together.

There is no emotion in the back of someone’s cell phone.  There’s nothing special about your Uncle Ed’s iPad popping out between you and your beloved.  Those are not things that help you to feel all the feels.

Unplugged Wedding Program
Beautiful sample wedding program from Paper Hearts Invitations requesting that your guests be fully present at your event.

As a wedding guest, you want to remember this event.  Those people getting married, they care about you enough to have included you in a very exclusive list of people invited to their wedding.  You probably care about them an awful lot too.  There is real, legitimate science that shows we do not remember events the same when we are watching them through a lens.  Many studies. Too many to ignore or dismiss.  Take this opportunity to let these moments imprint on your brain.  I know you’ve seen the pictures of an aisle lined with people sticking their phones out to grab the perfect shot. How do you think it feels to walk down that aisle, instead of an aisle lined with friendly faces?

I don’t know you, so don’t take this personally….but you aren’t going to get the perfect pic.  Sorry.  Even with that amazing camera in your phone…between the less than ideal lighting in a lot of ceremonies, the moving target coming down the aisle, and everyone else jostling for position for their perfect cell phone shot…you’re likely to get a blurry, off color crooked pic.  Don’t trade your memories for that.

Also, I’d like to point out that so often we don’t actually DO anything with all of those photos and videos we capture.  You *might* put one or two on your social media.  But definitely not a 6 minute video of bridesmaids processing, or 400 iPhone pics of the ceremony, and if you actually have printed out a photo you’ve taken (on your phone or otherwise) as a guest and have it displayed somewhere in your house, I will buy you an ice cream, because I don’t think it happens.

You are trading your real memories of the event, and your interaction with those you’re there to honor….for something you’re going to delete next time you don’t have enough free space on your phone for the newest episode of your favorite podcast.

Wedding HashtagNow, don’t get me wrong, I *love* a good wedding hashtag! It’s great to see how your guests are enjoying your whole wedding weekend, the behind the scenes prep fun, all the different perspectives of the day.  I love all the dance floor selfies, and we’ve had some serious fun with guest videos *cough*fireball*cough*.  It’s all about knowing when to have fun with hashtags and selfies, and when to leave your cell phone in your pocket and just experience the event.

You can pretty much replace ‘wedding’ with any other event in your life.  If you follow us on Instagram, you know that we love to take photos and videos of all the fun things we do.  Generally, we make a specific time to do that, then we put the cameras away.  Just because we own professional gear doesn’t mean we want to experience life through our cameras.  School programs, holidays, graduations, weddings where we are guests…those are all things that we want to be fully present in.  We’ll take our photos of our kids and their friends before or after their little program, then sit and watch (unless we’ve been specifically asked to get some media for the school to use).  If you spend $200 to see your favorite artist in concert, then spend the entire show with your phone in the air hoping to catch the best photo or video ever…you’ve wasted your $200.  You won’t remember that show in a few months, and you will have probably deleted all the footage off your phone by then to free up space.

What are your thoughts?  Are you planning an unplugged wedding, or have a unique way to engage your guests without the distraction of technology?  I’d love to hear about them!

I’d also love to make you an awesome video, for both you and your guests to enjoy for both years to come. Contact MotionWorks today to start the conversation about your cinematic wedding film!


  • Amen to an unplugged ceremony! There is nothing more incredible than being present when two people join in marriage. To be fully present with them is the greatest gift we can give and it makes for an even more awesome memory of the day!

  • This! I love how you mentioned that it’s not to make a photographer’s job easier, but to make their wedding better! I’ve seen a lot of articles with comments like, “Shouldn’t a photographer be able to move around and avoid the electronics that way?” Totally refreshing to read your side of an unplugged wedding! I whole heartedly agree! 🙂

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