One of the hottest new trends is not a color or a cake, but a house rule: No Snapchatting the best man while the ceremony is in progress! Unplugged weddings are growing more popular as couples opt to exclude handheld devices and Instagram shares from their meticulously-planned day. Whether to have a tech-free wedding isn’t actually a one-size-fits-all decision. It depends on your family culture (especially around photos and technology), the kind of big day you want, and just how much camera-flashing you can take before you lose your composure and throw the monogrammed toasting flutes at Aunt JoAnn. As you can probably tell, I’m mostly on the side of going old-fashioned (if you were Facebook friends with my grandmother, you’d know why). But there are great reasons to decide you want your wedding totally plugged in, too. Here are some unplugged wedding pros and cons to consider while you’re making your choice.
Unplugged Wedding: Pros & Cons
Pros: So, you’re leaning toward no social media, no amateur photos, and no technological thieving of the limelight. These benefits might convince you that’s the right decision if you’re starting to lose your confidence. Control the left-out feelings. Having an intimate day with a small guest list – or even a larger one that still has reasonable limits – usually involves some haggling over who attends. If someone just couldn’t be fit into a seat, your unplugged wedding can be out of sight and out of mind for them until you choose how the story of the day will be told. Professional conduct. Your photographer really, really does not want to have to re-angle a shot because your bestie popped up into the frame with her iPhone. No ringing during the ring blessing. If there’s no reason to snap pictures, there’s no reason to have the phone on at all (unless one of your guests has to be on call for their rocket-surgery shift). That means fewer musical interruptions. You just know Uncle Jack is going to get a phone call, and he hasn’t known how to silence the ringtone since 1998.
Pure ambiance. Ever been stuck sitting behind someone who’s live-tweeting a movie? If you’ve chosen a venue for its mood – the groom’s childhood church lit only by candles, a secluded grove of trees at your mutual favorite vineyard – the glow of cell phones might take away from the look you agonized over during the early stages of planning. In that case, going unplugged for your big day is a matter of style. Visual pollution. It’s not just that eye-searing glow, either. Whatever the light conditions, a guest sticking their iPhone in the aisle to get their very own ceremony shot is probably blocking the view for someone else who came to see you exchange your vows.
Meet and greet. If you’re introducing members of your extended families together for the first time, or if you just want to foster a spirit of lively conversation (and maybe do a little matchmaking for the groomsmen), an atmosphere where social-media activity seems welcome might keep wallflowers up against the wall. We can all have sympathy for how much easier it is to scroll a feed than smile at a total stranger, but consider how the guest activities you encourage may affect the tone of your celebration. Keeping the focus. If the matron of honor brought her own selfie stick, you’re less likely to get much attention to that unique photo booth for which you’ve been lovingly gathering props. Keep guests’ eyes on the activities you planned for them by unplugging from distractions.
A photogenic couple. Seriously, if you don’t control which photo goes on the cover of the wedding album on Facebook, can you trust your family to pick one you’ll like? An unfortunate snapshot where it looks like you’re chugging the Manischewitz or an awkward cake-cutting moment where you’re both making really stupid faces might be funny … but it’ll be a lot funnier if you can control when it comes out. Discuss as a couple how you might react to a bad snap becoming a favorite with your families. Cons: If you and your partner aren’t quite sure you want your wedding to be tech-free, though, these are some reasons that might sway you toward a digital-age day. After all, there are some drawbacks. No playing along at home. Unwell family members and distant friends who can’t attend might enjoy seeing your ceremony live-tweeted or getting the photo-booth shots in real time. Cultural sensitivity. If one member of the happy couple comes from a family or culture where attention to visual details is part of celebrating a marriage properly – and picture-snapping is often part of appreciating the visual – banning photos can cause more offense than it’s worth. (Of course, if you’re consciously trying to create a modern ceremony with no time for Grandma Terry to demand stagey poses, it may be time to rock the boat.) Not perfect, but all you. If both you and your partner really, truly don’t care about having professional retouching and ideal lighting – and that will make a difference – you can crowd-source your wedding photos by encouraging friends to snap ceremony photos and reception candids. #ThePerfectHashtag. Come on, your names make the cutest pun! How can you pass that up? #aesthetic
Alternate angles. The unfortunate truth is that you can’t see everything that happens at your nuptials. But Instagramming touching or amusing moments is a way that your guests can share their perspective with you, and it might provide you with special insight into something your guests really loved about the reception you spent so much time putting together. Unplugging removes that source of morning-after smiles.
How to Pull it Off Whatever you decide, communicating your choice clearly is crucial to making sure your decision is respected. (You wouldn’t want to go through all this deliberation for nothing, now, would you?) Once you’ve had the yay-or-nay conversation about the possibility of a non-tech day, make sure your wedding party and all your guests know what you’ve decided together with these tips. When in doubt, point to the vendors. If you’re going no-tech, your photographer will probably thank you for it (see pro #2 up above). They’ll probably be delighted to be the bad guy: “Our photographer requests that no additional photos be taken.” If you want your thoughtful details widely shared, opt for “If you’d like to Instagram your plate, our indie caterer would be delighted!” Say it again. Whether you’re executing a nuptial social-media takeover or going totally technology-free, make this clear in multiple places. An announcement on the back of the program plus a sign by the guestbook is not overkill. Share widely. All the potential irritations (and potential fun) of an Information Age wedding come from your guests’ desire to remember and share the experience. Whatever you choose, make sure you keep that urge for togetherness in mind!
Establish a unique hashtag and make sure to comment on others’ photos if you’ll be plugged in. If you went unplugged, distribute your selected shots to family members as promptly as you can – and make a point of thanking guests for the memories which will last longer in your hearts than in your Facebook likes. Have you attended an unplugged wedding? Was there some other factor in the technology choices you made for your own? Tell us how it went in the comments! You may also like…