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How and Why to Have an Unplugged Wedding

It’s time to talk about the proverbial elephant in the room. This isn’t an easy topic to discuss because of the era we are living in, but, it needs to be said. Cell phones are negatively impacting the wedding day experience.

Unplugged Wedding

Why Choose an Unplugged Wedding

A wedding is a sacred human experience. The unifying of two hearts. The binding of two souls. A celebration to be shared with your family & friends.

In the decade that I have been a wedding photographer, I have seen the dramatic increase in the presence of cell phones being used by guests during wedding ceremonies & throughout the important components of the reception such as speeches, cake cutting & the First Dance. I understand that family and friends want to preserve their own memories of your special day, but the truth is that cell phones take away from the magic of such a profound human experience.

Guests Distracted by Cell Phones During Important Components of Your Wedding Day

You invited your guests to be present with you on your day. You want to see their smiling faces and clapping hands instead of a sea of camera phones poised in your direction as you say “I do” and go in for your first kiss. Cell phones are a distraction and they take us out of the present moment. They disrupt human connection and empathy.

I’ve seen it countless times at this point. In the lulls before the ceremony, during the ceremony, at cocktail hour, at dinner, during speeches, during the First Dance… guests disengaged from the happenings around them, scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, watching sports or gambling on their phones. Instead of interacting with other guests and enjoying the festivities right in front of them, they withdraw into the virtual world.

First and foremost, I care about the experience that you will be having on your wedding day. I care about the interactions that you will have together. I care about the interactions that you will have with your loved ones. I care about your guests being present and happy to share in the feelings of love, excitement, joy and whatever else may surface on this once-in-a-lifetime day. From my own professional experience, I see time and time again that guest engagement declines when cell phones are in hand.

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Cell Phone Free Weddings Are Trending For a Positive Reason = More Genuine Interaction and Free-Flowing Emotion

Numerous studies back up my own observations. A study conducted by Andrew K. Przybylski and Netta Weinstein from the University of Essex in the UK discovered that if a cell phone was visible during a meaningful experience, the quality of the interaction declined, largely due to the decrease in undivided attention and empathy. Another study established that when “people are on their phones, they smile less, affecting their ability to connect with others.”

As a wedding photographer, my mission is to capture the fleeting emotions and moments shared throughout your day. I want to see smiling, jovial expressions of happiness and love. I want to document human connection. I want to see dancing and hugging and laughter. After all, these are the components of what a wedding day should be. A wedding signifies togetherness and genuine human connection... unfortunately, the reality is that technology can really interfere with this.

Imagine, 30 Years From Now, Reviewing Your Wedding Album and Seeing a Sea of Cell Phones During the Sacred Moments of Your Wedding Celebration

Not only does a cell phone in-hand disrupt and distract, it is also unsightly in professional photographs. Consider this visual. In 30 years, you and your spouse are reviewing your wedding album, reminiscing about your beautiful day. You come to your ceremony photos and see your guests in the aisle seats holding up iPhones & iPads. You flip to your family portraits and notice wandering eyes on your aunt Sue and cousin Dan. Both of whom are looking beyond the professional photographer, surely towards someone behind and to the right who was snapping photos on their Android Galaxy. You flip to your reception photos and see a wave of guests holding up cell phones as your Best Man raises a glass to the newlyweds. Next, you turn the page and see photos of your First Dance as husband and wife. Again, you see cell phones instead of your guests’ smiling faces.

My guess is that this is not your ideal visualization of your wedding album...the physical representation of your memory preservation. Smiling faces of your guests in photographs enhance the quality of your photographs while cell phones obstructing the perfect shot will bring about feelings of dissatisfaction.

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It doesn't have to be that way; Opt Unplugged

I bring this dilemma to light because I care about your wedding day experience, as well as the experience of your guests. I'm partial to the photography piece of your day because of my chosen vocation. Photographs transport you back to the moments and bring forth the feelings you will hold dear. More emotion will flow, more connection will be felt if the technology is not there to distract.

Limiting use of cell phones on your wedding day will also protect your privacy. The sanctity of your wedding day will be honored and you will be the ones deciding when & if the special details of your day will be shared with the social media world.

You have imagined your best day ever, forever. You are investing so much energy, time and money into creating the perfect atmosphere and ambiance for you and your guests to enjoy. The last thing you want is for cell phones to distract, disrupt and deteriorate the organic moments and conversations that will unfold.

When and How to Tell Your Guests

Communicating your decision to have an unplugged wedding day does not have to be difficult.

  • Be specific. Do you want to go fully unplugged? Unplugged during the ceremony & first dance? Guests will be more inclined to oblige your requests if you provide specific details.

  • Include details in your Save the Dates, a quick note in your invitations, in your wedding day program and be sure to have signage throughout your ceremony location and venue on the day-of.

  • Prior to your wedding ceremony, your officiant can make a quick announcement to ensure that phones are off before meeting your honey at the altar.

  • Assign an additional usher or leverage your wedding coordinator to nudge your guests with a little love and attention if someone cannot resist pulling their phone out.

  • Consider having a “Phone Check”, similar to a coat check. Perhaps a designated area for phone use, if absolutely necessary.

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Emphasize the purpose behind your choice. Cite the examples listed above.

Explain that you want your guests to be present, living in the moment with you and truly celebrating alongside you, sharing in the emotions that will be flowing.

Reassure your guests that you are hiring a fully capable photographer who will be there, documenting all of the festivities, every step of the way and that they will have access to the final gallery of images.

It is understandable that wedding guests will want to have their own mementos of your special day. Consider having a photo booth for shenanigans-inspired snapshots. Disposable cameras for cocktail hour or later on during your reception are a great option if you are interested in having memories from your guests' perspectives. Polaroids are also a fun, interactive way to capture additional moments on your wedding day.

I hope this article has shed some light on the issue of cell phone presence at wedding ceremonies and receptions. I understand that we rely heavily on our cell phones in our everyday lives and we often don't think twice about it. Please. Think about the magnitude of your wedding day and how special and sacred it truly is to have found your soulmate. For a truly timeless, intentional experience, full of love and presence, opt to go unplugged for your wedding day. I believe in my heart that you will be able to soak up all of the feelings and emotions more wholly, more joyfully and more deeply.

Intentional, Mindful, Timeless

Wisconsin Dells Wedding Photographer


Whimsical Roots Photography is on fire for documenting love stories in Wisconsin. A wedding photographer based out of Hartford, Wisconsin, Andrea routinely travels to gorgeous wedding venues in Milwaukee, Madison, Appleton, and beyond. Chicago is only a 2 hour drive from her home base, so she happily visits the Windy City to photograph weddings.

The passion Andrea shares with her clients translates to beautiful imagery and an amazing client experience. If you're seeking a fun-loving, spirited wedding photographer, contact Whimsical Roots Photography today. You won't regret it!

Named one of the Best Wedding Photographers in Milwaukee by Peerspace.

Named one of the Best Wisconsin Wedding Photographers by Wedding Pioneer.

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