Should I have an Unplugged Wedding?

The ins-and-outs of plugged vs. unplugged weddings.

Should I Have an Unplugged Wedding?

For clarification, an “unplugged wedding” is a wedding in which the wedding guests refrain from photographing on their own. Rather than pulling out their DSLR, point-and-shoot, or even a cell phone camera when an important moment is about to take place, the wedding guests simply enjoy the moment and rely on the wedding photographer to capture the wedding day.

The phrase “unplugged wedding” has been floating around the wedding world for as long as wedding photographers have been around. Easy access to cameras, however, is prevalent now more than ever, and considering the benefits and detriments of an unplugged wedding is becoming a growing priority. The point of this post is to share my personal view on the rising trend of unplugged weddings, from the perspective of a Tulsa Wedding Photographer. Having photographed a number of weddings both “plugged” and “unplugged”, I’ve seen firsthand the benefits of both. Hopefully at the end of this article, you will have an easy and well-informed decision that suites the style of your wedding day.


To Plug, or Not to Plug?

Plugged Weddings

I lovingly refer to some wedding ceremonies as “snap-happy” ceremonies. A lot of photographers are bothered by guests taking photographs, but I am largely unconcerned as long as the bride and groom are okay with their guests taking photos. When I see guests, especially during the ceremony, taking photos with their DSLR, point-and-shoot, or cell phone cameras, it tells me that the guests have a similar interested in capturing the moment, and the couple is significant enough to them that they want to remember this moment again in the future.


It can be fun looking back on your Instagram and seeing your wedding day through the lens of so many others. As best we do to maintain proper angles and composition, it’s hard to compete with 150 guest for who can get the most unique angles during a wedding ceremony. If you have a cute hashtag, and your couples know how to utilize it, then you can reflect through dozens of Instagram photos during your honeymoon.

“You get a camera! You get a camera! You get a camera!”

We’ve seen several times where the bride and groom will provide simple disposable or Polaroid cameras for their guests to play and photograph with during the reception. I’ve never seen the outcome of the disposable cameras, but I’m sure it could be an interested experience getting those developed. 😅


Unplugged Weddings

Unplugged weddings mean more pressure on your photographer to get the shot, but less pressure for them to find the shot. When we are photographing an unplugged wedding, most of the time, the guests will honor the request of the bride and groom, especially if the officiant makes an announcement prior to the ceremony beginning. Guests will put away their cameras during the ceremony, and live in the moment with you all while the photographers and videographers do what they need to do.


One of the pillars our business is built upon is the notion to archive moments in time. There is a notion of timelessness in everything we do, from the editing style we choose, absolute best quality printing, and the heirloom albums we offer. Though I thoroughly enjoy Instagram, I also recognize that one day it will go the way of AIM, Xanga, and Myspace. It’s amazing and wonderful today, but moments captured within Instagram will one day be forgotten, unlike your wedding album. Generations from now, we want your great-great grandkids to have a glimpse into who you are, and what your wedding day was like. When they are flipping through the pages, how much better would it be to see the faces of people enjoying the day instead of looking down at their phone or standing/kneeling in front of the photographer to get a photograph similar to the professional you hired?

Real Life Concerns

In reality, a lot of the photos captured by the guests never make it on Instagram. Though quite a few do, it’s an important consideration because several of the people taking photos are actually placing their camera in-between the photographers and you. As a result, instead of the image looking elegant and beautiful, it’s loaded with bright screens that draw the attention away from the real focus of the shot. We’ve even had people jump directly in front of us, blocking us from capturing the first kiss. (We were able to get a side shot, and a chest-up photo, but it was no less irritating.)

We’ve also had the a guest’s camera flash fire during the first kiss. This became an issue since the church we were photographing within does not allow flash. When their flash fired, it completely and utterly changed the lighting during that key moment that doesn’t come back. We take a multitude of images from multiple cameras during the first kiss, and 90% of the first kiss shots we captured that day look amazing. The other 10% we had to spend a good deal of time in Photoshop trying our best to recover. Even though they had an unplugged wedding, and the church did not allow flash, a guest still took the image affecting the overall outcome of the wedding imagery they’ll be reflecting on for years to come.


3 Considerations:

1) Why do guests take photos?

A few reasons could be;

  • They want to remember the moment from their perspective
  • Want the photo for their own wedding portfolio some day
  • Feel they would take a better photo than the photographer
  • Don’t know what to do with their hands =)

2) Is my venue setting one that can allow for a plugged wedding?

When assessing whether or not to have an unplugged wedding, consider the layout of your venue. Venues with a single narrow aisle and no outer aisles/ways for the photographer to get a photo from the side offer a larger challenge for photographers and videographers alike to get the shot they need without interference. Venues that are outdoor, have outer aisles, or a raised platform for the couple are easier for us as wedding photographers to get the shot we need even when a plugged wedding is being considered.

3) How is the lighting at the time we’ll be getting married?

Lighting is an important factor when considering plugged vs. unplugged for your wedding day. Certain venues are indoors and relatively dark regardless of the time of day you choose for your ceremony. Others take place out in the open air at 1:00pm where sunlight is all-consuming. The latter are less likely to be affected by guests taking photos. With all other scenarios, it’s typically in the couple’s best interest to have an unplugged wedding.


Bonus: Photographer’s Capability

Unfortunately, we are not able to photograph every wedding out there. We choose to limit the number of photographers we allow to photograph a wedding because we want our clients to have the best experience and imagery possible. That being said, I know first-hand that not all wedding photographers are the same. We speak to couples every year who hire a family member or friend to capture their wedding day. Sometimes they’ll hire a “professional” for a few hundred dollars. When this is the case an unplugged wedding may not be a bad idea. I remember photographing my first unplugged wedding, and I was a little nervous knowing that every moment captured was up to me. (This was also back in the day when we offered one-photographer weddings.) Now I prefer unplugged weddings, though ultimately I feel it should be up to our couple to decide what suits their needs best. On the contrary, if you have a less experienced photographer, you may want to go the other way and allow multiple people to photograph your wedding day.


It is your call. This article is meant to help you and your fiancé make an informed decision of the pros and cons of an unplugged wedding day. I know of photographers who will only photograph the wedding if it is an unplugged wedding, and others to nervous to take one on. At Tabor Warren Photography, we prefer unplugged weddings because it leaves us largely uninhibited when finding the best locations and lighting for your wedding day, however, we also want you to have the option that fits your needs best. After looking through the benefits, detriments, and suggestions for each, I hope your decision is an easy one! As always, if you have any questions for us, or if you want to check availability for your wedding day, simply let me know, and I would love to help!

All my best,

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