If you’ve been to a wedding recently, you’ve probably witnessed this scene: The organs swell, the bride starts walking down the aisle…and dozens of smartphone-clutching hands crane to catch perfect snap of the whole thing. With the addictive effect phones have on us—and our the constant need to get the money shot at any and every occasion—it’s become commonplace for guests to experience weddings through their screens instead of their own eyeballs.
To say the least, this behavior has brought about some negative results. Earlier this month, a bride posted a video of her cell-phone-wielding stepmother getting elbowed out of the way by the professional photographer who wanted (and was, like, kind of contractually obligated) to capture the couple’s first kiss. (The bride, it should be noted, was happy with the photographer’s course of action.) So, it’s really no surprise that more and more soon-to-be brides and grooms are opting to have an unplugged wedding.
“It’s a special and magical day for people, and the only way to keep those feelings intact is to make sure that people stay present,” says Jen Glantz, the professional bridesmaid who founded Bridesmaid for Hire. “Couples want their guests to bask in all that they have to offer on that day. That’s why the no-phone policy is trending.” And, to be clear, the policy is trending: A Pinterest rep tells me “Unplugged wedding ceremonies” pins started gaining traction in 2016, have continued to ascend in popularity and spike every summer during peak wedding season for exactly these reasons. Think of it as JOMO, nuptials edition.
But there’s actually more to it than just wanting guests to unplug, says etiquette expert Elaine Swann, founder of the Swann School of Protocol. “People consider themselves photojournalists, and it actually hinders the real photographers from doing their jobs,” she says, throwing shade at the stepmother described above.
“Weddings are expensive, and people go to great lengths to make them special and memorable. Phones ruin that vibe.” —Jen Glantz, professional bridesmaid
There’s also the fact that certain brides and grooms want to be the first to share photographs, and guests taking their own shots and posting to Instagram immediately makes that impossible. Swann adds that some couples simply want quality control over the photos that are disseminated of their big day. (This was likely the case with Princess Eugenie and her new husband, who recently had a phone-free wedding). Because of all of these reasons, it’s good form, she says, to check in with the bride, groom, or a member of the bridal party about the photo-posting protocol.
And if you want to host your own unplugged wedding, Swann suggests sharing the news as far in advance as possible. “Let your bridal party know and ask them to help you spread the word,” she says. “Place a note in the invitation packet, and also have some kind of signage outside of the wedding to let people know.” A wedding coordinator or officiant could also make a quick announcement before the start of the ceremony.
While Swann is a big fan of phone-free weddings, she acquiesces that weddings are first and foremost about the couple of honor, but the enjoyment of guests isn’t to be discounted. “Some people don’t get to go out and dress up all that often, and your guests may want to document their good time,” she says. So consider a compromise. Ask that the ceremony be phone-free, but allow people to document during the reception.
The most important thing for guests to remember, however, is that it’s important to be in the moment during a friend or family members’ wedding. “I think phone-free weddings are the way of the future,” Glantz says. “Weddings are expensive, and people go to great lengths to make them special and memorable. Phones ruin that vibe.”
Another reason to give your phone the night off? Being addicted to it has been linked to effects similar to substance abuse. Thankfully, big tech titans like Google are developing initiatives to help your phone-life balance.
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