Unplugged ceremonies trending as social media sharing growsWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
When Jessica Letson walks down the aisle in May, she wants to focus on her groom and the joyful faces of their friends and relatives — not a sea of camera lenses and cellphones.
Letson and her fiance, Matt Hosley, both 29, of Toledo are planning an “unplugged” ceremony at Blessed Sacrament Church.
“We decided we wanted everybody to be there with us, not busy on their cellphones and not being in the way of the camera men when they are getting the shots,” Letson said. “I’ve requested the priest to say something before the ceremony along the lines of ‘Jessica and
Matt want you to be here with them instead of behind your camera’ and ask them nicely to put it away.”
Letson said the response from guests has mainly been confusion. Although she isn’t planning to actually collect phones or cameras, she hopes attendees will respect the couple’s wishes.
“I’ve had, ‘Well, what if we take the flash off?’” Letson said. “I don’t mind if they don’t have the flash on, but I’d rather them not have it altogether.”
The couple, who are high school sweethearts, first heard of unplugged weddings through their photographers at Love is Greater Photography.
“I’ve seen some of the stuff that’s been posted where someone’s flash ruined the first kiss or ruined walking down the aisle with their dad and those are all moments I want to catch on camera and not have someone — even with the best of intentions — ruin a shot,” Letson said. “We’ve been together for 15 years, so we definitely wanted this day to be something we remember looking back on pictures.”
The trend of unplugged ceremonies has many area wedding photographers rejoicing.
“Our culture is so obsessed with capturing every single moment through a device that we aren’t experiencing these moments firsthand,” Mary Wyar of Mary Wyar Photography wrote in an email. “I find it so sad, because experiencing a wedding without having a phone or camera distracting you is much more emotional and special.”
Wyar said the increase in guest photography has forced her to change the way she photographs weddings.
“It has become such a normal occurrence to have arms extended to the middle of the aisle, blocking the bride’s processional that I have had to change the way I photograph this portion of the ceremony to avoid having the bride’s face blocked by these devices,” Wyar said. “The angle of choice, down lower, isn’t as flattering but beats totally losing that photograph.
“The absolute worst incident I have encountered was a guest stepping directly in front of the groom during the bride’s processional, where he did not even see his bride walk down the aisle. … Luckily, all of my couples do a first look three hours prior to the ceremony so the groom wasn’t seeing his bride for the first time. Nonetheless, this is still an emotional moment and he didn’t get to experience it.”
Wyar was one of several local photographers who said a recent blog post by North Canton-based wedding photographer Corey Ann Balazowich of Corey Ann Photography resonated with them.
Balazowich’s post, titled “Why You Should Have an Unplugged Wedding,” garnered hundreds of shares and a lot of attention, including an interview with The New York Times.
In her post, Balazowich shared numerous wedding photos inadvertently ruined by a guest stepping in front of a couple’s first kiss, a couple washed out by or in shadows thrown by a guest’s camera flash or a red focusing dot on a bride’s dress from a guest camera.
Flashes can also cause the wedding party to blink in the pro photos, added Julie Paszczykowski of JP Photography. And guests trying to take photos during formal portraits cause wandering eyes, as subjects aren’t sure which camera to look at.
In her post, Balazowich also noted another potential downside of guest photography.
“I can’t tell you how many ‘first looks’ have inadvertently happened online before the wedding because a bridesmaid or groomsman has uploaded pictures to social media before the wedding and a bride and/or groom who were killing time by browsing Facebook saw their future intended before the ceremony,” Balazowich said.
Other couples opt for “plugged-in” weddings, encouraging guests to take and share photos to social media sites under a personalized hashtag.
Proponents, like Jessica Myers of Genoa, say it preserves moments or alternate angles that would otherwise never be seen.
“I printed the pictures from Facebook that people took and shared or that people sent to my phone, which I loved,” said Myers, who married her husband, Jason, on Feb. 15.
The couple asked guests to take photos and post them to Instagram using the hashtag #jnjmyerswedding. Although signs were posted at their ceremony and reception sites, Jessica said they didn’t get much participation from guests.
“Not many people seemed to know about Instagram,” Jessica said. “A lot of guests asked what it was. They said they would download the app and pictures, but no one really did. I should have maybe added something in my invite telling more about it. I’m sure I would have gotten a better turnout with pictures.”
Even so, Jessica said she’s happy with her choice.
“I am happy I did it because I can add all my pictures myself to it,” Jessica said.
Ashley Klein of West Coast-based wedding planner TinLey Affair Instagrammed a friend’s wedding in her hometown of Columbus in February.
“I started taking shots of everything and hashtagging #WinteringWedding,” Klein wrote in a blog post. “Then at the reception, other guests started hashtagging too! Just by word of mouth, my hashtag grew! I am so excited for Meghan to see a timeline in pictures from her guests behind the scenes. I’m thinking this Instagram gift book would make the perfect newlywed gift.”
Balazowich and Paszczykowski stressed they are not opposed to guest photos.
“I certainly and wholeheartedly believe a bride and groom should have as many beautiful images of their wedding day as possible,” Paszczykowski said. “I don’t mind at all when guests are taking photos with the bride and groom as they are mingling or at the reception, but please, please, please put your cameras down for the processional and also allow the professional photographers to capture the family and bridal party formals without interruptions, onlookers and 50 ‘camera heads’ behind me as I like to call them. Enjoy the entire process. Rejoice in their celebration with them. Relax! We got this!”