It's no secret we live in a time when most people can’t be away from their smart phones for long—even if it’s to see their nearest and dearest get married. But many couples are setting precedence on their big day by having an “unplugged” wedding, requesting that guests put their gadgets away during the most important parts of the event.
Veronica and Paul Kostoulakos of Toms River is one such couple (see their wedding on page 190). When guests walked into their April 2013 affair, they were greeted by a sign asking them to please turn off their cell phones and cameras during the ceremony.
“We really wanted to look at pictures and see the faces of our guests,” Veronica says. “We wanted to see their expressions when we were getting married—not their faces hidden behind a camera or an iPhone.”
For professional photographers like Jeff Tisman, based in Princeton, this concept is long overdue. “Not only does a shot of guests holding up their phones or cameras as the bride walks down the aisle look horrible, but I’ve also had people step in front of me and block an important shot, like when the couple is having their first kiss or dance,” he says. “They’re usually so consumed with getting their photo they don’t even realize they’re interfering with my pictures!”
Laura Stiles, a photographer in Hillsdale, agrees. “Most professionals are fine if Uncle Bob wants to get in the way to snap one photo, but when it’s a crowd of people standing up to get a shot, that’s a problem—especially when there’s often just one chance to capture a special moment.”
And while a pro has expensive equipment that can take a beautiful shot in any atmosphere, there’s not much to do with a smartphone pic besides post it on social media—which is another problem for a couple. “A bride is often seen before she even sets foot down the aisle, with guests posting images on Facebook and Instagram,” says Melissa Loiacono, vice president and lead event designer at Jenny Orsini Events in Berkeley Heights. “Many grooms have accidentally seen the bride before they were supposed to because a bridesmaid or family member posted a picture, not thinking about who may see it.”
It was Loiacono’s idea to unplug the Kostoulakos wedding—and not just as a way to control where and when the images were being posted. Instead, it was to ensure that every guest was truly in the moment while watching the couple swap their vows. “Stripping guests of their ‘need’ to document that moment—when you’ve paid a professional to execute their talent to do the same (with a much better result!)—allows guests to remember why they are there,” she says. “It’s to witness and share in the joy of two becoming one, not post every moment you’ve captured on your iPhone on Instagram while the ceremony is still happening!”
So what’s the secret to getting guests to comply with a couple’s wish to unplug? Loiacono cautions to be realistic about your expectations. “People are attached to their devices and it’s a very daunting task to ask every guest to unplug for upwards of five hours, when they have a hard time doing so for 10 minutes. But asking them to refrain from using their phones or cameras during the ceremony is not, and should not, be an insult, as it’s the most reverent and important part of the entire day.”
Aside from the sign at the entrance of the ceremony site, the request to unplug was also mentioned in the Kostoulakos’s program. “We made sure everything was very respectful and clear and concise,” Veronica says. “And now that my wedding is over, I have all these gorgeous pictures of my ceremony from my photographer where you can see all the expressions and faces and happy tears of my guests. Plus no cell phones went off during the vows!”