Smartphones at weddings: Are shutterbugs ruining the couple's big day?

It's pretty common to see people pulling out their smartphones and tablets at wedding ceremonies these days. But are the shutterbugs ruining the bride's big day?

'Unplugged weddings' becoming more popular when tying the knot

Some couples are asking their wedding guests to, 'Please unplug for the ceremony.' (Andras Schram Photography)

It's pretty common to see people pulling out their smartphones and tablets at wedding ceremonies these days —​ capturing every moment on camera.  

More and more Calgary photographers and brides are asking guests to unplug. The goal of these so-called "unplugged weddings" is to have all guests turn off their technology during the ceremony.

  • What do you think of unplugged weddings? Is it fair to ask guests to put away their cameras, smartphones and tablets? Let us know in the comment section below.

Mark Shannon, the owner of Mark Eleven Photography in Calgary, says there are several reasons why.

Signs were posted just outside the doors of Anna Vilaysane's wedding ceremony that said, 'There's a guy here taking photos. We asked him to come. So please rest your cameras. Our ceremony only needs one.' (Andras Schram Photography)

One is to keep the coast clear for a professional wedding photographer, who is paid thousands of dollars to capture the day. Shannon says it can be tough to do his job when there's a sea of moving iPhones in his way — and sometimes they can actually ruin a picture.

"The one particular shot where the bride had the best expression and the groom had the best expression happened to have a full person's arm — from elbow to hand — with an iPhone on the end of it right in the middle of her dress, right in the middle of her bouquet," he said, adding he ended up photoshopping the guest out.

Privacy concerns

Another reason is privacy, as not everyone wants to share their wedding day with the world — and their reasons for that can be quite serious.

Because everything is online now,they don't want certain people to see that there was another wedding happening.-  Calgary photographer Andras Schram

"Some people have their second marriages, and they might have had issues in the past with their former partners — you know, one of them were coming from more of an abusive relationship," said Calgary photographer Andras Schram.

"Because everything is online now, they don't want certain people to see that there was another wedding happening, there was another marriage, there was happiness happening again in their lives." 

When that's the situation, Schram says the bride and groom will ask the officiant to step in and make an announcement before the ceremony.

But it can also be distracting for the bride, many of whom say they want their guests to be really "present" during the ceremony.

'She wasn't mortified'

"She was so into wanting to capture the bride that she didn't even realize she had knocked over a glass vase with a  whole bunch glass pebbles in it — and it literally just flew into the aisle everywhere," said Anna Vilaysane about one Calgary wedding she attended.

Anna Vilaysane made a flag for her three-year-old ring bearer to walk down the aisle. It asked all the guests to power down their cameras for the ceremony. (Andras Schram Photography)

"She just kept snapping pictures. She didn't even bother to try and clean it up. She wasn't mortified. She just kept going and snapping pictures and I thought, 'Oh my goodness.'"

Vilaysan said that's when she knew she wanted her own wedding to be unplugged, and worked hard to make that happen when she tied the knot this past August.

Signs were posted just outside the doors of where her wedding ceremony was held that said, "There's a guy here taking photos. We asked him to come. So please rest your cameras. Our ceremony only needs one."

And just to make sure everyone got the memo, because Vilaysane had guests who didn't read English, she made a flag for her three-year-old ring bearer. He carried it down the aisle just before her grand entrance. 

Not all guests looking to unplug

The flag said "Please unplug for the ceremony" with a camera crossed out. 

Vilaysane says it definitely cut down on the amount of bodies and arms leaning into the aisle, but it didn't stop one guest from filming the entire ceremony.

Wedding guests spend a lot of money to be there.- Calgary wedding planner​ Lynn Fletcher

"We had actually received a video maybe a week after our wedding of a guest who had taken a video of our entire ceremony and had his camera on one of our stands, like our centre pieces," said Vilaysane.

"I thought it was funny. But we also could see a guest across the aisle had his camera out and he was itching to use it."

So not all guests are thrilled about being told not to use their cameras.

"Wedding guests spend a lot of money to be there. They spend money on gifts, travel, accommodations. They want to celebrate in their own way," said Calgary wedding planner​ Lynn Fletcher. 

Others welcome technology, hashtags

"And for many people, celebrating in their own way is by taking pictures and sharing it online. That's how people communicate now-a-days. So to prevent people from actually communicating the way they want to when they're excited is, I don't know if harsh is the word, but it's a little bit contrived in the fact that they actually have to wait to see those photos. A lot of people don't want to have to wait."

She doesn't think it's completely fair to ban guests from taking photos. She believes the bride and groom should embrace technology.

She advises letting wedding guests take as many photos as they want and get them to post on Twitter and Instragram with the bride and groom's wedding hashtag.

Fletcher says the wedding photographer can't be everywhere all the time, and often it's the guests who capture some of the most magical moments.