Encouraging a phone-free zone during your ceremony and reception might allow your friends and family to better witness (and celebrate!) your marriage—without distractions.
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wedding guests sitting in gold chairs aisle decorated with white delphiniums
Credit: Anya Kernes

Turning off electronic devices isn't just a requirement in movie theaters anymore: An increasing number of couples are requesting that guests keep phones and cameras out of sight during "unplugged" ceremonies—and sometimes receptions, too. "Unplugged weddings are becoming the norm for us," says planner Tory Smith of Smith + James. "Almost every bride is requesting this now!"

E Events Co. planner Eileen Lacey agrees: "I see this becoming more and more common, with ceremonies especially, as couples ask their guests to put their phones away and truly be present during the ceremony." Here, Smith and Lacey share their best tips for why and how to make your entire wedding a phone-free zone.

Why Choose an Unplugged Wedding

The most obvious reason to request a tech-free wedding is so your friends and family can witness your marriage without distractions—that is why they're there, after all—and appreciate all the time and planning you put into the details. "Keeping your wedding technology-free can be beneficial because it allows your guests to be more present and engaged in the event," says Smith. "A wedding, especially the ceremony, is a sacred moment. It doesn't need to be covered in cameras from every angle."

But there's another huge drawback to having an audience of friends and family pointing screens at you: "It ruins the photos!" says Smith. A professional photographer's perfectly framed shot of your vows, first kiss, or ring exchange loses more than a little magic when the bride and groom are surrounded by dozens of tiny screens. "They create a distraction and an eyesore," says Lacey.

When and How to Tell Your Guests

Though Smith has worked with couples who announce their camera-free dream day on the wedding website or invitation, you don't have to give so much advance notice: A simple placard at the ceremony and reception entry points or a polite verbal request from your officiant or first speech-maker of the night works just fine. "Guests, for the most part, are very respectful of this," says Lacey. "A great way is to have some signage at the ceremony site asking them to please keep cell phones off and tucked away during the ceremony, and to let guests know that they will share all the professional photos with them so they don't feel they need to try to capture their own."

But if you think you'll get everyone to play along throughout the entirety of your celebration, reception included, you may be disappointed. "You can request that your guests stay off their technological devices, but you cannot force them," says Smith. "We see the majority of guests being respectful to the request but I'm not sure we've had 100 percent success yet—there's always a rogue aunt that can't be held back." 

What to Say to Guests Who Refuse

If more than a few of your guests balk at your request, then a gentle word from your planner or a venue staff member reminding them of the sanctity of a wedding ceremony and the following reception may encourage them to stow their screens.

"I think it is so important for guests to remember—even though they might not be thrilled about the request—to put their cell phone away and refrain from taking their own photos. This is such an incredibly special and important day to their friends or family who are getting married," says Lacey. "It is an honor to be able to be part of the celebration and [they should] honor their wishes."

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