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#unplugged: how to uninvite social media from your wedding

In the age of Instagram and filters, it’s safe to say pretty much everyone loves a good happy snap – whether it’s of your #breakfastporn, a bathroom selfie or at your friend’s wedding.
The problem is, not every couple wants their guests to watch their big day through the screen of their smartphones. They want their guests to be present, not on Instagram, so they're making a move that might have social media savants gasping in shock: banning the use of mobile phones and cameras. Some couples are even confiscating requesting guests surrender their phones for the ceremony; some for the whole celebration. Why? The reason depends on the people getting hitched, but could be because they want to be the first to share a shot of their ‘I do’s, or because they don’t want their big day splashed over cyberspace at all. Whatever it is, it’s given rise to a new trend: the unplugged wedding. 

What is an unplugged wedding?

Having an unplugged wedding is simple: it means asking your nearest and dearest to switch off for the day (or evening, or however long you’re kicking up your heels). The aim is to make sure your guests are paying attention to what’s going on – because you’ve been working on [insert what you worked hard on here, be it vows or a first dance] for a looong time – rather than how many likes their most recent upload is getting. Like most wedding trends, it's up to you how far you take your unplugged wedding. You could go for the whole enchilada (or slice of wedding cake) by requesting your guests forgo using their phones or social media for the entire day. That means there'll be no ceremony live-tweeting, regramming shots from the photo booth or Snapchatting your uncle’s (questionable) interpretation of vogue-ing. At the other end of the spectrum, you could simply ask guests not to take pictures during the ceremony and then give them free reign once the formalities are over. 

The pros

Question: what was one of the first things you arranged when you started wedding planning? Other than the venue and dress, we’re willing to bet finding a photographer was high on your to-do list. We’re also pretty confident that you put a lot of time into picking one who was just right – after all, you can’t just put any photos on the wall. So do you really you want iPads and smartphones getting into your photographer’s frames? Making sure their photographer had plenty of room was one of the reasons Elizabeth and her husband chose to have an unplugged wedding. “We wanted to give our photographer the best chance of capturing the perfect photos from our day,” she explains. “The worst thing would be for him to miss a shot by having one of our guests block his view with a selfie stick!”

Elizabeth also admits her decision to ban social media was to make sure her soon-to-be-husband didn’t get a sneak peek at her dress. “I guess the bridezilla in me wanted to limit any unplanned photos going on Facebook! I was afraid someone might accidentally take a photo of me in my dress and share it all over Facebook by tagging me or my husband,” she says. “When you have a husband who is always online, you don’t want to take any risks!” Opting to have an unplugged wedding gives the control of what is/isn’t seen on social media to the bride and groom. There won’t be any surprise shots or unflattering angles, and if the couple do decide they want to share their wedding photos, they will be the first to do so. 

The cons

If the thought of going unplugged on your big day sounds tempting, you have to prepare for the possibility of grumbling guests. Are we saying that this will definitely happen? Not at all, but when you ask a group of your nearest and dearest to switch off for a couple of hours, especially if they’re particularly attached to social media, you might hear some opposition. You also might find that some guests don’t stick to your request and try to sneak in a cheeky snap. If that does happen, our tip is to just remind them that it’s your day and you would love if they could respect your wishes. But don’t fret too much, because at the end of the day you’ve got more important things to worry about – like having fun. Of course, not having guests take their own photos also means you won’t have as big of collection of candid images or shots of any moments you might have missed. We love the idea of putting Polaroid cameras on each table and having your guests use these rather than their smartphones. Your friends and family will still be able to flex their paparazzi muscles, and you’ll have a collection of cute shots as momentos. Have your guests string them up or write on the back of each Polaroid. 

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How to pull it off

Incorporating your unplugged policy is easy, but does take some planning. Make sure you let your guests know your ceremony and/or reception is a no-photo zone in advance. Add a line to your invitations, tell them face-to-face or have your ‘maids spread the word. Some stationery packs already include an unplugged wedding policy, or you can customise a design to suit you. For the big day, there are heaps of pre-designed signs available that politely (but firmly) ask guests to put away phones or cameras, or you can get creative by writing it on a chalkboard. “Don’t be shy to enforce this rule,” recommends Elizabeth. “And make sure you let your wedding photographer know beforehand so they are prepared to take the reins for the day!” Getting your wedding planner (if you have one) and celebrant on board will help too. “Our wedding planner made sure to remind everyone about not taking photos during the ceremony and also made sure no-one posted any snaps on Facebook. An announcement was made several times before the ceremony too,” says Elizabeth.  

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