Dear Future Charleston Brides and Grooms,
One of my biggest pet peeves as a wedding officiant is seeing your wedding guests taking (likely fuzzy) pictures with their cell phones during your wedding ceremony. You, as the couple, hired a professional photographer to document your special day. The last thing you want is to have an iPhone, or a tablet (yes, I've seen this), in your beautiful professional wedding photos.
So, how do you REDUCE the chance of a guest pulling out a phone during your ceremony? Here are my tips of what works, and what doesn't...
What Works to achieve an Unplugged Wedding Ceremony
Ask your wedding officiant to make an announcement before the ceremony begins! This seems simple, and it is!
From my experience as a Charleston wedding officiant, this has the best success rate of reducing phones during the ceremony. After officiating my first couple weddings, I quickly learned the importance of the "Welcome Statement". Before the bridal party procession, ask your wedding officiant to welcome your guests. There are a couple benefits to this...
First, it stops the chatter, and let's your guests know that the ceremony is about to begin. Otherwise, the first person in your bridal party who travels down the aisle is the indicator that the ceremony has begun. You might be thinking, isn't the music the cue that the ceremony is starting?? Not necessarily... The DJ will be playing light pre-ceremony music while your guests are being seated. Your guests don't know the song you have chosen to start your bridal party procession. So, a song change isn't quite enough to quiet your wedding guests. Depending on how rowdy the group is, it can take a couple seconds for the chatter to die down.
Thank your guests for not only attending your wedding, but also for getting you, as the couple, to this point! Your friends and family have no doubt provided words of encouragement, advice and support throughout your relationship. Acknowledging this, and starting the ceremony by thanking them for being with you on your big day is a great way to kick off the ceremony!
Have your wedding officiant ask the wedding guests to tuck away their phones for the duration of the ceremony. I get it, you invested money in a sign that asks for everyone to be "unplugged" for the day. Maybe you have an announcement on your Knot page that requests no cell phones during the ceremony. But, surprise! Aunt Sally didn't read it, or she forgot.
When I officiate a wedding, the last thing I say during the "Welcome Statement" is "please tuck away your phones for the duration of the ceremony. Thank you, now let's begin". At that point, I have the undivided attention of all your wedding guests. In my experience as a wedding officiant, this is the best chance to achieve an unplugged ceremony. Then, the bridal party procession begins.
Note: If you have a guest take out a cell phone (or God forbid, a tablet) during the ceremony, I'm not going to stop the ceremony and scold them. I'm not THAT crazy.
What DOESN'T Work
Unplugged Wedding Ceremony Signs - Many couples display signs that request cell phones to be shut off and away during the duration of the ceremony. In my opinion, this rarely works. In one ear, and out the other.
Wedding Website - Some couples have a note on their wedding website (The Knot, Zola, etc.) for the wedding ceremony to be an unplugged experience. This cost nothing, and takes two seconds to add to your wedding website, but it also does absolutely nothing to deter people from pulling out their phones on the day of your ceremony. Do it, don't do it, it's a net zero outcome.
Wedding Ceremony Programs - Many couples have gotten away from having programs. In Charleston, it's actually great if your wedding ceremony program doubles as a hand held fan for your guests. Chances are, it's gonna be a little hot during your wedding ceremony. If you do invest the money in Wedding Ceremony Programs, feel free to add a little note to remain "unplugged" during the ceremony. But don't necessarily expect it to be effective.
I will say, it is interesting who pulls out a phone to take a picture during the ceremony. You might think the younger generation needs that Instagram story or picture. It's never someone under the age of 40. That photo taken by the guest during the ceremony will 100% end up on Facebook. I'll leave you to assume who is taking that photo. If you know your aunt is likely to take out her phone during the ceremony... enlist your cousin to be her personal phone police. Get creative.
If I am officiating your wedding ceremony, this is what you can expect to help deter your wedding guests from taking their own photos during the ceremony. I would love to hear your ideas!
Signed, A Charleston Wedding Officiant