If you’re a soon to be bride, you’ve likely thought about that very special moment when you walk down the aisle, perhaps with just your dad, or with both parents, and see all your loved ones smiling back at you, filling your heart with warmth and feeling them all with you as you walk towards your groom. Now imagine stepping into the aisle, looking out among your guests and most of what you see are people looking at their cameras, phones or iPads (yes, we’ve witnessed that), but not meeting your gaze. Of course you know they love you and that they’re probably just excited to get a photo of the beautiful bride, but perhaps a part of you wishes they were smiling with you, not at you or at their cameras.
We live in an age where we’re constantly documenting our lives and of those around us. It’s just a part of the culture now. So it comes as no surprise then you’re unlikely to name a time in recent history when no one pulled out their smart phone during a wedding you were attending. Exactly. Pretty much no one.
Certainly, the presence of mass camera phones can inhibit your photographer’s ability to create great images for you–the images for which you’re paying. But there’s more to it than just that. Here are three reasons why you should put away your cameras if your a guest, at least for the ceremony, and if you’re the couple marrying, asking your guests to do so:
- If you’re holding a camera in between you and your subject, there’s an explicit barrier between you. Take it from us–we take hundreds of thousands of photos every year. That barrier can inhibit you from fully being present in what is happening around you, because you’re dividing your attention between the subject and taking the picture. Capturing a moment, when done well, takes a lot of concentration. We never “hear” all of the ceremony because of this and believe me, we wish we could. If you’re a guest, you’re simply not being present in mind or heart for the couple who honored you by asking you to be a part of their vows.
- The couple, as they’re newly married, have turned around and are coming back in celebration to share in their excitement with you! How would you feel if you were the couple and turned around to see dozens of smart phones hiding the faces of those you love?
- If you like the thought of control over what gets posted on social media, then you’ll definitely want to keep it on the down low. This really isn’t a race to see who among the guest list can post a picture of their friends kissing at the altar fastest. Some couples, because of family concerns or office politics, haven’t invited some people, and having pictures of their wedding all over Facebook can often put them in an awkward situation.
So if you’re a couple getting married and want your guests to be present with you, what to do? Here’s one idea that works well and is humorous, followed by another idea for the very end of a ceremony. At the very beginning of the ceremony, perhaps even before the processional music has begun, have your officiant announce the following (substituting your names of course):
Welcome, friends and family! Good evening everyone. Please be seated. Anne and Bill invite you to be truly present at this special time. Please, turn off your cell phones and put down your cameras. The professional photographers will capture how this moment looks. I encourage you all to capture how it feels with your hearts, without the distraction of technology. And if Bill can do it, then so can you.
Consider posting that in your ceremony program as well so your guests can read it, even if they miss your officiant’s announcement.
Without it? See what happens:
Emily walks down the aisle with her dad. Think for a second their phone-toting guests are really watching this moment unfold or are they simply trying to find a focus point?
There are at least six people on the aisle taking pictures at this moment–the bride and groom’s first kiss!–plus one guy looking down to see if he got the shot. #fail
Emily and Scott recess to view a vast ocean of smart phones. Think that was on their registry?
This person is two-fisting their cameras, apparently missing the fact the photographer whom Liz & Scott just hired for a few grand is capturing the scene right behind them.
Lauren & Erik’s first kiss was the most well-documented event on Pennsylvania Avenue as of 6:27pm that day.
On the other hand, notice the guest below getting the big high five. Think he had a camera in his hand? Unlikely. Note the smiling and delighted faces on Lauren & Erik. Do you think for a second they would rather see a sea of camera phones pointed at them than the bright and happy faces of those they love enough to invite to witness this? Exactly. They wouldn’t. And you wouldn’t either.
If your friends have “Itchy Camera Hand Syndrome”, you can always do what Ashleigh & Evan did…have your guests throw stuff at you when you walk back down the aisle. It’s hard to take a picture when your hands are full of rose petals. Besides, no one wants to risk throwing their phone at you, so they’ll keep it in their pocket. Much more fun for the couple and much safer.
After the ceremony, let your guests get all the photos they want (though it would still be nice if they didn’t post and tag you in a bunch of photos you don’t really care for, all before your cake cutting). Your photographer(s) certainly can’t be everywhere and who knows what fun shots they might capture of your dad getting his groove on on the dance floor.
These are just a few reasons we feel cameras should be put away during the ceremony, even when it’s not in a church. We’d love to hear what you think about them. Have you found other “sweet” ways to encourage this of your guests?
Best of luck! We hope you have a wedding ceremony full of the attention of those you love.
Anne & Bill Holland are principal photographers at Holland Photo Arts. They are big fans of wedding cake.