Ask Cheryl: Smartphone Etiquette and Unplugged Weddings

As a wedding guest, you’re caught up in the moment — the bride’s dress is striking and the flowers are gorgeous. You immediately want to share the excitement you’re feeling with all of your friends on Facebook. Without thinking, you post a photo of the bride and groom at the moment of their first kiss as husband and wife. Did you realize this might go against the wishes of couple?

Technology is changing the way we experience weddings. With the increasing popularity of devices like smartphones and tablets, more and more guests are snapping pictures, tweeting, posting to Facebook and Instagraming throughout a wedding without pausing to consider whether it’s “good manners.”

The accessibility of smart devices has created a modern day dilemma. Having the capability to capture and document everyday life and special occasions is exciting, and some feel, necessary, but others argue that it’s preventing people from being mentally present.

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Much is being said about unplugged weddings and, the hottest new trend, wedding hash tags.

Unplugged Ceremonies… A new trend is rapidly emerging in wedding etiquette. Many couples, startled with guests’ preoccupation with their smartphones rather than the wedding itself, are now opting for “unplugged weddings” by asking their guests to leave their phones in their pockets or purses, at least during the ceremony.

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Understandably many professional photographers and videographers welcome the idea because of the increased number of guests interfering with their work. They even have a term for it! “Uncle Bob”is the term professional photographers have adopted to describe an overzealous wedding guest who ends up comprising important photos and is, basically, completely in the way.

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Socially Engaged… However, going unplugged might seem like an extreme and unnecessary measure for some brides and grooms, and it seems that there are plenty of couples that happily embrace the idea of an uber-tech wedding.

A fully plugged-in wedding makes great sense for some couples, like the budget conscious and social aficionados. Brides on mini-budgets are swayed by the idea of skipping the professional photographer and relying on their guests’ photos. And social media enthusiasts are excited their friends and family are capturing a different point of view than the photographer.

But some guidelines and decorum should still be followed even when the couple supports the use of smartphones during the ceremony.

  1. Don’t photo bomb the vows. Remember there’s probably a professional photographer somewhere behind you trying to do the job the couple has hired him to do.
  2. Leave the iPad at home. There’s no way you can be inconspicuous with an iPad.
  3. Don’t block the people behind you. If you know you’ll be snapping away, take a seat in the back or the far aisle.
  4. Get permission to post. Make sure the couple has a chance to see and approve all images before you post them.

Almost all couples do welcome the use of cameras during the reception. They welcome seeing the photos their guests have captured. There are now convenient photo gathering apps, which make it easy for the couple to gather the photos of all their guests. Check out and WedPics allows the couple to create a free app they can share via email and Facebook. With this app guests can view the wedding album and upload photos throughout the night (or after the wedding) and can use photo filters and post comments. Guests without smartphones can also upload their photos on the web. This gives the couple access to all the photos taken at the wedding.

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But remember, even if the couple wants you to play amateur photographer, do not post any pictures on social media until the couple has had a chance to do so, or unless the couple has given permission to all the guests.

The decision to have a tech-friendly wedding is obviously a personal one and it will clearly dictate the feel of the ceremony and wedding overall. But think of this the next time you attend a wedding… watching the wedding from behind the lens (or LCD screen) isn’t the same as experiencing it with your own eyes. The bride and groom invited you to be present at the biggest commitment ceremony of their lives. Try to be as present as they’d want you to be.

This is a sensitive topic with many valid points of view. We’d love to know what you think. Would you consider an unplugged wedding or prefer the idea of seeing all the selfies and candid photos your friends amassed?

Do you have questions or comments about gift-giving or wedding etiquette? Please email me at I will personally respond to your questions and may also use them as the subject of a future blog.








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2 Responses to Ask Cheryl: Smartphone Etiquette and Unplugged Weddings

  1. fred perry April 13, 2016 at 3:34 pm #

    Hi, just wanted to say I enjoyed this post. It was funny. Keep on posting!

  2. VincentFHarl December 30, 2016 at 7:36 pm #

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