Blog

Oct22

Dear DJ AJ9: Should I Have an Unplugged Wedding? (Part 1)

Printable Template by OffBeat Bride.

Printable Unplugged Wedding sign template by OffBeat Bride. Click this image to check out how other brides and grooms have made their wishes known on our Pinterest Board – Unplugged Weddings.

 

The advent of digital photography has certainly made cameras cheaper, higher quality, easier-to-use, and just plan more available than they once were.  Even just 10 years ago, we would never have expected most (or all) of the guests at a wedding to have a camera (or more than one camera) in their possession.  Plenty of folks have tried to leverage this camera-overabundance to their favor, using sharing software to effectively crowdsource their wedding photos, but even with all our technology, there’s no denying the fact that a professional photographer’s work using that technology still stands out as dramatically better in quality and composition.

So — how do we meet somewhere in the middle — address the new abundance of photo devices but still manage to get our awesome pro photos?  Hosting an “Unplugged” wedding is one method, and it’s a method that’s becoming very popular very quickly.

As a Master of Ceremonies and Disc Jockey, you might be wondering how this would effect me, at all, and we’ll talk about that just a bit later, but SO many of my brides and grooms have had SO many questions about this idea, this season.  Here are a few of them:

Should you host one, yourself?  How will this benefit you?  Will it “work?”

How do you tell everyone?  Is it “rude?”

These aren’t ALL questions I can answer for you, myself, but I can definitely provide you with some wedding industry insider information that will help you decide what’s best for YOUR friends and family at your celebration.  And — if you’re wondering about etiquette — stay tuned!  I’ll be discussing Unplugged Weddings with some etiquette experts in my next edition of “Dear DJ AJ9.”

My, oh, my — unplugged weddings are attracting a lot of attention, this season!  And for very good reason, indeed!  After all, who wants to remember their special moments with photos like this?  SO MANY CAMERAS.

A guest using an iPad is a huge distraction for such a great moment.  Photo by Edric Morales, EM Event Photography.

A guest using an iPad is a huge distraction for such a great moment. Photo by Edric Morales, EM Event Photography.

Or this?  Oh, my!  This is what a guest’s flash looks like from a pro camera that was set to capture photos in natural light.

"I...rarely, if ever, use flash for the ceremony so the light you see here is ALL from the one camera’s flash," says photographer Corey Doyle Balazowich of CoreyAnn Photography.

“I…rarely, if ever, use flash for the ceremony so the light you see here is ALL from the one camera’s flash,” says photographer Corey Doyle Balazowich of Corey Ann Photography.

A local case in point: Corey Ann Balazowich.  Corey photographs weddings in Northeast Ohio and beyond through Corey Ann Photography, and she recently published a blog on the topic that attracted about 150,000 views in just two weeks. A typical blog post of hers, she told us, nets 100 to 200 views.  Since that very popular article was published, Corey has also been interviewed for or mentioned in articles on Unplugged Weddings in the New York Times, The Huffington Post, Glamour, and CNN.

Unplugged weddings can take many forms, from asking guests to surrender electronic devices at the door to a subtle sign requesting guests’ attention and “full presence,” but most tend to fall somewhere in the middle with brides and grooms asking their guests to keep their iPads, smart phones, and cameras down, or at least out of the way of their professionals’ shots, during their special events.

"This girl’s father literally shoved me aside and gave me grief because I was blocking his daughter from standing in the aisle to get an image.  This sanctuary only had one aisle and very little room to move due to a small space being full with guests... Also?  The Nintendo DS made the LOUDEST noises when it took pictures.  It was crazy," says Corey Doyle Balazowich of CoreyAnn Photography

“This girl’s father literally shoved me aside and gave me grief because I was blocking his daughter from standing in the aisle to get an image. This sanctuary only had one aisle and very little room to move due to a small space being full with guests… Also? The Nintendo DS made the LOUDEST noises when it took pictures. It was crazy,” says Corey Doyle Balazowich of Corey Ann Photography

Over the years, Corey has amassed quite a few images that “plugged-in” mishaps have inadvertently ruined by stepping in front of The Kiss, the aisle, the first dance, and more.  Certainly, all of the examples of times when a wedding photographer or videographer couldn’t get an important shot because of one of these photo-etiquette faux pas have driven the interest in unplugged weddings.

Most of the time, even the guests who end up in the middle of an important shot don’t realize what they’re doing — literally getting in the way of a professional the bride and groom hand-picked and hired to capture their day. But, there are also some guests who continue to seem unaware of the importance of the professional photographer, or — worse — actively seem to compete with the professionals, Corey told us.

"This whole situation literally broke my heart.  In many churches, photographers are HEAVILY restricted as to where they can go for images and the Heinz Chapel is perhaps one of the strictest I’ve ever worked at.  We are only allowed to be outside of the sanctuary in the door opening where the center aisle is and in the balcony.  We are not permitted to move during the service.  My second shooter thankfully was in the balcony but it didn’t make these guests go away but luckily he was able to get images of the service where you could SEE the bride and groom.  I argued, begged and pleaded for the church lady guarding me to at least allow me to go into the side aisle so I could get a clear shot of my clients when these guests jumped into the aisle but I was not allowed.  Instead I just had to take what I could get and cry a bit on the inside," said Corey Doyle Balazowich of CoreyAnn Photography

“This whole situation literally broke my heart. In many churches, photographers are HEAVILY restricted as to where they can go for images and the Heinz Chapel is perhaps one of the strictest I’ve ever worked at. We are only allowed to be outside of the sanctuary in the door opening where the center aisle is and in the balcony. We are not permitted to move during the service,” said Corey Doyle Balazowich of Corey Ann Photography

Unfortunately — the people who suffer most from this lack of awareness or competitive attitude are the couple!  “You’re not doing anything but messing up what the bride and groom are getting,” Corey said.

But, perhaps more compelling to me — an entertainer — is another force driving the interest in unplugged weddings: the desire to have people be present, to have them actually watch, not film or photograph, moments they’ve waited to see.  To see with their eyes instead of their smartphones and preserve in their hearts instead of in image form — the professional photos have so much more meaning as a reminder of a memory that a friend or family member formed at the event while they were watching without the distraction of a digital device.

“A bride last year said, ‘We want you present in person and in the mind,’” Corey remembered. “‘You should be paying attention. You shouldn’t be on Facebook. You shouldn’t be on your iPhone.’”

A great moment -- the bride and groom walking down the aisle -- is ruined by guest flash.  Photo by Edric Morales, EM Event Photography

A great moment — the bride and groom walking down the aisle — is ruined by guest flash. Photo by Edric Morales, EM Event Photography

Edric Morales, who owns EM Event Photography out of Cleveland, has watched the trend build since roughly 2007: people, now armed with their own devices, leaving their seats, standing in the middle of an aisle, getting in the way of his capturing mothers lighting unity candles and more.

He appreciates others’ appreciation for photography. Everyone, he told us, has the right to capture memories. But still… it can be distracting, and he has a job to do.

“My only concern is when [guests] go crazy with it — getting in the middle of the aisle when the bride’s walking down,” he said. “I don’t care if you take photographs. Snap away as much as you want, but be aware of the professional photographer.”

a guest steps out into the aisle -- and into a shot that should be all about the couple.  Photo by Edric Morales, EM Event Photography.

A guest steps out into the aisle — and into a shot that should be all about the couple. Photo by Edric Morales, EM Event Photography.

Of course, not every bride and groom wants a completely unplugged wedding, or will ask for one. So we asked Corey and Edric for some etiquette tips for those attending weddings with their smart phones and other gadgets in tow.  Here’s what they said:

  1. 1.) Stay in your seat. Don’t lean out into the aisle. Don’t get up and run around. Snap a picture of what you really wanted, then put the phone or camera down and be in the moment. Spend most of your time looking at the bride and groom, not the back of your gadget. The couple has spent a great deal of effort to look their best, to build the wedding of their dreams. Soak it all in.

    Rule #1 for guests: stay out of the aisle.  Photo by Edric Morales, EM Event Photography

    Rule #1 for guests: stay out of the aisle. Photo by Edric Morales, EM Event Photography

  2. 2.) Keep the flash off. That’s often the house rule with churches, but even if the ceremony won’t take place in a church, your flash can impact negatively the shots a couple’s professional is snapping.

 

"It doesn’t matter what kind of camera – how big or how small – the flash is almost always too bright to work with once it is fired," says Corey Doyle Balazowich of CoreyAnn Photography

“It doesn’t matter what kind of camera – how big or how small – the flash is almost always too bright to work with once it is fired,” says Corey Doyle Balazowich of Corey Ann Photography

 

  1. 3.) Let the pro handle the formal portraits.  During portraits, fight the tendency to get your camera out and direct right alongside the pro. Let the pro do what s/he is there to do, and put away your camera. It helps to avoid those times when 20 eyes are looking 20 different ways.

 

"I really cringe when guests try to take pictures during formals because not only am I generally under a time crunch but the flashes ruin at least one or two shots for each batch I take.  Eyes also tend to wander and rarely do I get everyone looking at me at the same time when there are multiple cameras present.  This is the only time that I will sometimes tell guests that they have to stop taking pictures and I have been told off more times than not when I’ve had to do this." says Corey Doyle Balazowich of CoreyAnn Photography..

“I really cringe when guests try to take pictures during formals because not only am I generally under a time crunch but the flashes ruin at least one or two shots for each batch I take. Eyes also tend to wander and rarely do I get everyone looking at me at the same time when there are multiple cameras present. This is the only time that I will sometimes tell guests that they have to stop taking pictures and I have been told off more times than not when I’ve had to do this.” says Corey Doyle Balazowich of Corey Ann Photography.

 

  1. 4.) Don’t follow the photographer around. Go to the wedding and reception, enjoy the wonderful evening the couple has planned for you, and trust the professional to capture pictures you will all want, later.

 

  1. Guests seated in the two front (VIP) rows of the ceremony focus on their gear instead of enjoying the ceremony.  Photo by Edric Morales, EM Event Photography.

    Guests seated in the two front (VIP) rows of the ceremony focus on their gear instead of enjoying the ceremony. Photo by Edric Morales, EM Event Photography.

 

  1. 5.) During the reception’s main events, be aware of and respectful of where the photographer is. Remember: this is the person the couple chose and hired to take the pictures of these events. Make sure you’re not getting in the way.

 

The special dances.

The reception generally is a time when I can quickly move if a guest decides to take pictures but when I can’t move around it? The special dances,” said Corey Doyle Balazowich of Corey Ann Photography

 

  1. 6.) Do not post pictures of the bride before the ceremony publicly!!!!! The groom might see them online!!!!!

 

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What do YOU think?

Brides and Grooms:  Did you host an Unplugged Wedding or are you planning to host an Unplugged Wedding?  What are some tips you could offer other Brides and Grooms who are thinking of hosting an Unplugged Wedding?

Wedding Guests: would you be willing to give up or power down your camera or smartphone for part of the evening in order to ensure better professional photos for your friend or family member?

Wedding Photographers: did we miss anything?  What other special considerations should couples make who are making the decision to plug or unplug?

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