No photos, please?
June 9, 2013 8:35 AM   Subscribe

Is it okay to ask guests not to take photos during our wedding ceremony?

Mr. just_ducky and I are thinking of having an "unplugged" wedding ceremony, but I am unsure of whether that would be a bit draconian. We would allow photos while I walk down the aisle and up until the ceremony starts, and then again after we have exchanged vows. We attended a wedding like this last year, and it was nice to not look through a sea of phones and cameras in the audience.

As a guest, would you be put out if you were requested to not take photos and to turn your phones off during a wedding ceremony? How should we make the request without sounding heavy-handed?

We will very much welcome enthusiastic photo-taking for the reception and the rest of the day.
posted by just_ducky to Human Relations (29 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
It's fine. Do it. Personally, I would be relieved, I don't see it as draconian at all. On the other hand, you don't need our permission.
posted by bleep at 8:38 AM on June 9, 2013 [8 favorites]

When I have seen this done, it has been written in the program and the officiant says something to the guests before the couple arrives.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:40 AM on June 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think this is a fabulous idea, but would recommend that you simplify, and ask for no photos during the entire ceremony - folks are unlikely to remember to put their phones/cameras away once you've arrived at the altar, and it would be awkward to have a movie-theater-style "please silence your phones now" moment. I think this relevant link was the focus of an FPP not too long ago.
posted by amelioration at 8:40 AM on June 9, 2013 [13 favorites]

I think this is a good idea. I've been to a couple weddings where we were asked not to take photographs and did not find the request offensive or officious.

I would suggest a note in the program and that the officiant convey your request before all the processing starts.
posted by Area Man at 8:41 AM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've been to a wedding like this and it was nice. I think the couple said something about the fact that they had a photographer and official photographs of the ceremony would be available to anyone else who wanted them. We took a ton of photos before and after so I didn't feel like I didn't have anything to remember the event by. I think people can understand this feeling and will usuallly be okay with it.
posted by jessamyn at 8:43 AM on June 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Some religions view a wedding as a religious ceremony more than as a legal matter and will tell people no photos during the ceremony. Still others have told people before hand and had the officiant remind those in attendance to not take photos. It's even more obnoxious seeing a sea of iPads.
posted by Brian Puccio at 8:44 AM on June 9, 2013

I agree, I think it's a nice idea and not at all draconian. I have been a guest at many weddings and wouldn't mind complying (usually just try to enjoy the ceremony anyway).
posted by sweetkid at 8:45 AM on June 9, 2013

That is a neat idea! The smaller your wedding the easier this will be. I can see this happening with a small, intimate wedding where all of the guests received a personal invitation and possibly a phone call from the couple.

But a wedding with 250-300 including your great aunt Petunia who's been waiting for this day all her life, plus all of your cousin's spouses who don't know anything about the wedding other than the fact that your cousin told them to come to a wedding at Date:Time? Much harder to pull off.
posted by deanc at 8:45 AM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes, I have been to a few religious ceremonies with this request so it is not out of the norm. However, I would recommend you have professional photographs taken with a long lense (to be discrete and unobtrusive) and make digital copies of those photos available. Let the guests know beforehand you a re making the photos available and their cameras won't be personally necessary.
posted by saucysault at 8:46 AM on June 9, 2013

The FPP that amelioration mentions is here. Good comments in the thread. I thought this comment offered a particularly tasteful way to encourage guests to put their cameras away.
posted by painquale at 8:50 AM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am not a professional officiant, but I did officiate once as a favor to a friend. When I did, the bride and groom asked me to make an unplugged wedding announcement. I don't know exactly what it was I said, since it was off the cuff, but here's an outline:

Since I study tea ceremony, I talked about the idea of ichi-go ichi-e (one time one meeting): the idea that this moment with these people will never happen again, and that that the moment should be experienced, because the feeling of looking at pictures you can have over and over again, but the feeling of being in this moment cannot ever be recaptured. I mentioned the professional photographers and that we could trust these experts to do their job, and then I asked them to put away their cameras and turn off their cellphones and invited them to share the experience of the moment with the bride and groom.

This announcement went over really well, I got quite a few compliments, and we had no problems with cameras or cellphones during the ceremony.
posted by yeolcoatl at 9:32 AM on June 9, 2013 [151 favorites]

I think everyone here has nailed it, but would suggest for the sake of all the "Aunt Petunias" that want pictures, you give them an opportunity to make up for that.

So maybe make the announcement along the lines of, "The wedding couple, approaching this moment with both joyful anticipation and appropriate reverence for the commitment they are making to one another, have asked that pictures not be taken during the ceremony. We ask that you please turn off your phones for now, and keep those cameras ready for the reception party following the ceremony, where anything goes!"
posted by misha at 10:07 AM on June 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Just wanted to chime in to say it's a perfectly reasonable request. I think it will help the guests focus on the ceremony, and they can enjoy the professional photographers' work afterwards.
posted by dovesandstones at 10:08 AM on June 9, 2013

Ditto the suggestion that you forbid any photographing whatsoever by anyone (except your official wedding photographer, of course!) at any time during the ceremony, including while you're walking up and back down the aisle.

The problem two-fold: first is that there will, as there always are, people who think they're special cases, and the embargo doesn't apply to them; second is that once you allow any photographs, there will be plenty of people who sort of inch over the lines a little here, a little there.... "I'll just take a couple quick shots of them at the altar, since I already have my cellphone/camera out, they won't mind!"

Forbidding all photographs will be easier than dealing with the special snowflakes who think the rules don't include them.

As for how to announce it: perhaps add a line to the wedding announcements, plus a polite sign posted at the church doors, plus have your offciant announce it from the pulpit, plus have the ushers watch for & stop the ones who whip out their cameras anyway..... all of which may sound like overkill, but believe me: there will still be those who try taking pictures anyway.
posted by easily confused at 10:13 AM on June 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Our wedding was like this. I had explicitly asked my dad beforehand not to take any pictures; he's the one who likes to do so, and we had a professional photographer already.
I think what worked is that we had a very small (immediate family only) wedding, and I had phrased the request as "I really want everybody to enjoy the wedding itself, not worry about taking pictures, so please just let the photographer do her job."
My brother recently tried to do this and failed. It failed because not everybody was notified - there were just some statements as people wandered into the garden.
Both of these weddings were outside. I think being outside, rather than in a religious building or courthouse, makes people think it's ok to take pictures anyway.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 10:20 AM on June 9, 2013

On the other hand, some friends of ours wedding photographer lost all of their wedding photographs, and they were able to assemble a wedding album only because of the photographs taken by their friends.

And another couple collected the photographs their friends took, and everyone agreed that those in total were far better in terms of capturing the emotion of the wedding than the somewhat stereotyped professional shots.
posted by jamjam at 10:29 AM on June 9, 2013

I think it's a great idea and I think you'll need to make a firmer statement than "don't worry about pictures." I think you'll need to have your invitation and your greeter tell folks that you'd appreciate no photos at all before the reception starts. Yeolcoatl's wording above is nice.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:30 AM on June 9, 2013

I think it's a great idea, but please, don't stress over people not obeying this request. It's not worth the aggro.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:56 AM on June 9, 2013 [6 favorites]

I was at a wedding recently where at the beginning of the ceremony — bride had walked down the aisle, but nothing else had really happened — the officiant announced that it was "picture time" and that NOW was the time to take a photo if you wanted, but after this, no more photos. He said it in a pleasant, charming way, not in a mean-spirited eye-rolling way, and it was actually a cute little moment. I didn't notice anyone violating the edict during the rest of the ceremony.
posted by Charity Garfein at 11:08 AM on June 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

We did this at our wedding a few years ago. It was great.

We got a bit of pushback from the family shutterbugs, and my grandmother who for some reason was upset at this (but doesn't even own a camera?), but everyone complied an it was nice.

The best way we've seen it phrased is sort of a "hey, we want your eyes an attention and support up here, not focused on getting the best picture, we hired a pro to do that." We also made or wedding photos available to everyone at the wedding afterwards, to hopefully encourage then to lay off a bit. This was a bit more expensive for us to retain the rights to distribute the photos, but so worth it.

We also let everyone go nuts with cameras during the reception. Which was great, and a really good, natural, clear demarcation for everyone.

We posted a little note on our wedding website, and in the formal invitation. Our officiant also made a delightful, well worded firm warning.

I would say about 2/3rds o the people at our wedding have commented afterwards that it was really nice and pleasant that we did that.
posted by furnace.heart at 11:52 AM on June 9, 2013

Great idea! It is difficult to stay in the moment when you are looking through a camera screen. You will be giving your guests the moment back. I would not be offended at all if I were asked to put away my phone and/or camera.

I hired a rocktographer to do my wedding. He's best at photographing bands and is used to catching great moments on the fly, while staying out of the spotlight. I loved the shots that he got and I loved that he did not make himself part of the ceremony, like some wedding photographers do. My cousin's photographer went up behind her, once she made it to the alter, lifter the hem of her gown to smooth it out for a perfect shot, fluffed it up into the air like a sheet and showed all the guests her panties. Not cool. I know, off topic, but still something to think about.
posted by myselfasme at 12:21 PM on June 9, 2013

I think this is a great idea; I would not be offended if a couple made this request and plan to do it at my own wedding some day. There's some good advice here and here on how to handle it (as well as the whole sharing-every-moment-on-social-media thing, which I personally have a hang-up about).
posted by lovableiago at 12:52 PM on June 9, 2013

We did this and I'm *so* glad we did. I barely saw any of the key moments in a friend's ceremony because so many people rushed to the front to get photos. Ugh.
I do have one uncle who is still mad at me over it (he qualified it as "Bridezilla behaviour", which is a whole other set of problems...), but everyone else was lovely about it.
posted by third word on a random page at 1:36 PM on June 9, 2013

"Thank you for refraining from taking photographs during the wedding ceremony."

I had this printed in our wedding program, and also had our officiant give a friendly reminder before the start of the ceremony. Mind you, this was 13 years ago so tweaking it to say something like, "...and for turning off your cell phones during the ceremony." People who have any politeness (or sense) will get the hint.
posted by MeatheadBrokeMyChair at 2:37 PM on June 9, 2013

Do it. I read a blog post recently by a wedding photographer who talked about how difficult her job was made by excited guests getting in shot. If you have photographer they will love you if you do this. She published some examples, it was pretty odd seeing beautiful photos marred by people sticking their phones and cameras up or jumping in the aisle with their Canon 5D (with flash) at precisely the wrong moment.
posted by mooza at 4:07 PM on June 9, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your reassurances and helpful suggestions! We are getting married outside (with a secular ceremony), and there will be about 70 people, so it's hopefully a manageable number. The invites have already gone out, but I think I'll include wording on the program and also have the officiant say something along the lines of what yeolcoatl suggested.
posted by just_ducky at 4:16 PM on June 9, 2013

100% do it. I would love to go to such a wedding.
Especially if you were offering digital files and/or prints to anyone who requests them afterward.
posted by all-caps relapse at 4:20 PM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm a pastor and officiate at weddings pretty regularly, and I would be happy to do for a couple what yeolcoatl said. That answer is spot-on.
posted by 4ster at 6:43 PM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do it!

I have been to many ceremonies where the couple requested it. One officiant phrased it something along the lines of "so that you may be fully present with today's ceremony, I ask that you refrain from taking photographs..."
posted by inertia at 3:10 PM on June 11, 2013

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