They’re called “unplugged weddings” and apparently, they’re a thing.
A quick search on Pinterest for the term revealed an entire host of clever programs, invitations, and advice for brides- and grooms-to-be looking for something a little different on their wedding days.
An unplugged wedding is well, pretty much what it sounds like — the bride and groom make the kindly request that their wedding guests forgo the use of electronic devices (anyone else think of the plane takeoff speech with that phrase?), including cameras and phones and simply “be present” in the moment on their big day. It’s unplugged and un-posed; just real, authentic living before the advent of selfies and instant photo editing programs.
Take James and Rejena Grotjohn, for example.
The couple, James, 33, an accountant, and Rejena, 35, a University Professor at Arkansas at Monticello, decided to host an “unplugged wedding” for their recent nuptials. For James and Rejena, on a day meant to be spent celebrating love and commitment, phones and cameras were simply not part of the equation.
“It started with me,” explains Rejena. “I’m on a lot of social networking sites and I know all about how much people put out there … so I was thinking that all of the distractions of phones and other cameras could be gone and it could be a calmer atmosphere.”
With Rejena’s urging, the couple opted to host a classic but simple “unplugged” wedding, hiring professional photographer Stephanie Nunley to capture their day in full candid, photojournalistic style.
Their photographer ended up taking over 1,200 shots, documenting their entire day and the couple opted to choose a photography package that allowed guests to download their wedding images, free of charge. And the couple is adamant that the fact that their guests were “unplugged’ allowed for the vivid shots that the photographer was able to capture.
“It changed the nature of the pictures she was going to take,” says Rejena. “If people are standing around posing, taking pictures of themselves, than what does the photographer get? We didn’t want pictures of people taking pictures. Our pictures are of people enjoying the wedding.”
When I talked to the couple, I have to admit, I didn’t know what to think of the idea. On one hand, sure, it sounds like a sweet idea, but on the other hand, really? Isn’t it taking things a bit too far? And doesn’t it sound suspiciously like something Gwyneth would suggest we all do?
But according to James and Rejena, the trend really isn’t just about an idea that they hoped would lead to some better pictures on their big day or banishing annoying guests from taking drunken shots all night; instead it changed the entire course of their wedding.
“It made a huge difference,” admits James. “Our toasts were heartfelt and got people crying and to me, it would have detracted from the moment, to look up and see people snapping pictures on their phone. It would have ruined that moment and it would have made us feel awkward!”
Although the idea started with Rejena, she didn’t fully realize how much of an impact following the trend would have on her big day. “I didn’t really think about the impact and how everyone would be focused and how great the pictures would be — but now when I think back on it, I don’t think some of those memories would even be there if it hadn’t been an unplugged wedding.”
So how’d they pull it off?
The couple made a point to plant the idea early. They prominently displayed their unique wedding wish on their wedding website and included special unplugged wedding language on their programs:
“We want you to be able to relax and have fun with us today! This in mind, we invite you to put down all your favorite devices and just be present in the moment with us. Please leave your camera in your bag (we’ve got photography covered!), and put your cell phone on mute (we promise they’ll call back!).
We’re happy to share our professional wedding photos later, but the greatest gift you can give us today is just being fully here with us in this sacred and special moment.”
They also hired a wedding coordinator, who tracked down any defiant guests insisting on snapping pictures and gently asked them to refrain; the lobby of the wedding venue was also a recommended location for guests wishing to pose for pictures together. And instead of creating any animosicty amongst their guests, James and Rejena maintain that their unplugged guests were able to enjoy an evening that was spent fully in the moment, not lost forever on Facebook.
“It was perfect, it was better than we thought,” the couple says simply. “We had people come up to us afterwards and say this was one of the best weddings we had ever been to, and we really believe it was because they were able to be fully present and enjoy it.”
What do you think of the unplugged wedding trend? Worth a shot (no pun intended) or totally pompous? Chime in in the comments!
Image via Stephanie Nunley