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At a recent wedding ceremony, there was a woman four rows back with her point-and-shoot camera out for the whole ceremony.  Not too big a deal for us, we are used to it.  Although we never like having a distracting camera in our shot, it has become inevitable.  Instead of shooting a wide shot of the the kiss, I cropped in to crop out the distracting camera.  The couple kissed, everyone cheered, and then the woman said, “Do it again!  And hold it longer so I can get a photo!”  Luckily everyone laughed, but the moment struck us as a definitive example of the perils of guests armed with cameras and smartphones.

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When smartphones and tablets first were becoming popular, people were holding up phones and iPads at the ceremony and ruining photos.  Back then, there was a lot of discussion about how to have a technology free wedding.  Some suggested collecting everyone’s cell phones at the beginning of the night.

We now realize, sadly, that a truly technology free wedding is not going to happen in this day and age.  We are hopelessly tied to the marvelous pieces of human engineering that we clutch on in elevators, stare at while walking, and try not to use while driving.  So stopping your guests from bringing their phones to the wedding is not going to happen, but there are some things you can do to minimize their impact.

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Regardless of how much you have paid for professional photographers to cover your wedding, your guests are going to want to take photos of you at the altar and videos of your first dance.  But we can all agree that (1) professional photos are better than smartphone photos and (2) photos of guests holding their phones are not as romantic as photos of guests enjoying the moment in real life.  So we recommend our couples tell the guests, and tell them a second time, to leave their phones in their purses and pockets.  Remind them kindly to stay in their seats, and not step in the aisle.

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Often couples will put up a sign at the ceremony site that says something like, “Technology free ceremony.  The couple asks that you put away your cell phones during the ceremony.”  We definitely recommend this approach.

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But that is not enough.  We also encourage our couples to ask their officiant to make an announcement.  Usually all that is necessary is, “The couple has asked that you refrain from using your smartphones or cameras during the ceremony.  They’ve hired professional photographers who will be taking all the photos.”  A better way to say it might be something like, “The couple wants you to be present with them during this sacred and precious ceremony.  They respectfully ask that you avoid distraction, and watch the ceremony unfold through your eyes and not through the screen of your smartphone.”  Encourage your guests to truly experience the day with you, in real life, and in the present moment.  In this era, attention may be the most precious wedding gift.

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Perhaps the only way to truly have a technology free wedding now is to make it a destination wedding in the wilderness with no cell phone reception.  That won’t eliminate people from taking photos, but it does have the effect of cutting down on the number of raised smartphones during the ceremony.

Also, be sure you TELL YOUR PARENTS AND FAMILY MEMBERS not to use their cameras when professionals are taking photos.  Or just ask them if they see another camera in their shot, put their camera down.  Family members are often the worse offenders, but also the most likely to listen to your pleas.

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Well-intentioned, but not a professional.

Good luck!