It’s finally here. The moment they’ve been waiting for for months, maybe even years. The music swells, he looks up and there she is – his bride. She’s perfectly herself and yet somehow more beautiful in this moment than ever before. She makes her way down the aisle arm-in-arm with her dad, glancing left and right to catch the eyes of her closest family and friends. She reaches the altar, he takes her hand, and from that moment on, nothing will be the same. In the minutes that follow, this group of people will witness something remarkable take place as he becomes hers and she becomes his. It’s intimate and emotional and sacrificial. Two people choosing each other for the rest of their lives, come what may. Everyone is rapt with attention. The officiant proclaims the famous line “you may now kiss your bride” and with full applause, the groom kisses his wife for the first time.
This is how a wedding ceremony should be.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot in between those lines that happens at a wedding ceremony. Aunt Becky leans into the aisle with her iPad to catch the first kiss. A notorious Uncle Bob wanders the outskirts of the ceremony with his Nikon and kit lens clicking away. On the surface, these acts are often completely innocent and done out of excitement for the moment. What people don’t realize though, is that they often ruin one of the things a couple cherishes most after the big day – their wedding pictures.
I’ve dealt with snappy wedding planners, terrible lighting, monsoon rain, running an hour behind schedule and much, much more, but truly, nothing breaks my heart more than to see a couple’s wedding ceremony ignored by their nearest and dearest in pursuit of the perfect Instagram picture. I have seen so many people miss the beauty of this occasion because of their camera or cell phone. I have had guests with their cameras actually follow me around during the ceremony to copy the pictures I’m taking. And I’ve had them ignore me when I asked them to take a seat. I have literally run up the aisle seconds before a bride has walked down it to swat someone’s cell phone-bearing hand out of the way because what so many people don’t realize is that your picture can ruin the photographer’s pictures. Trust me, I love taking pictures at weddings – obviously ;) But, as harsh as this might sound, my pictures at a wedding are 100x more important than yours because my pictures are the couple’s pictures. And they want a picture of her walking down the aisle and their first kiss, not your cell phone.
Last fall, this image by Joel Garcia was trending on Facebook and it just broke my heart. Contrary to popular belief, as photographers, there’s very little we can control on a wedding day. The weather, how long hair and makeup takes, your guest’s behavior. All of it is out of our hands, but we still do our best to (and are expected to) deliver timeless images that capture a wedding day’s joy without any of its mishaps. Sometimes, though, there’s really nothing we can do. In a split second that guest’s cell phone stole an incredible image from Joel’s couple, and no amount of retouching or photoshop can change that.
So, how do we prevent this? How do guests document a wedding for themselves, while not affecting the work of the professionals hired to photograph it? Have an unplugged wedding ceremony. If I had it my way, I’d have every guest check their cameras and cell phones at the ceremony door and pick them up before the reception. Alas, I can’t always have my way :) But as the couple, this day is yours, and it’s not asking too much to have your guests respect that. From an announcement before the processional to a little sign or memo in the program, there are countless ways to politely request that your guests leave their cameras and phones in their bags during the ceremony. They can have at it during the reception, but the ceremony is a sacred 30 minutes where they have been invited to witness one of the most incredible acts of this couple’s lives.
There are countless articles and blog posts written about this topic. All of them will include pictures like Joel’s or of various important wedding moments ruined or photobombed. I intentionally chose to post a few of my favorite ceremony pictures to show how they can and should be. They should be unhindered and free from distraction. They should be intimate, timeless and honest. They should document the moment that this couple was married and the people who came to support and uphold that commitment.
So, to my couples, I encourage you to make this simple request at your wedding. You have no idea what pictures it could save. And guests, I challenge you to leave your cameras and phones in your pockets and purses the next time you’re at a wedding ceremony. You have the privilege of witnessing one of the most important moments in this couple’s life. That’s a really big deal – soak it up! You can Instagram all you want once the bar opens ;) Support them in this new and beautiful commitment and pay attention to the vows they’re making. I promise, they will cherish that much, much more than what you post on Facebook later :) Love them by respecting what the entire wedding day is really about.
Emily is a destination film wedding photographer. She loves natural light and is available to travel worldwide.