"Unplugged Weddings": Yea or Nay? Here's Why They Might Not Be Such a Bad Idea

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I have a question for everyone: What are your thoughts on technology at weddings? Because apparently “unplugged weddings” — that is, weddings at which it’s requested that cellphones, social media, and all the other types of tech we tend to carry around in our pockets these days stay out of the event — are a thing now. This is perhaps not an unsurprising reaction to our technology-saturated world, but I’d be curious to know what everyone thinks about it. I have some pretty strong feelings myself — namely, that it’s actually not a bad idea — but we’ll get to that in a bit. First, here’s the deal:

The New York Daily News is currently running a piece about unplugged weddings, writing not only about the trend itself, but why people might choose to have them. One couple, for example, used the “no social media” policy as a way to stay fair to everyone in a complicated situation. Wendy Lee Govoni-Capurso and her spouse had three weddings in an effort to keep the peace between her divorced parents: One with her father and stepmother in attendance, one with her mother and stepfather in attendance, and one at City Hall to make the whole thing official. “I didn’t want anything posted until we were done with all three because I didn’t want anyone to feel left out,” said Govoni-Capurso. For others, it’s simply a matter of not wanting your wedding off the Internet. Said Manhattan wedding planner and founder of Sidekick Events Ellen Kostman, “[Many clients] want nothing to do with any kind of social media, anything that has to do with Facebooking, hashtagging. They are celebrating with the chosen people that they’ve invited, and they’re not opening this up to the world.”

Naturally, not everyone is as gung-ho about the idea as others. The Daily Dot, for example, is calling the trend “the ultimate bridezilla move” for a couple of reasons — the biggest one being that banning cell phones are a nothing more than a spoiled “ME, ME, ME!” statement:

“By far the most obnoxious thing about the ‘unplugged’ wedding trend, however, is not that it feeds into high-maintenance, uber-controlling brides and grooms’ delusions of grandeur by letting them pretend to be third-rate reality TV celebs for a day. It’s that people are really, really scared that by allowing cellphones at their weddings, there’s a possibility that they might, for a brief, fleeting moment, take guests’ attention away from the main event — themselves.”

But I don’t it’s that unreasonable to ask guests to keep their phones turned off at least during the ceremony, because… well, it’s the ceremony. It’s annoying enough when cell phones go off during, say, movies; in this case, it’s disrespectful to the rest of the audience. It’s even more annoying when it happens during live performances, at which point the disrespect increases exponentially due to, y’know, the people up on the stage giving you a show (see: Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig in A Steady Rain on Broadway a few years ago). And cellphones going off during wedding ceremonies? It’s the worst of both situations combined, plus a little added oomph: First, it’s disrespectful to the rest of the wedding guests; second, it’s disrespectful to all the people standing up there at the altar; and third, good gravy, did you really just let your cellphone go off during one of the most momentous occasions in these two peoples’ lives? P.S. Saying “Well, it would bother me if a cellphone went off during my wedding” isn’t a strong argument. You can do what you want at your own wedding, but when it comes to someone else’s, if they ask you to refrain from using your phone, then you should do as they ask. Again: Respect.

There are loads of other benefits to keeping phones out of weddings, too. I think the folks in the Daily News article are onto something when they say that they want to everyone to stay in the moment. It’s become the norm these days to see something awesome and immediately think, “Man, I’ve got take a picture of this!” As a result, we often experience cool things through a tiny little screen as we attempt to capture them as they happen, rather than just witnessing them for themselves. I’m as guilty of it as the next person; but even so, I think the level of remove created by this habit of ours sometimes diminishes our experiences. Think of it like this: Would you rather remember the exact moment your two best friends embarked on the next part of their lives together? Or would you rather remember trying to take a picture of the exact moment your two best friends embarked on the next part of their lives together?

And then there’s this:

This story comes from the epic wedding disasters of Reddit thread we wrote about yesterday. Obviously one awful person does not a legion of bad tweeters make, but I mean, come on. Who does that?!

Circling back around to the examples cited by the Daily News, I think both of them make perfect sense. While I probably wouldn’t choose to have three ceremonies like Wendy Lee Govoni-Capurso, if you’ve got the resources to carry it off and it’ll stop everyone from being at each other’s throats the whole time, then do whatever you have to do — even if it means keeping it off Instagram until everything is wrapped up and finished. And while some might see the whole "only celebrating with the invited guests" thing as snooty or exclusive, I would argue that in the digital age, it's more of a practicality: Some people just don't want themselves all over the Internet. That's perfectly understandable.

If and/or when I ever get married, I probably won’t go so far as to ban phones and social entirely — if ever there was a place for it all, it’s the reception. But I would feel perfectly fine asking people to keep their phones off during the ceremony itself; as long as the request is made respectfully, early, and often, there’s no reason why anyone should take offense to it. After all, it’s a celebration: I’d want to remember it for what it is, not as a Facebook post.

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