When she turned the corner, I blushed at her beauty. There she was, my best friend, usually shy and reserved, confidently and gracefully walking down her wedding aisle.
My eyes were watery and my heart was full. I wasn’t just in the moment, I wanted to keep it forever. My phone was in airplane mode in my purse under the seat. But there was no way I was going to reach for it to snap a picture. Unfortunately, just about everyone else in the room did.
The night before a few of us sat in her apartment surrounded by stacks of signs asking guests to put their gadgets away during the ceremony. She and her lovely groom, a photographer himself, invested in a team of professionals to document their special day. They didn’t want a bunch of people with their smartphones held high disrupting the exchange of vows.
Those signs were placed on every guest’s seat. And just before the ceremony, an announcement was made requesting everyone to put their phones away. It’s the Emily Post way.
But a room full of 200 loved ones becomes a jar jammed with joy. The requests were ignored. People held up iPhones, iPads and heavy-duty DSLR cameras, too. Nothing could stop them from the point, shoot and flash.
The couple were far too euphoric to notice. For me, it was hard to stay mad at the paparazzi behavior when love was all around. Still, I have to know: What has become of us when we can’t unplug and be present for a 30-minute ceremony? At the reception, they could have snapped all the pictures they wanted. The bride and groom would even pose for them. So why are we so obsessed with technology that we’d rather ignore the requests of our loved ones and watch an event through a camera lens — especially when we can actually see it?
Ann Riensin Piyapant, co-owner of Kansas City’s Love Lens Wedding Photography, says this behavior is so common that photographers have learned to work around it — to make it part of the experience.
“I think when people see something beautiful or an amazing moment they really want to share it right away,” she says. “Food, a new outfit, vacation on the beach and, of course, a wedding.”
When Melanie Rambo Isenmann of Mission got married a year ago, she didn’t consider asking guests to put their phones away.
“It’s funny because this didn’t occur to me until several of my professional photographer friends posted articles about it on Facebook,” she says. “I’m definitely guilty of taking pictures at wedding ceremonies, but I usually try to be discreet about it. I’m not going to hold up my phone or stick it out in the middle of the aisle like I’m at a concert or something.”
It’s still important to remember, Ann says, that professional photography is an investment, and guests shouldn’t get in the way. The bride and groom should have their say if anyone else can use cameras.
Etsy has entire online stores dedicated to no-phone, no-camera wedding signs. Bridal sites have guidelines on how to unplug your wedding. Pinterest is filled with boards on the topic. But does that work?
As I saw for myself, nope. What’s it going to take: bouncers with baskets collecting our phones at the door? I understand wanting a picture of people you love at their happiest. I do. But how do you justify taking a picture when you know it might upset them? I can’t. And you can’t either.