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Unplugged weddings: Why you should put away your phone at nuptials

Aug. 13, 2014 at 3:55 PM ET

Corey Ann Balazowich
Corey Ann Balazowich
Are we too connected at weddings? Photographer Corey Ann Balazowich says too many wedding guests are taking photos with their iPhones at key moments during the ceremony.

Here comes the bride, all dressed in white iPhone flashes, right? Not exactly. But unfortunately for so many couples, the distracting flashes of smartphones have ruined too many special moments on their big day.

Arguably, the best part of having a smartphone at the ready is that you always have the ability to capture a moment — expected or spontaneous. People against compulsive smartphone use say that you’re not truly living in the moment if you’re viewing an event through your screen. But in the end, that’s your prerogative. However, when your smartphone use interferes with others fully experiencing and remembering an event, that’s where the line should be drawn.

Ohio-based photographer Corey Ann Balazowich has been capturing weddings for seven years now, and she noticed the prevalent interference of smartphones and tablets about fours years back. She does her best to avoid them, but she says it can be challenging.

“iPads are the worst!” she told TODAY.com. “They’re so big! You can’t really get around them.”

Video: Kathie Lee and Hoda chat about the next round of the Ice Bucket Challenge where KLG, Drew Brees and Blake Shelton dumped ice over their heads to support ALS research. The ladies also discuss whether some wedding photos are ruined by people snapping pics with their iPhones and give their thoughts on Jennifer Aniston revealing her weight.

She’s started presenting the idea of an “unplugged wedding” to her clients as an option, meaning that guests are asked to turn off and stow their phones either just during the ceremony or throughout the duration of the festivities.

In a recent blog post, she featured some of her past wedding photos that show guests simultaneously taking photos and completely obscuring the shot either with their own flash or physically with their bodies. It serves as a compelling PSA for unplugged weddings.

As much as it irks her, there’s not a whole lot she can do. “It’s kind of not my place to say anything, so I work with what I have,” she said.

Wedding photographer Corey Ann Balazowich has seen one too many special occasions impaired by smartphone use.
Corey Ann Balazowich
Wedding photographer Corey Ann Balazowich has seen one too many special occasions impaired by smartphone use.

So how do you ask family and friends to sever themselves, if only for half an hour, from the smartphones that have become less digital device and more permanent appendage? Corey Ann says “I recommend asking the officiant to make an announcement. Guests are more likely to listen to a voice of authority.”

“A note in your wedding program or a sign at the entrance asking guests to put down their phones and be fully present during the ceremony is a simple and elegant way to do it,” Kellee Khalil, founder of wedding site Lover.ly, told TODAY.com. But she also recommends the officiant make an announcement, just to drive the point home.

She added: “Our culture is so plugged-in these days; while all that technology can be amazing, there are a lot of downsides. Aside from distracting the couple, the presence of tons of smartphones can also annoy family members, the bridal party, and other guests.”

Kathie Lee and Hoda weighed in on the subject during Today's Talk on Wednesday. While Kathie Lee said she misses the days when everyone would pull out a Kleenex instead of a smartphone, she argued that sometimes it's actually the photographer or videographer who's in the way of family and friends getting a look at the bride and groom. 

Hoda, on the other hand, admitted to being guilty of playing wedding guest and videographer. "On my phone I have videos of many people's weddings," she said. But she said she never ends up watching them, and conceded that it probably ruins the whole experience for the person recording the video, too. "Now you find yourself looking at an iconic moment through a screen 'that' big."   

So while it might feel insensitive to some to deny your cousin the opportunity to Instagram a photo of you as the words “I do” tumble out of your perfectly made-up mouth, it’s likely not. You have every right to preserve the sanctity of the day. “I think it's great that couples feel empowered to ask guests to respect their comfort level with phones and social media at weddings,” Khalil said.

Think about it: Do you really want to be the person hanging out in the aisle and spoiling that moment just for the sake of taking of a photo of a wedding that isn’t yours? There is something to be said for capturing more intimate moments that perhaps the photographer wasn’t able to get. And the instant gratification of being able to share a memory is certainly enticing. But the point is, someone else’s wedding day is not yours to ruin. If they want you to unplug for a few minutes or a few hours, then you should comply — and just enjoy the party.



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