Renault Winery social media signage for wedding.

People live with their phones. They go to sleep with them, wake up with them, get married with them.

Should they?

Wedding participants and experts alike come down in two distinctly different camps when it comes to using social media - plugged vs. unplugged. Some want to document every blessed moment from the bride getting dressed to the walk up the aisle to the first dance at the reception. They don’t want to miss a thing and, indeed, with everyone’s iPhones and Droids recording, they have more than enough back up to capture the best man’s toast that the official photographer may have missed.

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On the other extreme, some of those official photographers are actually giving brides a discount if they have unplugged weddings. The horrors of ruined wedding pictures include camera flashes obliterating the happy couple’s faces, iPads blocking the aisle and guests just inches away from the bride dancing with her father making it impossible to get a shot of just the two of them. Not to mention the debacle where the groom first sees his bride via his phone because the maids are snapping away in the dressing room.

That would seem enough to get people to put away those phones. The guests, though, aren’t thinking about the overall picture. They’re only concerned with their own pictures and posting them wherever they can get them quickest - on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, wherever. Never mind that the happy couple may have a wedding FB page and hashtag, or that there are wedding apps like Flickr and Photobucket, all for photo sharing. Afterwards.

It’s up to the bride to control the social media circus during the proceedings.

“Brides will ask for our suggestions and, if they want less social media, we will usually talk about it at the detail appointment,” says Cindy Gibson, director of operations at Renault Winery in Egg Harbor City. “But we don’t police it. That’s up to the bridal party.”

At the Ram’s Head Inn in Galloway Township, wedding parties have asked for less and more. One party didn’t want guests’ cameras to interfere with the official photographer. Another couple banned social media because they didn’t want uninvited guests to know about their nuptials. But the vast majority of weddings held at the Ram’s Head allow everyone to snap away and the facility often gets in on the act.

“The Ram’s Head has an Instagram page and, we always get permission from the brides and grooms, we’ll hook up with their hashtag and put it on our page as well,” says Mary McGill, director of sales.

Kristin Steelman, director of sales and catering at The Carriage House and Gourmet Italian Cuisine Restaurant in Galloway says most couples bring in their own signage for a #hashtag and if a couple does have a #hashtag, the Carriage House team uses it when uploading photos to its social media pages.

“We have not yet had a wedding that has asked for no social media or no cell phones for photos during an onsite ceremony to my knowledge,” Steelman says.

However, there are wedding parties that prefer no social media use for at least part of day, usually the ceremony, and there are ways for brides to get others to bow to their wishes. Bribes help.

Some couples can ask for an unplugged ceremony but offer a plugged reception. Some have a photo booth at the reception or give guests “free photo time” after the ceremony and at the reception.  Others sweeten the pot and tell guests there will be a never-ending electrical supply: Pinterest shows a great wedding centerpiece idea that weaves phone charger cords into the greenery, right there in the middle of the table. 

For brides that want any part of their wedding day to be unplugged here are a few tips:  

* Include your request on your invitations, your website, and on cards that can be handed to guests when they arrive.

* Announce your request verbally before the ceremony begins.

* Explain yourself: On your website, before the wedding, list or, better yet, show all the things that guests have done to ruin wedding photos by getting in the way. Praise the benefits of the unplugged wedding and encourage everyone to “be present” in your special moment.

Or you could just go with the millennial flow. Make it a game. Encourage social media sharing with a table photo scavenger hunt. Create a list of pictures you want each table to capture and share. It breaks the ice and may even help people stay in touch after the wedding. And one of your guests might just get that perfect candid shot.”

“Actually, some of my favorite photos were taken with cell phones,” says Mallory Pollock, who got married last summer at the Ram’s Head Inn. “I don’t feel like they got in the way at all.” 

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