Four things to know about the wedding trend that asks guests to part from their phones.

By Rachel Sylvester
Updated September 13, 2019
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In the age of smartphones and unrelenting digital distractions, the thought of asking people to forsake their phones in a social situation is inconceivable. But according to a new survey from Zola, an increasing amount of couples are asking their wedding guests to do just that.

Over 500 couples were surveyed by Zola on their wedding plans, and it was revealed that 80 percent of respondents plan to have an unplugged wedding. Of those planning a tech-free fete, 90 percent are only going unplugged for the ceremony, while 5 percent of couples plan to rid their entire wedding of phones and social media.

By definition, unplugged weddings require partygoers to put down their phones, and unsurprisingly, it's a growing trend that's formidable for most. "Weddings are intimate and emotional, and couples have hired professionals to document their day," says Jove Meyer, owner and creative director of Jove Meyer Events. "Unplugged weddings allow your guests to be present and focused on what's happening and what matters most."

According to Zola, the most common reasons people choose to host a tech-free affair range from worries that smartphones will ruin professional shots to fears that photos will be shared on social media before the couple gets a chance to post their own imagery.

Hoping to plan a phone-free celebration of your own? Keep these wedding planner-approved tactics in mind to ensure your unplugged party goes off without a hitch.

1. Remind Guests Often of the Phone-Free Ask

"It's helpful to plant the seed of an unplugged ceremony early on by putting the rules of social media engagement on your wedding website," says Erica Taylor Haskins, co-founder of Brooklyn-based Tinsel Event Design. According to Zola's survey, the most common methods of alerting guests to phone-free protocol include placing signs at the entrance to the party, and including a note within the ceremony programs. You can also effectively spread the word by asking friends and family to pass along the news, or collecting phones from guests prior to the start of the wedding. "If you ask guests to drop their phones at a designated spot upon arrival, they won't be as tempted to break the rules," Meyer says.

2. Ask Your Officiate to State the Ground Rules

Depending on the tone of your ceremony, it may be worth asking your officiant to restate the request for no phones at the top of the gathering. "We once had more playful clients ask their officiant to say something you would hear at the start of a movie, like 'Please refrain from loud talking, texting, or cell phones during the show, or rule breakers will be asked to leave,'" Haskins says. "It got a good laugh from the crowd and set the tone for the rest of the celebration."

3. Invest in a Videographer or Second-Shooter

If you ask wedding guests to refrain from snapping candid mementos, make sure a quality photographer or videographer is on hand to document the day in full. "There's really no reason for guests to be on their phones to record the celebration," Haskins says. "And there's nothing worse than getting back photos from your hired photographer to see guests either staring blankly at their screens or holding up phones to catch the shot."

4. Incorporate Details to Keep Partygoers in the Moment

Asking guests to part ways with electric distractions is easier said than done. To ensure guests remain engaged, schedule interactive entertainment in the form of live artists or photo and gif booths. After all, it's hard to miss your phone if you're caught up in a crowded dance floor. "People need constant reminders to break the instinct to take out their phone and snap away," Meyer says. "Their intention is sweet, but having guests be fully present would be sweeter."