She added: “If you don’t care about the hype or about what people think and see in social media – where we often portray a persona anyway – then do the same thing that we did.”
Jen Doll, author of the recent book Save the Date: The Occasional Mortifications of a Serial Wedding Guest, advocates for fewer rules of any kind for guests. She believes both plugged and unplugged weddings have drawbacks. At nuptials heavily mediated by Instagram, Twitter, Vine and Facebook, guests lose out on “unscripted conversations” as their focus shifts downward to their phones. With outright tech bans, guests are probably distracted anyway by thoughts of what they’re missing on those phones.
In both the plugged and unplugged camps, Doll sees a common element of “control mechanism.”
Couples can sculpt their image by forbidding photos, videos and tweets, publishing only the best shots through their own wedding photographer, or they can shape their new personal brand as a unit through social media.
“Brides and grooms have paid the money and tried to orchestrate it to make it perfect,” Doll says in an interview from Brooklyn, N.Y.
“If someone comes in, takes an unflattering photo and decides to put it on the Internet, it can feel like everything is ruined.”
She remembers a time before weddings became a “manufactured environment,” when our parents’ nuptials were shot haphazardly with Polaroid cameras and even wedding photographers didn’t enter the frame. “Part of this is about how excessive weddings have gotten in recent times,” says Doll. “It’s everybody’s opportunity to be a celebrity.”
Meg Keene, the editor-in-chief of the wedding-planning website A Practical Wedding, is a “super-big fan” of device-free nuptials.
“I dislike the narrative that you’re being crazy or demanding if you ask for an unplugged ceremony,” Keene said in an interview from Oakland, Calif.
Keene said it used to be “that one uncle” who would lurch into the aisle with his expensive camera gear. “Now every single person has a device and we’re all so trained – if it’s only even vaguely meaningful – to take a picture. Who wants to walk down the aisle to a whole bunch of smartphones in their faces?”
No one gripes more against the hashtagged wedding than professional photographers. Steve Koopman, who runs Unveiled Photography with his wife Katie in Kingston, Ont., rattles off a list of “frustrating scenarios,” including “massive iPads being substituted for heads” in the audience during a ceremony.
More disappointing is the dynamic he sees playing out between family members who haven’t seen each other in years: Instead of being together, they’re hunched over their phones posting wedding content “in what often appears to be a competition to see who does it first.”
Koopman’s advice is undeniably appealing: “Sit back, have a drink, relax. Live in the moment. Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.”
Wedding Hits and Misses
Lizzie Post is the great-great-granddaughter of manners maven Emily Post, and co-author of Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette, which was updated in January with social-media rules for nuptials. In an interview from Burlington, Vt., Post offered these dos and don’ts:
Timing is everything
Post dissuades brides (and grooms) from oversharing wedding plans using a hashtag in the weeks and months leading up to the big day. “It’s not that fun for all the people who follow you on social media who aren’t invited.” Day of, guests should respect the hosts’ wishes, if they wish to post their own content first. And never – ever – post photos of the bride before she walks down the aisle. “You don’t want someone scooping your story,” says Post. “Give the bride and groom a chance to post something on their own.”
Location, location, location
For the hosts: Do not emblazon the hashtag on the invitation – that’s just tacky. “It’s not the place for it,” says Post. “The invitation is the one place where we focus entirely on the guests. It’s about letting them know that their presence is welcome.” As for Instagramming by hashtag-happy guests, “It’s really important that you don’t lean in front of the photographer to get the photo,” says Post. “Out of respect, he’s the professional. You’re messing up the bride and groom’s shot.”
If you’ve taken it upon yourself to catalogue the evening’s hilarity on Twitter, watch the booze. “Guests can get too caught up in it. Next thing they know they’ve posted something hurtful or inappropriate,” says Post. “I’m thinking of a situation at a wedding a number of years ago. The person at the table next to me wasn’t enjoying herself. She spelled out ‘F me’ on her dinner plate using vegetables, and posted that.”