A bride and groom stand in front of a minister saying their vows. They've hired a professional photographer to capture the important moments like the imminent "You may now kiss the bride." Poised and ready, the photographer checks the lighting, focuses on the couple and presses on the shutter as the minister proclaims the kiss. Up pops an aunt with an iPhone who completely obscures the scene. One of the priority shots of the day is ruined as the photographer captures the back of the aunt's head and shoulders.
Cell phones and tablets are the new wedding controversy. Technology has reached all of the masses, which has both pros and cons. While taking play by play photos for the bride and groom can render some nice surprises, the couple has probably spent a significant portion of their wedding budget on a professional photographer and/or videographer to record the special, "once-in-a-lifetime" moments and more formal poses with family, friends and the bridal party. This means, realistically, that many of the cell phone shots will be duplicates and probably discarded or downloaded to a "wedding" file somewhere.
Photographers understand the importance of the day and that there is no going back for the shots like that of the proud father walking his daughter down the aisle. The internet is full of example videos and photos of guests' arms with phones blocking the view and washed out brides from all of the guests' camera flashes as the professionals try to do their jobs.
As if this weren't enough, guests who are attached to their phones now tweet and send Facebook status updates throughout the ceremony. This is not only distracting for other guests, but, many feel, disrespectful to the sanctity of the ceremony. Emily Post.com, the premier authority on etiquette, says cell phones and electronic devices are an absolute "no" at weddings and encourages brides to include a notice with the wedding invitation that phone use will be discouraged and placing a framed reminder next to the guest book on the day of the ceremony.
Many couples are taking it up a notch and opting for an "unplugged" wedding - having people surrender their phones or leave them in the cars for the ceremony. The opinion is that the focus should be on celebrating the bride and groom's special day and not on texts, work, Facebook or eBay. Etiquette and common courtesy deem using phones during any church service unacceptable.
Annie Wisba, of Wheeling, is getting married May 31 and said that she isn't completely against cell phones at the ceremony, but is "more against than for."
"There are pros and cons," she explained. "What you don't want is people texting and the phone ringing during the ceremony. That is the worst thing. I would hope that guests would be courteous and at least put the phones on silent."
"Guest photographers" have been a challenge for many professionals for a long time, especially since digital cameras became readily available. These family and friends, most of them well-meaning, lose themselves in the process and are not thinking about those around them and the photographer who has been paid to do what they are attempting. A videographer online showcases one guest actually coming up to circle the bride and groom as they are saying their vows. The woman comes around to the rear where the professional photographer is standing and firmly plants herself right in front of his lens.
Wisba acknowledges that the wedding atmosphere has become more relaxed over the last few years because of social media, but again puts faith in guests to respect the couple's wishes and not Facebook and Instagram photos during the service and before checking with the couple.
"You put a lot of time and energy into a wedding. My fiance has been very involved, so it isn't just about the 'bride's day' anymore," says Wisba. "You hire a professional photographer and plan everything so that it has a certain feel. People sending out pictures just to send them sort of negates all of that careful planning."
What Wisba doesn't want is a scenario that took place at a wedding in which she was a bridesmaid.
"The priest was very strict about photography during the ceremony," she recounted. "But people just kept taking pictures. At one point he stopped the ceremony and reprimanded the guests, telling them that they could either stop taking photos or leave. It put a damper on the whole event. I really sympathized with the bride."
In the end, a wedding is only about the bride and groom sharing a special event. Guests are there to relax, leave the work to the professionals and ensure that all of the memories of the day are happy ones.