The Uncle Bob Phenomena: Should Wedding Guests Take Photos?

wedding-guests-taking-photos-12 Photo by David Latour Photographe

In today’s high-tech world, Uncle Bob, Aunt Babette, or maybe even an old pal from college all have an easy way to document and share their experiences at weddings. Whether guests are using an iPhone or a DSLR, they can easily whip out their cameras during a ceremony and with a few clicks, document a moment that is at the same time being documented by the hired professional. The Uncle Bob phenomena has become such a problem in recent years, that photographers are creating PSA videos, blog posts, and infographics in order to spread awareness on the issue. In fact, earlier this year, we created a blog post inspiring couples to plan unplugged wedding ceremonies. However, not everyone feels the same way about the issue, which is why we’ve asked Cole Roberts and Jakob Ganqvist of Nordica Photography, along with Aaron and Whitney Durall to share their opinions on wedding guests taking photos.

Unplugged- Grace and Jaden Photography Photo by Grace & Jaden

Nordica: It is none of our business how couples plan their wedding days. They know their family and friends, it’s entirely their show, and we are there to do a job.

So let’s be clear about that. We don’t interfere.

Sometimes, the obvious is not obvious to all, especially with wedding ceremonies. Wedding vendors see things on a weekly basis that couples simply don’t.

Whether the ceremony is Sikh, Hindu, humanist, Catholic, Pagan – whatever – there is a universal truth in what it means to be present. Completely in the moment. A human witnessing other humans with their hearts and minds and feeling it.

Which brings us to mobile devices and cameras.

It’s not possible to be in a moment while staring through something. As outsiders looking at the scene, when we see people doing this it feels disrespectful. It shouldn’t because we’re hired hands – nothing more, nothing less – but it does.

It doesn’t really bother us on a professional level. We’re documenting what we see and if Aunty Schartzmugel watches the ceremony through an iPad mini, so be it.

But it feels disrespectful to the couple. You’re not all there when you’re experiencing something through a device.

It is not our place to interfere with a wedding, and certainly not how a ceremony is to be conducted. However, if we were to lend advice in the planning, this would be the message: ask your guests to put the phones away. Leave the cameras on your seat for the reception later on. Be in the moment, and be respectful.

We got this.

Unplugged- Grace and Jaden Photography Photo by Grace & Jaden

Aaron and Whitney: On any given day, we can hop on social media and find a new video of wedding guests jumping into a photographer’s frame at a pivotal moment during the ceremony. Our feelings are that there are limitations to everything, but ultimately, we believe that we photographers can coexist with guests who’d like to capture their own memories of the day.

We believe that respect and consideration is key in all instances. If a couple requests an “Unplugged Wedding,” then it is the responsibility of guests to respect the couple’s wishes. However, for those weddings where the couple doesn’t care, we encourage people to take as many photos as they please, but in a respectful and subtle way.

A lot of times we talk about being present. We don’t necessarily ascribe to the notion that because one makes a video, or because one takes a photo, they’re any less involved with an event. We don’t believe people feel any less attached when they decide to pull out their phone for a quick snap or a short video. It’s just a sign of the times and a sign that the way we participate in events is evolving, for better or for worse.

As long as wedding guests understand that there are and should be boundaries, such as staying in your seat, not being an obvious distraction, being mindful of those around you, and never under any circumstance getting into the center aisle or anywhere else near the couple – then there’s no issue in our eyes. Staying put and being aware of those around you is key. When there’s mutual respect and understanding, we can all do our thing and go home happy with our own little batch of tangible memories from the day while avoiding any “ruined” moments.

Most importantly, we are all there for one reason – The love. Just remember to celebrate and have fun!

wedding-guests-taking-photos-11 Photo by David Latour Photographe

What do you think about wedding guests taking photos? Is it a big problem or just a slight inconvenience? We’d love to hear your thoughts!


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