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Attention Guests: Stop Ruining the Wedding Photos!

EVERYBODY has a smart phone with a camera and video app on it, and everybody likes to take pictures. The worst offenders, in my opinion, are the guests who prefer to film on their iPads or other ginormous tablets.
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You've heard the term "unplugged" weddings. You probably thought that it meant the brides and grooms didn't want any social media going on during their wedding festivities, right? Certainly, nobody wants to look out at all their guests tapping away on their smart phones while the father of the bride is giving a heartfelt toast. But that's not the whole reason for asking your guests to unplug.

When I walked down the aisle in 2004, I remember looking my guests in the eye as I passed (going in with my dad and coming out with my new husband), and sharing a private smile with many of them. It was a special moment. I wouldn't give it up. But nowadays, many brides and grooms never get to have that experience. When they look at their guests, all they see are phones and iPad -- not faces. And when the photographer takes picture of the bride going down the aisle, she's flanked by rows of telephones, not people. It's really, really bad.

EVERYBODY has a smart phone with a camera and video app on it, and everybody likes to take pictures. The worst offenders, in my opinion, are the guests who prefer to film on their iPads or other ginormous tablets. They just hold them up in the air to get the best view, with absolutely no regard whatsoever for the people behind them, the professional photographers trying to shoot around them, or the bride and groom the day is actually about.

My husband jokes about tourists who don't know if they had a good time on a trip until they get home and see the pictures; wedding guests are even worse! Many of them are posting wedding pictures in real time -- during the wedding ceremony!!!

The lack of basic manners being demonstrated by wedding guests with their phones and tablets during wedding ceremonies is absolutely mind-blowing. And crazy-frustrating to the wedding planner and photographer.

I know that the photogs need a clear view for the ceremony, and I do my best to ask the guests to be seated and put down their photo gear. Some actually refuse to sit down, standing off to the side so they can get the best shots of the bride coming down the aisle. In doing so, they plan themselves squarely in the background of all the professional photographer and videographer's shots. They're RUINING the wedding pictures! And they don't care and get nasty when you ask them to be seated.

Reality check to all you phone-happy wedding guests -- IF the bride and groom had wanted you to take their wedding pictures, they would have asked YOU to take them. Since they did not ask you, you make safely assume they didn't want your pictures. Instead, they hired an experience professional for a lot of money. And your insistence on standing up in the background of everything, and making a general nuisance of yourself during the wedding ceremony, is absolutely tragic. But don't worry, it's all being caught on film by the professional photographers so nobody will ever forget who did it.

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In my TLC reality show "Wedding Island," the very first episode featured a sister of the groom who got a little (or rather, a lot) too exuberant with her camera during the wedding ceremony. She literally ruined the vast majority of the real photographer's pictures. Her heart was in the right place, but she wasn't using her head. Watch this because it's a hilarious example of EXACTLY what I'm talking about.

A professional photographer named Thomas Stewart got fed up after a wedding with more picture-blocking cameras than usual, and let loose with a very good rant on his Facebook page. So good, in fact, that it went very viral and inspired a lot of social media conversations between wedding professionals.

Everyone in the industry agrees it is a problem, and nobody has found a solution that actually works. Short of making all the guests drop their devices into a box as they're seated at the ceremony, you can't guarantee that nobody will take snaps. And really, do you want to make your guests feel like children? Of course not.

It's perfectly acceptable to put something in your program asking them to refrain from taking pictures during your big moments. Here's an example:

"While we're excited to see all the pictures and video you may capture during our wedding reception, we'd like to ask you to refrain from taking your own wedding pictures and videos during the wedding ceremony. We have hired professionals to do this for us so that you don't have to -- we want to see your faces, not your phones, when we share this moment with you. Please respect our wishes, and we promise to share the pictures with you as soon as we've got them. Thank you for being here in person to experience our big day!"

You can also place a cute sign by the guest book that says the same thing. And you can ask the minister to make an announcement at the beginning of the wedding. That's just a little awkward if he's coming in with the groom -- stopping the music to tell everybody to pocket those phones! If you wait til the ceremony starts, it's too late. The entire processional will be nothing but shots of friends with their cameras up in the air.

I must warn you that not everybody will be respectful, no matter what you do. I cannot tell you how many times I've held the bride from processing while I radioed to somebody on my staff to go ask the lady in the electric pink muumuu to please take a seat before the bride could go. It's ridiculous. And half the time, after we get them seated, they pop back up again as soon as the bride gets closer. We can't do anything then, or we just add ourselves to the mess in the background of the shots. If somebody's going to destroy the pictures, let it be Aunt Mary and not the wedding planners.

Once the wedding ceremony is over, don't worry about who is taking pictures and when, there's not much you can do about it. People love you and they're excited to be there sharing it with you. Many couples create specific hashtags or use wedding apps to share their pictures in real time. It's a great way to organize the candid photos from all of your friends.

If you REALLY don't want your wedding pictures posted on social media, you need to address that in the program, with signage, and with a special note on your wedding website ahead of time. And even then, somebody will post photos. If you accept that as a fact, you won't get upset about it when it happens. Also, do not look at your own social media until your wedding is over so you won't even know if it's been happening. You certainly don't need drama over Instagram at your wedding reception. You can be angry later if you feel that strongly about it.

Remember that all those wedding guests with their phones and iPads have the very best intentions -- they think your wedding is beautiful and they don't want to risk missing the most amazing pictures of you. They're proud to have been invited and they want to show it off. Be firm, but be gentle. And when somebody breaks the rules, just ignore it. It isn't worth getting upset about on your wedding day. Your professional photographer will do his or her very best to work around it.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Sandy Malone Weddings & Events!