Device-free wedding lets everyone experience the moment

After your wonderful wedding is over, the recollections of your big day will be etched into your heart and mind forever. While no doubt you will have myriad photos and films to look at again and again, it will be the memories that you carry inside that will be the most exceptional: the gleam in your father’s eye; a loving touch on your shoulder; the admiring glimpse of someone you haven’t seen for ages. Those will be your most treasured mementos.

With all the planning, you may not have considered one element that can affect the atmosphere. How do you want to treat the use of digital devices at the wedding? Do you want to risk a phone buzzing (assuming your guests have the sense to turn off the ringers), a camera clicking or an iPad blocking the view? People today tend to be so totally involved with their devices that they often miss the real-life experiences happening around them.

There are endless examples on the Internet of how devices have interfered with the sanctity of the marriage ceremony. In Israel where I live, it is perfectly acceptable to be on your phone before, during and after the ceremony. I witnessed a man answer a call and speak on his phone as he was walking up to the chuppah to bless the couple and offer one of the Sheva Brachot (Seven Blessings). No one but me seemed horrified.

Not long ago I hosted a bride and her family on the day of her wedding. I own Casa Cala, a boutique bed & breakfast in Caesarea, and brides spend the day here getting ready and then the night following the ceremony with their new husbands. I’m not shy about saying that the place is gorgeous, and the photographs taken here are stunning.

This particular young woman had lost her mother to cancer only six months earlier. Her aunt is an acquaintance of mine, and when I heard that they were looking for a lovely location to get ready, I jumped at the chance to offer Casa Cala at a huge discount. I wanted to in some small way contribute to that girl’s happiness. The aunt accepted with gratitude, and it was indeed a very exciting time.

When I saw the video that was made here and at the wedding, I was incredibly touched. My house had never looked better, and the bride was truly glowing. While the video played, the girl was speaking: about her husband to be, their love, their family and how important the day was to her. I was moved to tears and couldn’t wait to share the video on my Facebook page. But I couldn’t get it to share. I reached out to her and asked what I was doing wrong. She answered me in the most apologetic, but sincere, way. She was very, very sorry; she really loved her time here, the whole experience of being at Casa Cala was amazing, but she felt the video was private and she had posted it only to certain people close to her.

She implored me to understand that while she very much would like to promote my business, she wanted the film to be viewed only by the people she chose.

Naturally, I understood and was touched by her explanation. My business will certainly survive without that video, while her sensitivity and the thought that went into her wedding left a very strong impression on me.

But as I looked back at the video, I realized there wasn’t one camera or mobile phone or tablet in the hands of any of the guests. Her friends and family were there for this couple in body and soul, totally reveling in the moment and not getting lost in capturing it on their digital devices.

There are endless examples of how devices have ruined intimate moments: flashes going off interfering with the photographer’s equipment; cameras shoved at you when you’re trying to concentrate on what’s happening; people walking around with iPads covering their faces asking other guests to move out of the way.

Your wedding is not only about the party; it’s about the joining of two people who have decided to commit their future to one another. You are about to walk over the threshold to the next phase of your life with one very special person, and you have chosen to share that experience with the people you love most in this world. Doesn’t the moment of that union deserve every ounce of concentration? Shouldn’t the focus of everyone’s eyes and thoughts be on you and your husband to be? Don’t you want to sip wine from the glass that he holds out to you, and watch as he slips the ring on your finger and see, out of the corner of your eye, your mum wiping away a tear without your friends madly clicking away at their mobile phones, tweeting their live and up-to-the-minute broadcasts?

While I wouldn’t consider suggesting you shun all photographic documentation, I would implore you to live each moment in the moment. Maybe you want an unplugged wedding. Leave the photo-taking to the professionals and find a way to encourage your guests to be there for you – without a device in their hands.

If you chose to do this, there are some really lovely and creative ways to let your guests know that you would like them to totally be there for you – and to please leave their devices at home, or at least turn them off during the most significant moments.

One option is to let guests know early on, and then ever so slightly remind them again on the day of the wedding. Include a cute line about “No mobile phone or cameras please until after the chuppah” in the invitation. Perhaps a poem or haiku written by you or a talented friend? A basket at the entrance of the venue with a note for them to kindly drop their phones in until the ceremony is over? (They probably won’t, but it will remind them to at least shut them off.) Certainly, an icon of a mobile phone with an X over it printed on the escort cards should get the message across.

Going a bit to the extreme consider labels on the back of all the chairs in the venue where the ceremony takes place: “We’re so happy you’re here. But please consider our feelings and don’t use your digital devices. We want you to enjoy the moment with us – not capture it!”

If you don’t mind the reference to devices preceding your ceremony, you could ask the rabbi or officiant to request that phones be turned off and cameras put away. There are plenty of sources out there for unplugged wedding ideas, and you can purchase ready-made signs from Etsy.

This is your day. The exclusion of intrusive phones and cameras is well within your prerogative. However, if you’ve thought about it and you truly don’t mind device participation then go for it! Create a wedding hashtag, let them click away and have a ball. But if you would like to preserve the intimacy and sanctity of your wedding, or a particular part of it, then definitely express your wishes so that your guests know how you feel.


Anne Kleinberg, a former New York interior designer, had an epiphany and moved to Israel. The design career segued into writing: lifestyle journalist, cookbook author and novelist. Anne’s latest passion is Casa Cala – Casa Caesarea – an awarding-winning bed & breakfast catering to brides and international guests in her luxurious villa on the golf course in Caesarea.

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