What's the tech etiquette for #wedding photos?

A wedding photographer's rant about camera phones went viral, but tech etiquette is still evolving.

Lee Jin-man/AP/File
LG Electronics Inc. unveiled a new smartphone with an additional screen and a camera that can capture a wider scene when taking a selfie, as debate over camera phone use in situations like weddings remains.

A photographer's post ranting against wedding guests who insist on taking endless photos has gone viral. Just how ubiquitous should technology during key family moments?

"Look at this photo," wedding photographer Thomas Stewart wrote on his business Facebook page. "This groom had to lean out past the aisle just to see his bride approaching. Why? Because guests with their phones were in the aisle and in his way." 

Mr. Stewart went on to say that such guests can get in the photographer's way, ruin good shots, and generally spoil the special moment for a bride and groom who want to see their loved ones' faces – not their phones – at their wedding. He suggested couples announce to guests that a wedding would be "unplugged."

Smartphones and selfies are everywhere, but that doesn't have to mean that Americans hold nothing sacred. At least 88 percent of Americans say they want phones out of sight during family dinners, and even more don't want them in movie theaters and churches, according to a Pew Research study released in August.

"For many Americans, cellphones are always present and rarely turned off, and this constant connectivity creates new social challenges," the report found.

So where do weddings – full of family and often in a church – fit into that spectrum of acceptability? It depends on the venue and the family.

Wedding photographer Kendra Pettit outlined her own policy in an interview with The Christian Science Monitor.

"Put away the phones, don't worry about it, I'll cover it," Ms. Pettit said.

Pettit puts a no-phone rule in her contract, but she also makes the photos available digitally for easy sharing. She doesn't make a public announcement about phones at the wedding itself, but she appreciates when the minister or officiator asks guests to put phones away.

"Most of the time (guests) listen, but I always catch a couple people," she says. "They say, 'Oh, this is my great-niece, I have to have this photo.' "  

Some couples put a sign up at the wedding urging guests to resist the temptation to post. On the other end of the spectrum, some couples create hashtags for their weddings to encourage guests to post and share photos of the event. 

Simone Hill claimed on the wedding site The Knot that in 2014, 55 percent of weddings used a hashtag.

"Will you love the photos everyone took forever? Definitely," Ms. Hill wrote. "At the end of the day it's the photos you'll really care about having and that everyone had fun with it."

Ultimately, considerate phone use will come from some but not others, like any other aspect of polite behavior.

"The problem with a new technology is that society has yet to come up with a common understanding about appropriate behavior," Mizuko Ito, an mobile phone culture expert at Keio University in Tokyo, told CBS News. "No matter what the technology, there'll always be people who don't mind their manners." 

Ultimately, wedding guests are there to bear witness, not to photo-document the event, notes Stewart in his viral rant.

"Share and celebrate the love that two people feel for each other.... You are witnesses to their marriage, so for goodness' sake, watch them with your eyes and your minds, not your phones."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.