Becca Dilley remembers the first time she saw newlyweds leaning in for the traditional kiss while arms rose from the sea of guests — holding iPads aloft to record the moment. “I have yet not to find it hilarious.”
As a wedding photographer, Dilley watches with some concern as social media are changing a ritual that’s mostly about the bride and groom to an event that potentially cedes control to anyone with a smartphone. On a day planned down to the mints, social media allow for random acts of mindlessness.
Wedding websites and magazines now include tips for dealing with well-meaning tweeters, stalkerish iPhone sharers, giddy Facebook posters or irrepressible Instagrammers.
Some couples embrace technology with gusto, while others wonder how to keep their vows from going viral. Social media are the new “plus one” at weddings, causing couples to consider how to manage the technology so that friends and relatives don’t morph into Guestzillas.
Twin Cities wedding planner Alyson Newquist of Bash Collective became a believer in value-added social media after her own nuptials. Given the lag time for professional photos, it was fun for her to see friends’ photos posted online the next day.
“There is a level of satisfaction of going on Facebook and being tagged a hundred times,” she said. “What social media is doing to weddings is extending the space-time continuum in a way that’s pleasant for many people.”
Still, she added, “We’re in a sort of no man’s land in terms of social-media etiquette.”
Say yes to distress?
National retailer David’s Bridal annually asks brides what’s on their minds. This year? Social media.
Almost six in 10 newlywed women said it’s crucial to have social-media rules at a wedding. Slightly more than half say that the bride and groom must be the first to post wedding photos to a social-media site. And six in 10 brides admit they’d forbidden bridesmaids from uploading photos of them in their gowns before the ceremony.
Many couples draw a distinction between the solemnity of the ceremony and the more celebratory reception.
In any case, you need to make your wishes known, said Laura Barclay, an etiquette consultant who owns the Tampa/Minneapolis Civility & Etiquette Centres.
“Put a notice in the program itself — not at the top, at the bottom — noting that this is an ‘unplugged’ ceremony, which is the term people are using,” she said. “Or you can have the officiant ask the guests to silence their electronics.”
Unplugged goes for kids, too. “This should be part of their development, to understand proper behavior at weddings,” Barclay said.
Other options include posting a sign as people enter the wedding venue, asking them to refrain from using electronics. Or place a framed notice at the guest book with a similar message. (But don’t do both, Barclay said, or you’re veering toward Bridezilla territory.)
Likewise, Newquist nixed a tip about having a basket where people can drop their phones. Sounds simple, but it could boomerang if guests think the couple have “an elevated sense of self-importance, which isn’t very Minnesotan.”
Newquist champions a light touch. “Humor is a great way to convey what you want communicated at a wedding.” For example, riff on the turnoff reminders before movies or on airplanes. One wedding site noted a minister who joked that there was “a quiet room in the back for excited children and people busy with cellphones.”
Dilley said guests using social media during the ceremony can keep them from truly experiencing a moment to which the couple have given a lot of thought. “I would question why you’re taking photos instead of really being there,” she said.
Professionals still needed
When Mindy Gallimore married Ryan Murray in August, friends created a hashtag handle, #murramore, for their tweeting and photo-sharing. No one considered it cutting-edge, just normal.
“We both work in advertising and marketing, and a lot of friends do, as well,” she said. “Most of them are very attuned to social media. It’s not just part of our social lives, but our professional lives.”
Social media undeniably make weddings more public, she said, but also more distinctive. Last summer, she and Ryan attended a raft of weddings that, face it, could have blurred together. But each had a Twitter handle, which gave guests a way to participate to a greater extent than clinking champagne flutes.
She said their officiant asked guests to turn off any devices during the ceremony, although she hadn’t specifically requested that. “I’d seen at other weddings that it wasn’t a concern, that everyone knew to put their phones away.”
Nor did the St. Louis Park couple field any arched eyebrows from older family members at all the tweeting. “They’re so used to us having our phones out all the time.”
The immediacy of Instagrams was fun, she said, because the photos showed more candid moments. “But nothing will ever replace professional photos,” she said. “It’s nice to see the Facebook posts, but they don’t really compare.”
For Twitter or worse
Technology is here to stay. The popular wedding website www. theknot.com suggests that if the bride struggles with not updating her status on the hour, she designate a Tweeter of Honor.
Photo-sharing sites let guests download photos at the reception to a designated wedding album. Couples can livestream their wedding to friends or relatives unable to attend, whether it’s at a Fijian beach or a Burnsville church. Dilley has been to several where an elderly relative has been able to observe the ceremony or the toasts distantly via Skype, “which is actually very lovely when done well.”
There are even couples who take time at the altar to change their Facebook status from “engaged” to “married.”
That may send Aunt Frances into a tizzy, but then she may have driven Grandma Hortense into a tizzy by dancing the twist at hers.
“I mean, old etiquette books used to say to never mention that your parents are divorced,” Dilley said. “It’s always evolving.”