Managing Social Media at Your Wedding

Emma Frankart Henterly

Wedding hashtag or go unplugged? Experts weigh in on the pros and cons of each.

Social media permeates our lives, and chances are it will permeate your wedding day as well. But all of that sharing can create some problems if you don't stay on top of it. Well-meaning family members can block the aisle to snag a shot of you walking in at the ceremony and friends can get too wrapped up in finding the perfect Instagram filter at thereception. So how can you manage something as pervasive as social media on your wedding day?

If you're all about social sharing of your big day, yoiu'll probably want to create a hashtag for guests to use.

"Having that hashtag is wonderful for you to look back and see the wedding through other people's eyes, not just what you remember or what your professional photographer shot," says Emilie Duncan of Emilie Duncan Event Planning.

Hashtags should be simple, concise and easy to remember, says Rick Mitchell, wedding planner at CW Weddings & Event Planning. He says that many couples choose a hashtag that includes a name and the wedding date, like #smith62516. Others turn their names into a cute play on words, says Duncan, like #henterlyeverafter. (And yes, that is a hashtag this writer used at her wedding.)

If you're going to encourage guests to take photos at your wedding, photographer Kimberly Potterf recommends that you discuss that choice with your hired photographer. That way, he or she knows what to expect and can plan shots accordingly.

After all, photo-obsessed guests might forget that you've paid a lot of money to have a professional document your day. Dealing with guests blocking shots is just part of the job, says photographer Julian Allen.

"Sometimes it can work in your favor," he adds. He often likes to get a shot of the couple cutting the cake, then turning around to get one of all the guests taking pictures of the couple cutting the cake, for example. "It's part of the story," he says.

"I think there's something kind of cute about a bride getting a selfie with her grandmother," adds photographer Hillary Ferguson, who says she often likes to document guests taking selfies together.

Of course, some couples are going the opposite route, opting instead for "unplugged" events so guests can be more present.

"I can remember shooting weddings when I first started out, and you see the bride coming down the aisle with her father or whoever, and everybody's looking and smiling at her," says Ferguson. "Now it's everybody holding up their cellphones, so it kind of just takes away from the moment of everybody admiring her."

Ferguson usually talks to her clients about the benefits of doing an unplugged ceremony. After all, she points out, "What kind of pictures are you actually getting from your cellphone in a dark church?"

Duncan agrees.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with people hashtagging and taking pictures at the reception, when it's a big party, but the ceremony is supposed to be a reflection of your relationship and the joining of two people," she says. "And everyone that you've invited, you want them there to witness that."

Potterf, who is herself a newlywed and encouraged guests to put their phones down at the ceremony, says one of the most memorable moments at her ceremony was "looking out to all my guests and seeing all of their faces...I don't remember seeing phones, I remember seeing faces."

Another bonus? No embarrassing or unflattering photos. "When you're using the hashtag, you have no control over the picture that that person took and then put your hashtag on it," says Mitchell.

Whichever option you choose-hashtag-friendly, unplugged ceremony or unplugged all day-you have to let guests know of your wishes. "A note in the program is a great way to go," says Duncan.

At the reception, she recommends signs on the tables. Mitchell adds that chalkboard signs are popular as well, and you can even include a hashtag on your save-the-date. If you want guests to be unplugged, phrase it as a request and not a demand, so guests will be more receptive.