I used to always begin my wedding ceremonies by asking members of the audience (and sometimes the groom — never the bride so far) to turn off their cel phones for the duration of the ceremony. The idea was to stop a very rude if unintentional ring or beep. I still find I usually have to remind guests at least twice to make sure they actually do it. However, I no longer ask them to turn their phones off. I give them options which include putting the phone to vibrate or silent. This is because I now realize that in the age where the phone is much more than a calling device — it is (for the purposes of this blog post) a camera and a video recorder, I cannot ask people to turn them off.
With that in mind, I thought it was worthwhile to mention some interesting articles and editorials I have come across that discuss the growing use of cel phones at weddings for the purpose of taking what is now commonly referred to (with its own definition in the online dictionary) as the “selfie“. Indeed the debate is raging on both sides. Is it crude, rude and tacky? Or is it an inevitable cultural practice driven by our high-tech society?
Many criticize this practice saying that “me-generation” guests should be concentrating on the bride and groom as opposed to themselves — for just these moments. This article criticizes the bride who takes the selfie — during or immediately after key moments. I am intrigued by arguments on both sides of this debate. For instance, I wonder if my very loosely borrowed term “compulsion to text” challenges our ability to stay present during these major moments or alternately, whether as “prosumers” (producers as well as consumers), we should see this practice as just another element of online sharing — a practice some might argue allows the user/producer to control their own image or representation as opposed to leaving it all to the roaming (and ever costly) professional photographer. Maybe in keeping with the notion of “choice” at Humanist weddings, it is most appropriate if we, the Humanist Officiants ask the couple what they’d prefer — and pass on that choice to their guests as the ceremony begins. Food for thought.