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Social media is the new 'plus one' at weddings

MINNEAPOLIS — 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 is changing a ritual that's mostly about the bride and groom into an event that potentially cedes control to anyone with a smartphone. On a day planned down to the mints, social media allows 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 is 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.

Minnesota 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.

Still, she added, "We're in a sort of no man's land in terms of social media etiquette."

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 the bride and groom must be the first to post wedding photos to social media. And six in 10 brides admit they had 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 and 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.

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."

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 has given a lot of thought. "I would question why you're taking photos instead of really being there," she said.

Technology is here to stay. The popular wedding website 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 upload photos at the reception to a designated wedding album. Couples can live-stream their wedding to friends or relatives unable to attend, whether it's at a Fijian beach or a local church. Dilley has been to several where an elderly relative observed 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 her wedding.

"I mean, old etiquette books used to say to never mention that your parents are divorced," Dilley said. "It's always evolving."

Social media is the new 'plus one' at weddings 08/30/13 [Last modified: Friday, August 30, 2013 3:41pm]
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