You’re recently engaged? Congratulations! As you've probably discovered, images of brides and grooms with disabilities will not be easily found within the pages of popular magazines. So there are probably very few examples to generate ideas and reminders for all of details you’ll need to incorporate into your event.
That's why you should check out these tips for planning an accessible ceremony, disability-friendly considerations for your reception, and accommodating guests with different needs…
Accommodating your guests
First, determine if anyone on your guest list has special needs or accommodations. Does anyone use a wheelchair, walker, crutches, or mobility equipment? Or do you have anyone elderly attending? Making sure your guests are comfortable is just as important as making sure your own accessibility needs are met.
Choosing a venue
Make sure that your venue is accessible for both you and your guests
- Visit a handful of venue options ahead of time.
- Walk the entrances and exits that both you and your spouse will be using, and that guests will be using in case you have anyone coming with special needs.
- Visit the dressing rooms, bathrooms, practice walking down the “aisle,” etc.
- Bring a notebook with you to record the little things that you will want to discuss with the venue to ensure they can accommodate your needs.
- Keep in mind that choosing historic churches or buildings can potentially be difficult to accommodate wheelchair users.
Work with your venue to make the space work for you
Think about what you want to request of your venue. Perhaps bring a trusted friend with you who knows your needs, as well as the needs of your guests, to help you remember to ask all the right questions.
Do not rely on the opinion of your venue. What they may say is “accessible” could, in practice, be very inaccessible depending on your needs. While you may be able to enter and exit the facility without a problem, getting to the altar, maneuvering into a receiving line, or narrow hallways and pews for your guests could pose problems.
Remember, it never hurts to ask! What may seem inaccessible at first could be an easy fix that your venue is willing to work out with you. Setting clear expectations will help ensure there are no unexpected surprises and will help you find out how your venue can best accommodate your needs.
Planning your ceremony
Think about if you will be staying in your wheelchair to say your vows, or if you will be “walking” yourself down the aisle, or having someone else walk you down. Also consider what you want the aisle arrangement to look like. Your officiant can offer suggestions to help make the venue work for you as well.
Plan a practice walk-through with the person who will be walking you down the aisle and with your officiant the night before the wedding.
Carefully consider if you’d like to carry a bouquet. Get creative when it comes to carrying your bouquet — lay it in your lap, attach a strap to connect it to your wheelchair, or make an extended handle so it’s easier to grip.
If you are doing a sand or unity candle-type ceremony, think about having the items placed on a table that you can steady yourself at, if needed, and at a level comfortable for you.
Your receiving line
After you say “I do” some couples choose to have a receiving line for their guests to greet and congratulate the happy couple. Consider placing your receiving line with plenty of wide open space for guests who may use mobility equipment as well to ensure they can get through the line to congratulate the happy couple with no problem.
Keep the same considerations in mind for your venue space as you did for your ceremony in terms of accessibility, ease of access, your and your guests’ needs, and the flexibility and willingness of the reception venue of your dreams to work with you.
If you are planning a seating chart
Think about those with special accommodations, and try to place them in more convenient seats — not in the far back corner, plenty of room between seats, etc.
The first dance
If you’re just not into dancing, or any other traditional reception activity, don’t feel pressured into having to go through the motions. If you DO want a first dance, or other firsts, then go for it and have fun! Practice together at home with your spouse to prepare for your first dance to figure out the best way to dance together.
Place your cake on a firm table surface. If you need to steady yourself while performing the cake cutting, you will want to ensure a strong, reliable surface. Make sure the table is at a height that is comfortable for both you and your spouse and placed in the room with plenty of space to get around the table and still at an optimal photo taking angle.
Celebrate your disability at your wedding
Your disability is a part of you. It has helped shape you into who you are and maybe even led you to your future spouse. Celebrate it! Honor your disability by working into your wedding – below are some ideas:
- Personalize your wheelchair by hanging tin cans behind your wheels for a photo op, or a special “Just Married” signs on the backs of your wheelchairs.
- Decorate your equipment — consider adding a fabric train to the back of your wheelchair or wrapping your walking devices in flowers or ribbons.
- Personalize your M&Ms with a stamp of a handicapped symbol to scatter around your table for favors.
A little creativity and a lot of patience planning a wedding as an non-traditional couple can guarantee a great day, no matter your ability.
What other tips do you have for planning a disability-friendly wedding? Share in the comments!