Congratulations on your engagement! Now that the celebrations are over it is time to start planning your wedding. It is no secret that wedding planning is not stress free, and when you have special accommodations, it may even feel a bit overwhelming due to the amount of creative thinking required to accommodate your needs. There is not as much help on the internet as one might expect, considering the statistics on disabilities and how many elderly relatives also require accommodations. It is surprising that it is still not easier to plan an accessible wedding for yourself, or to be inclusive for family and friends. We have compiled some ideas and suggestions here, to help in the process. In this article, we will provide ideas and suggestions for those who are planning their wedding and have a disability, so they may be their authentic selves on their big day. From the venue, to attire, to the reception, we have the hot tips on making your big day accessible for your needs. First up how to choose a venue that won’t let you down on your big day.
For the venue, it will be harder if you are looking at historical building or churches because they likely are not as accessible as they say. If you and your partner are not especially religious, it may help for those with mobility aids like wheelchairs, to spend the day in one location. Ideally, you’ll find a venue that is both accessible and understanding. It is not enough for well meaning attendants to be present, the venue must also understand your needs beyond having a ramp. This is probably the hardest part of venue shopping with a disability. But don’t worry, accessible venues do exist.
If you have a local disability network, or know others who have a similar situation you can field questions to, it is worth asking them if anyone else found any accessible vendors for their wedding. When it comes to the venue, we recommend visiting in person, and with those requiring accommodation to confirm with the venue. So, it is probably easier to stay local instead of a destination wedding. You can always save that for the honeymoon if you and your partner wish.
Again, some places may say they are accessible but have very different accommodation solutions in mind that may end up not being very practical. Yes, they may have accessible entrances, but they should also be the same entrances everybody else uses. The groom should not have to enter through a different door just to accommodate his mobility aid. If festivities do take place on a higher floor, there must be efficient ways to accommodate the happy couple and guests, seamlessly.
We recommend visiting several venues ahead of time, in person, to confirm their accessibility. Do not be immediately put off by something that seems inaccessible. A quick ask may reveal that it is, in fact, an easy fix. On the other hand, certain amenities deemed as accessible, may not fit your exact specifications. So, it is best practice to confirm everything on site.
Check the entrances and exits as well to make sure they are accessible. Wheelchair ramps need not stand out and can be covered with runners for a chic look. Also practice going down the aisle, and checking bathrooms and dressing rooms, too. For planning your ceremony, you will want to determine ahead of time if you will use your mobility aid(s) or need a strong surface to steady yourself. And then practice accordingly. If you are using a receiving line, make sure to include this in the practice run. After some couples say “I do” they choose to have a receiving line for guests to greet and congratulate them. Consider the placement of the line to include enough space for everyone to maneuver with ease.
Bring a little notebook to jot down any questions as you tour to discuss with the venue in terms of accommodations. We also recommend bringing a trusted friend, maybe somebody from the wedding party to help in asking questions and spotting any gaps in accessibility. Always set clear expectations with your venue and be upfront about your needs so there are no miscommunications down the line. Next, we will discuss attire including a bouquet, if you are using one.
Dress is one of the biggest points of focus for many couples on their wedding, so it is worth noting here. If you are looking for a traditional kind of suit you may be able to ask the store to take a few pieces home to try on in comfort, and return them for a guarantee. It could make the shopping process less stressful. If you are looking for something nontraditional like a custom piece or a dress, we recommend Bridal Dream Dress, that will customize any dress online.
As far as a bouquet, you may lay it across your lap, use a boutonniere, or wrist corsage to hold your flowers hands free. You may even want to consider decorating your mobility aid to coordinate colors or add flowers this way. We are proponents of celebrating our authentic selves, so we advocate for celebrating your disability on your big day because it is part of who you are. And your wedding is about celebrating you and your spouse, as you are, together. Lastly, we will discuss the reception and any related details.
In general, keep the same considerations for the reception as you did with the ceremony venue. This includes the flexibility to work with you and understanding of needs. This is one big reason it may be the most practical to choose a venue that can accommodate the ceremony and reception. Or, whatever combination of the two you and your partner have planned for your wedding vision.
If you are doing seating arrangements, be mindful of those with disabilities and convenience for getting up and down or around. Make sure the cake table is very sturdy if you are using it to steady yourself to cut the cake.
We do have another post dedicated to alternatives to the bouquet and garter toss that are appropriate modifications to be accessible and entertaining for your guests that is worth a read. And when it comes to the first dance, if you don’t like the idea of slow jamming in your chair, you can have the DJ play an upbeat song and even invite everyone onto the dance floor to join the happy couple. There is no rule you must do any traditional kind of wedding activity if you don’t want to for any reason. This includes the first dance, and every other detail you consider during this planning period. Remember, this is about personalizing the wedding to you and your partner, so you are free to keep what you like and leave the rest.
Visit any prospective venue in person to consider and confirm accessibility.
Ask about ramps at the venue. You can put a runner down between your wheels to give it a sleeker look.
Don’t rule out attire until you try it on.
Remember to think outside the box to plan your big day. That’s what makes it unique.
Use your resources. Remember the talents of family and friends to help in planning and executing a successful wedding.
Congratulations on your engagement and this exciting time in your life with your partner! There will be a lot of fun and stress ahead in planning your accessible wedding, so it’s important to keep the big picture in mind so as not to get overwhelmed. Do your research, and confirm upfront. Be clear with your needs and expectations with vendors, shop around for a good mix of quality and price, and always keep your budget in mind. Ask friends about vendors they have used and if they would recommend them. When it comes to planning a wedding with a disability, keep your resources in mind.
For more insight into planning an accessible wedding check out our other posts including inclusive alternatives to the bouquet and garter toss, alternative commitment pieces, engagement photo tips for people with disabilities, and inclusive and accessible bachelor party ideas. These articles will help you along the way for other aspects of the wedding planning process.
Enjoy this time planning your wedding with your partner and personalizing the details. You’ll be happy you did the work on your wedding day when you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor. With all the details taken care of, you can finally be your authentic self at your accessible wedding.