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Accessible Weddings

My partner and I got engaged this year and even though we’ve decided to hold off until next year to start planning, I’ve been busy adding some pins to the Pinterest board and recently ordered my first bridal magazine.

I’ve been feeling a little (a lot) overwhelmed with the planning part. Even though I haven’t started it, it feels like there is SO MUCH to think about. Even if you just want something low key, chances are the people around you are looking for something more. I’ve lost count of how many people we’ve told we’re not planning it yet – but who have still bombarded us with questions about when it will be, what I’ll be wearing, who is invited, who isn’t invited, where will it be…and so on.

I’m a disabled and heavily tattooed woman, who is about to become an official step-parent. I searched for ‘alternative weddings’ and of course, Rock N Roll Bride came up. Ordering a bridal magazine was something just for me so I could get inspiration and ideas without talking to anyone else about it!

I was thrilled when the magazine turned up – not only because it happened to be issue ‘47’ which is my lucky number (just glanced at the time while writing this and it’s 08:47!)…but right at the front of the mag was an article all about making your wedding accessible for neurodiverse guests.

I felt a little sad that this would surprise me. I’ve not looked through a lot of bridal magazines, but I feel it’s safe to assume this type of article doesn’t feature very often. I did a little Googling to see if it frequently comes up in printed magazines and I found a lot of articles by disabled bloggers, but not a lot else.

The article itself was an advice segment, so I can’t give all credit to Rock N Roll Bride as someone had written in to ask – but it did feel like I’d picked the right magazine for me. ‘Dear Kat’ gave some great advice, breaking it down into sections. I’d love to see them do this for physical disabilities too.

While reading it, I was reminded of a friend and colleague, a physically disabled woman who was recently left out of a family wedding due to inaccessibility. When bringing this up with family, she was left without answers.

Planning a wedding is hard – I haven’t even started yet and it’s already hard, and that’s just batting off questions you’re not ready to answer or understanding what we can afford in line with what we want to do. I’m sure we will have to make difficult decisions when the time comes but choosing a space where our loved ones couldn’t attend because they physically couldn’t get in or access a loo for example, well that simply wouldn’t be an option for us.

Yes, it probably is because we’re both disabled and work in the disability field – it’s on our minds all the time, and it comes so naturally to us it is hard sometimes to remember that isn’t the case for everyone. Most nondisabled people just don’t think about it, and when it comes to design and beautiful wedding venues, it’s just not as high up on the list as what would look good in photos or how it sounds on the invites.

I asked Arianne (a wheelchair user) if she would be happy to share how it made her feel, being excluded. She said ‘When I was invited to my cousin’s wedding, it didn’t even occur to me they would book a venue I couldn’t access. They chose a former mill with fancy-looking exposed brickwork, and not only a flight of stairs to get to the floor with the party, but an additional flight of stairs to reach the toilet. I’m used to access failures in every facet of life (pavements, travel, shopping, housing, social, even healthcare) and the feeling of not being welcome still hurts all the time no matter how much personal resilience I have cultivated, but this cut so much deeper. I only have 2 cousins. The feeling of being left out of such an important day, where all the rest of my family got to attend, including our elderly Grandparents - with whom time is precious - plunged me into a deep depression, bringing with it an increase in disordered eating. It wasn’t out of malice; it was due to a lack of understanding. But that doesn’t make it hurt any less.’

It may not be wedding season right now, but if you’re planning a wedding, or even attending one soon, please think about accessibility. This isn’t just about the physical space either, consider not using flashing strobe lights for example or not being strict about the seating. Let your guests know if there are potential sensory triggers so they can plan and pack accordingly.

Thank you, Rock n Roll Bride, for including this article.

You can visit Rock n Roll Bride here

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