How to find a wheelchair-friendly wedding dress

June 7 | Guest post by Andy  
Photos by: leah rae photography
I'm a bride who's disabled (I don't want to say I'm CONFINED to a wheelchair, but I do need one when I don't feel like crawling on my hands and knees.) My experience as an oft-seated individual is that beautiful dresses don't have quite the same visual sweep on me as they do on someone standing up.

It's also my experience that it takes people a minute to notice that I've entered a room, because I'm just simply not at their eye-level. So I've never really been able to do any real entrance-making. How do I make a little drama when I go to walk down the aisle?

Also, what kind of gown would be visually stunning for a bride who's sitting on her ass? And is there a way to convey me down the aisle that makes it so I'm looking at my guests and not up at them? -Nicolette

For this particular advice we thought we'd hand it over to our favorite wheelchair-rocking bride, Andy. You may remember her from the amazing bright green Edmonton wedding.

First of all congratulations!

I know exactly what you're going through — I'm in a wheelchair and have never worn a ton of dresses, so the wedding dress was kind of a guessing game for me, too.

My best advice? Get it custom made!

Do your homework and get a dress designer, rather than just a seamstress. A designer can come up with ideas you wouldn't have thought of. Pay the price you have to pay to feel beautiful — it is worth it! A custom dress will be fitted to YOU and can be designed around your wheelchair.

If the dress is a cut that fits you perfectly and accentuates your body, you'll look stunning whether you're sitting on your ass or not, you can't go wrong!

Simple with a unique twist (like the side ruffle I had on my dress) is the best way to go … and then accessorize! A great hairstyle and great accessories are just as important as your gown. Also, you're the bride, so no matter what all eyes are on you and you will stand out.

Additionally, you can hit up a specialty store like IZ Adaptive Clothing, which specializes in adaptive clothing for those in wheelchairs. And they have formal wear!

There are two options I can think of to make sure you're looking at your guests and not UP at your guests:

  1. Keep guests sitting! No one needs to stand up when you walk out, you can have the officiant requests that guests stay seated, then they're all eye level.
  2. Make sure your aisle is very wide. This is a lesson I learned the hard way. Our lovely ushers set up the chairs and we ended up with quite a skinny aisle. I didn't think about it until I was rolling down but it was super claustrophobic and uncomfortable because I was looking straight up at everyone (I ended up speeding down really quick). If the aisle is wider then you'll just be slightly looking up at people. Its not exactly eye level, but it will seem more eye level.

Other than that, I think you just have to have fun with it! Get people you trust and who you know will make you look beautiful. Like I said, you're the bride so no matter what, you're making an entrance and all eyes are on you! You'll be glowing and thus, breathtaking.

  1. Fantastic post, thank you. May I also toss out the suggestion of having the groomsmen or bridesmaids or your uncles or other burly/strong types (whatever you got and are comfortable with) carry you down in a litter? Your partner could have one too! Roman style! That could be cool and I think you could do a lot with it, if you wanted. (I am a bit of a Latin/Rome nerd though, so it might just be me). :)

    Either way- good luck and you will be glowing and gorgeous! :)

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    • I was thinking that exact same thing, but again, history nerd.

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      • First thing I thought of too! Rock on history majors.

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    • This was also my thought! Carried down in a litter and then gently placed (perhaps even with the help of your groom) into your chair at the end. Also, if you get a removable train, you could have it draped over the side giving the same stunning appearance as it trailing behind you. Then just take it off when it's time to move under your own power. Most brides with trains only have them down for the ceremony anyway.

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  2. I watch Say Yes to the Dress A LOT and on one episode they had a bride that was in a wheelchair and they made a cover over the back of her wheelchair that matched the dress she bought so she could still have a train.

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    • That episode of "Say Yes to The Dress" aired in Belgium today, the bride's wheelchair train was awesome!
      The best bit was when the groom picked up his new wife and carried her out of the church after the ceremony. :-)

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      • That's way better than being carried just over the front door step!

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    • I'm so glad you mentioned this, since I was going to say exactly the same thing! That episode really showed that even big, mainstream designer companies are still willing to work *WITH* you on what will make your dress and day special. To be honest, that episode made me cry. Oy.

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    • I was going to suggest this as well! I thought it was a lovely idea, if the bride wants a train!

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    • I was going to mention this as well! The part of the train I liked the best was how they bustled it for the reception. It was done up with a jeweled broach. It looked lovely.

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  3. I was thinking train or cool veil, too. Mind you, I've never had to navigate a wedding aisle in a wheelchair, so maybe that wouldn't work as well, but if you like cathedral veils, this would certainly be the time to rock one!

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  4. This is sort of in line with Say Yes to the Dress but what about also decking out your wheel chair? You could add tin cans etc like a car or pieces of fabric that would flow in the wide.

    In terms of not looking up at your guests, what about coming down a hill or something slanted where you start out at the top and your guests (and partner!) are at the bottom.

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  5. There's a designer in New York that is really super nice- the place is called Birnbaum and Bullock, after the two designers; I don't have any special issues for fidning a good dress, but when I was there the guy was very concerned with making me comfortable, letting me know what parts of a dress could be changed if I didn't like them, showing me how it would look when I walked, etc. THat friendliness and attention to detail, PLUS the fact that, on their website (http://birnbaumandbullock.com/index.html – check out the section for "Alternative Sizing") they address the fact that hey, some brides have special circumstances that make fitting a little more challenging; They have really nice dresses, and will customize things a bit where possible (I asked what alterations would cost, and he said they'd probably be able to change the pattern for me, so it would be $80 upfront instead of possibly 400 in the end (that's what the alterations cap out at)). I may be over-enthusiastic about these people, but I was really really impressed, and got a real feel that they know what they're doing and really care about the brides they make the dresses for.

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    • My wedding dress is from Birnbaum & Bullock! And you are 100% right, Robert and Steven really do care about their brides. I had multiple fittings with them and they were always super friendly, informative and SO accomodating to any family or friends that were with me (my friends and family loved them so much, they would fight over who got to come to my fittings lol). Throughout the whole design process, we talked on the phone and emailed constantly.

      I highly, highly, highly recommend Birnbaum & Bullock. Also, if you purchase a dress from the Birnbaum & Bullock line, as opposed to the Steven Birnbaum or Robert Bullock lines, all alterations are included in the purchase price. Also, with the B&B line, since you are meeting with the dress designers, they can make any changes you need. They altered my dress slightly and also made a beautiful matching shrug to go with the dress. Sigh. I just had such a great experience with them.

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      • Stacey:

        Sorry for hijacking the thread here, but can I ask how many fittings/ how far apart it took for your dress? And how close/far from the wedding? I love one of their dresses (like, I can picture handing it on down to daughters, etc.) but I'm moving to England in January/February and getting married in NY next August. I'm trying to figure out if getting a dress from B&B is feasible or if I'm going to want to tear my hair out despite the lovely service and pretty dress. You can email me at mollygrue211 at gmail dot com, so we don't continue to hijack the thread….

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  6. This is a great post!

    With regards to being at eye level, you could switch it up for your guests – have them standing for the bridal party's entrance and then have the celebrant or whoever say "please be seated to welcome the bride", so that it still feels a bit different.

    There'll be that moment where they all sit down and start craning their necks to see you come in, like everyone does when they rise for the bride.

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  7. great ideas! i 2nd the part about accessories. i personally have always thought it's the accessories that make the outfit, and people are usually focused on your face anyway, so they're more noticable & also a lovely addition to close-up pictures where your dress isn't even showing. and now that i think of it, you can wear whatever sexy crazy shoes you want without worrying too much about how they'll feel a few hours in! lucky you! ;)

    also i love that you guys pulled andy in!!! girl you are so awesome! one of my favorite weddings on the site!!!!!

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    • Thanks so much lady! And yes, cray fun shoes would be an awesome way to stand out!

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  8. Alternately, why not have different seating for your guests? Picnic-style or Floor cushion seating would have them looking UP at you!

    Who knows, if you're having it somewhere you guys are familiar with, such as a friends' barn, maybe you can make a raised entrance for you, skate-ramp style? Then you can be "cheek to cheek" coming back down the aisle with your sweetheart!

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    • My honey just said he would e-mail schematics for this – he is a former skater. E-mail me at jennieboo33 at att dot net for deets if this is something you want to do.

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      • Lol i was gonna recommend the ramp, it was the first thing I thought of…. if ya go that route though need to make sure that you have raised edges on the ramp just to be on the safe side. Dont wanna fall off itin middle of aisle.

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  9. my groom was in a chair so i actually sat during the ceremony as well! i didnt want it to look like i was towering over him. the only people standing were the small bridal party and the officiant. it kept everything at eye level to him. i went with a dress with no train that was simple and comfy to sit in and it all worked out great! good luck!

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  10. Thanks for the post! The aisle width is a great suggestion. My fiance uses a wheelchair and we might have forgotten that it needs to be wide enough so we can both walk down side by side. We're having trouble finding groom attire, too. All the suit jackets are just too long and look sloppy. He's a tall guy, too, so it's hard to find something long enough for his torso, but that doesn't go past his hips.

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    • Not sure how much time you have left til the wedding, but for the suit I highly recommend Duchess. Custom tailored men's suits for way less money than you'd expect (though they're still not cheap). My boyfriend is 6'4" and very slim, and most dress clothes look ridiculous on him, but the women at Duchess were incredible to work with, the suit (and custom shirt) looks amazing, and we did it all online! They have a number of standard suit styles but will also go full custom, or work with you to modify an existing style to meet your needs. Their attention to detail is incredible, as is their commitment to fine craftsmanship. Seriously. I'm so in love with that suit.

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    • Coats with tails are shorter in front. Maybe you could have a tailor remove the tails and give it a straight hem. Or he could just forgo the jacket altogether and wear a snazzy vest.

      I do hope you'll share pictures of your wedding. I'd love to see what you come up with. It's great to see offbeat groom attire. :)

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    • A kilt jacket might work for your fiancée,I looked on eBay and there are all sorts ranging from plain and simple to quite fancy.

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    • Buy him a jacket & have it tailored. Or do it yourself if you don't wanna waste money on a tailor. IT'S EXTREMELY EASY! All you have to do is put the jacket on him so you can measure how much of the jacket that you need to cut off.
      Lay the jacket on a flat surface & cut the extra fabric off.
      Then just use fabric tape to hem the jacket so the ends aren't left exposed.
      Here's a inexpensive one for ya: (YES This product is dry cleanable & machine washable.) http://www.joann.com/dritz-stitch-witchery-regular-tape-5-8inx20yd-/1051572.html

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  11. Thank you thank you! For the ladies in the wheelchairs, I had to go from one place to the next to look for a dress because I'm permanently on crutches. There's no way you'd be able to tell it was the dress that I tried on though now! It is possible to go with an off the rack dress but find a good alterations person!

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  12. Thanks Andy and everyone! LOVE the litter idea. I knew my outlandish passion for dead cultures would seep in somehow. And it works well with the sort of autumnal Celtic forest vibe I hope to achieve (Cesaur conquered Gaul, right?)

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    • Hope it helped a bit1 Look forward to seeing what you go with, you should definitely try and update us!

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  13. On the other hand, I like Miss Didi's idea about the alternate seating. Swapping out the white wedding chairs for something that feels more natural and comfortable.

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  14. This is about the dress style – although if you do go with a custom dress or something celtic/roman inspired, you probably won't have this problem, but (just in case)…I'd recommend something other than a ball gown. They tend to poof 'up' when you sit, rather than 'down', which could detract from the upper half of your body. Also, with most ball gowns that I've seen worn, they have a tendency to make the bride look shorter unless she's already quite tall.

    Miss Didi's idea with the pillows is really cool, but why not take it further? If you're going autumnal Celtic forest, you could buy or rent gym padding and cover it with a forest floor-pattern fabric. Then, maybe you could give guests fall-colored individual or body-length pillows to share during the ceremony.

    …Although, if you do a floor seating arrangement, you might want to take any elderly guests into consideration. Some of them might not be able to get down on the floor or to sit still for the whole ceremony.

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    • Tuck those who may have issues with sitting on floor off to the edges so that you still have the APEARANCE of being at the same height (everything looks diff from a lil bit of distance) and do a couple run thrus with various ppl to try the vrious ideas. That way you can get a 'feel' for what TYPE would work best for you. Ie. the ramp idea could be done in miniature with a couple boards and the tire ramps (as long as someone was there to make sure that you stayed steady, definatly dont want ya getting hurt) the floor idea could be tried with a few ppl standing around an area where the ground/floor is similar to where ya wanna get married at, so could the elderly idea.

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  15. To Miriah–
    ooh, excellent point about ballgowns. I didn't think about that. I was actually considering a sort of modified ballgown ballerina/faery style as one of my options (the other being an empire-waisted gown with some attention-grabbing detail down the front) so I guess that takes care of that.
    For the ceremony, I'm leaning toward actual, literal autumn woods, so now that I think about it, the cushions thing might not work. I would have no problem sitting on a forest floor if it were required of me (and probably even if it were not) but other people might…

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    • Seat them on blankets with an autumnal theme (or on fabric with the theme, could get that by the yard in expensively off sale racks in the fall, AND could lay it out in strips so you still get the 'row' effect).

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  16. I love the idea of both of you sitting up front and the crowd actually sitting lower than you, if possible.

    And, really awesome shoes!!

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  17. Another idea in addition to keeping guests seated is to angle the aisles, so they can see you better.

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  18. I have found a great site that wrote an article discussing a lady who actually designs wedding dresses for wheelchair bound brides! IZ Adaptive Bridal. found at IZAdaptive.com

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  19. I sometime have to use a wheelchair (increasingly so)and know that this might be a possibility on my wedding day. A thing that I have always considered when choosing any dress is how it looks when I'm sitting down as even when I can manage with my walking stick/s I still have to sit down at every opportunity. I find that dresses that are close fitting often scrunch up around my middle when sitting but ones that are fitted under the bust or at the waist with a soft floaty skirt seem to sit much better. I also think that above the knee looks better than bellow the knee as bellow the knee makes me look short and undefined. And yes, if I do have to use my wheelchair I shall ware the most fantastic shoes I can find!!!

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  20. I am wearing a gothic style for the renwal of our vows. I have a beautiful purple silk corset with black lace overlay the busk is the right length so it doesnt stick up when Im sat down. I am also hoping to find a black silk a-line skirt to go with it I live in the uk and the best price so far is £300. I have a black hairband I have customised with a piece of work thats black & purple feathers, lace & purple stones and black lace short mitts that have hearts in the lace pattern. im debating on making a short back veil from some embroidered black netting. Anything is possible if you give it a go & even better if you can do some of it yourself its great fun.

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  21. You could also try to 'spice ' things up a bit. Try riding a horse down the aisle. Or perhaps instead of going down it in a wheelchair, try in a cart (like you see in chinese movies, ya sit in cart and it gets pulled), maybe do things a bit differently (not sure as to your particular condition that has ya in the wheelchair, but depending on it then this could be feasable too) get a tandom bike and both you AND your groom go up on it, with him doing the work and you just hanging on behind with a veil streaming behind you.

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  22. may or may not need one for my mother "of the bride." Someone will be pushing her though. So I will have to look into this. We are on a very tight budget. Anything affordable on tight budgets you think?
    Thanks.

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