Blind women get married too

June 1 | Guest post by Elsa Sjunneson
Photo of Elsa aka Snarkbat by Stephanie Jones Photography
Photo of Elsa aka Snarkbat by Stephanie Jones Photography

I am completely blind in my right eye. I'm super nearsighted in the left. Not allowed to drive, no depth perception, limited peripheral vision, and calcium deposits in the right eye that cause me migraines if I don't wear a scleral shell. To the left is what my eye looks like when I wear the clear shell that I have. It is my preferred way of going about things. I do have a painted shell, it makes my eye match my other one, but after twenty-five years of having mismatched eyes, matching feels weird and untrue to myself.

I carry a white cane. It helps me to warn sighted people that I can't see them, since I lack all the things I mentioned above. Furthermore, it has made my life better. I can look around and not stare at the ground. The cane has changed my life.

So what does this have to do with weddings? It has everything to do with my wedding.

Families can have a specific picture in their head of what a bride will look like; people on the street will even have images in their head. I am not that picture. It is no one's fault though, it's the fault of the Wedding Industrial Complex. The WIC likes to project the image of a bride to be one specific thing, possibly so that we all try to look like their models. Which would be why I've always envisioned myself as having an "offbeat" wedding.

I am not wearing a veil, because I know that it would prevent me from using what peripheral vision I DO have. I am not wearing a white dress, because I would not be able to see the detail on my own dress. I am walking down the aisle by myself because the idea of a bunch of people on either side of me and one person really close to me makes me very nervous.

And this doesn't really get across with some people.

Within three days of becoming engaged, I had already been told that I shouldn't wear my glasses, because they're not bridal. I was told my cane wasn't bridal. I was told my eye (featured above) was not bridal.

And I realized that if I was going to be "bridal" in their eyes, I was going to have to change who I am. I am proudly disabled. I am the blind woman who moved across the country by herself to live in New York City. I am the blind woman who has done sword fighting and parkour. I am the blind woman who loves to lindy hop on a crowded dance floor — and I will not change to meet what the Wedding Industry believes is bridal.

When I was told that I shouldn't carry my cane, my fiance's comment was this:

Him: I think you would look very pretty walking down the aisle with your cane.
Me: But it'll be a flat aisle, right?
Him: Actually, I was thinking speed bumps and broken glass!

My glasses are a part of my face. And he loves my face. So they stay, too. :)

When a vendor commented that they weren't comfortable with a guide dog (even though I don't have one), or when another venue told me that they were impressed with my typing skills and asked if I was the "helper" for the bride, we chose not to hire these people because they were not supportive of who I am, or who we are as a couple. I am so glad that my fiance chooses to combat my frustrations with laughter, and to support the decision to never give our money to someone who doesn't get the fact that blind women get married too.

So, what did I do about the cane, you might ask? Well, a very dear friend of mine Michael Angelus Salerno made me this cane:

This is the Steampunk White Cane aka, "The Steamcane." And lord help anyone who tells me it's not "bridal." I will carry it with pride on my wedding day.

Updated to add: be sure to check out Elsa's wedding profile!

  1. My friend isn't blind, just wears glasses, and several people (including the women in the dress shop and her hair and makeup people) told her she shouldn't wear glasses as they 'weren't bridal'. Insanity.
    They are part of her, and even without the fact that she wouldn't have been able to see a bloody thing of her own wedding, she wouldn't have felt like her without them.

    I also love that cane! My boyfriend has one quite like it that he just likes to stalk around the house with (bless him), I keep telling him he should use it as part of his wedding outfit.

  2. Just want to add my praise to the gang. this post just made me take a DEEP breath in and relax about the whole silly wedding process. i admire your attitude in dealing with silly people. and…you totally made my afternoon with the multitude of one-liners in the post!

  3. I have no immediate or longterm prospects for getting married, but I stumbled onto this site through a friend today, and am loving the creativity here. And Snarkbat, how awesome are you!?! The Steamcane is seriously cool and I suspect the whole wedding will be too. The wedding vendors who ask you to be someone else for their own comfort–ecch. The best weddings I've been to *are* very individual and personal.

  4. Thank you so much for reminding us all that it is these differences in life that make us who we are and make us special. A wedding is about celebrating the love between two people and being genuinely happy that these two individuals are coming together for a lifetime. Instead, we use it as a time to make people feel inadequate for who they are or for wanting an experience that is different from “the norm”. In the end, it only matters that the bride and groom are happy because it is truly their day. Your fiancé fell in love with you for all that you are, I’m so glad you did not present a fake, watered down version of yourself for your wedding.

  5. I think it's good that you shunned certain venues for non-support. I chose not to go with a dress shop that I originally loved because they made the comment 'you have to have parents with you to try prom dresses' in a vary stuck up way (assuming I was like 15/16, which I am not), when I was clearly looking at WEDDING dresses. Even when I explained the situation, you could tell they were dubious. So I left and got my dress elsewhere. I would have definitely went with them if they were polite, so they're only losing business for themselves by making presumptions.

  6. if i didnt wear my glasses for my wedding i would have had a migraine before it was time to walk down the isle to my *quite* disabled husband. (you wouldnt believe the grief i got just for marrying him lol) i love that you didnt change who you are for someone elses idea of "perfect". i gotta ask tho. parkour??? im not coordinated to do that sighted, how on earth do you do that blind? **APPLAUSE**

    • I only just saw this comment – I did parkour very carefully, mostly I did the vaulting work and the running, but we tried to stay away from jumping ACROSS things that had gaps between them.

  7. I loved reading your post! It's pretty inspirational. :)

    I also particularly love the cane – it's something that my SO would love (he's legally blind, has a cane, and loves all things steampunk). It's something I'd love to give to him as a gift – is there a tutorial of some sort for this?

  8. Oh my gosh you rock so much! And that cane rocks! I totally think the WIC is in need of a kick in the pants. Taking off glasses, losing weight, getting extensions, why must we change the way we look to get married? Obviously our SOs love us enough to marry us with the way we look as is! I really love the fact that you are a burlesque historian and performer, that's the coolest most rocking job title I think I've ever read!

  9. I thought about this post when I heard about brides who are using a nasogastric tube for liquid nutrition in order to lose weight for their wedding. The whole wedding thing (as well as the prom thing) has gotten so huge it overshadows everything else. It's like a Broadway opening for a show that closes after one night, on purpose.

    Here's to all the brides who push back when outside expectations are shoved at them.

    • I am a photographer and have looked into photographs fro the blind – something that interests me. Locally there is a special venue that deal with weddings for people with disabilities but especailly visibile impaired people.Windermere Manor in the Lake District. Its your day and you need to have it perfect and easy for you

  10. GO, SNARKY!! <3
    I can see and I STILL want your cane– its amazing!

  11. I must say that I admire you, I can't swing dance to save my life and I'm only near sighted!

    I totally agree with your message, brides come in every shapes, sized and colours and genders for that matter, the wedding industry has to accept that not everyone is a cookie cutter bride.

    My friend had the same trouble as she's in a wheelchair and has limited use of her legs. She wanted a simple wedding with a knee length dress that wouldn't get caught in her wheels and found that bridal shop sales people grew impatient with her very fast as she had to have her friend's help to try on the dresses and venue owners looked at her strangely when they realized that their venue had to be wheelchair accessible because of the bride and not an aged relative upon meeting her. Still in the end, she had the wedding of her dreams and looked beautiful.

    I wanted to finish this by saying, I saw your wedding photos and look forward to seeing it profiled and think that your shell looks so neat!

    I totally agree with your hubby, I love your face in glasses too.

  12. WOW, you rock, sword fighting and parkour and lindyhop. I can't do parkour and I'm sighted. The cane looks fab too and screw people who say x isn't bridal. If you're getting married and wearing or carrying or using it it's going to be bridal. Actually, it's not bridal, it's part of you and why should it be changed?

    Sorry, I can't get over the canes and wheelchairs aren't bridal comments. Some people are just so small minded. What do they expect people to do who use aids? leave them behind and fall over?

    I did not use one of our venue choices because although they could provide ramps for our wheelchair using guests they had obviously just added a brand new spa/gym area and hadn't bothered to include an accessible toilet. The venue we used had a lift, flat access and an accessible toilet!

  13. as a wedding photographer who has spent the last two years with limited to zero sight in one eye (it depends on the day really), and a whole lot of nearsightedness in the other, this post touched my heart SO!!!!!!! GOOD FOR YOU (and your fiancee!) for not listening to everyone's stupidity!! i would be honored to be your vendor, non-brideyness and all! in fact, i consider it a plus :) congrats!!!!!

  14. You look absolutely stunning! I just found out that I am now legally blind and I hope that some day I might be as lucky and look as stylish as you do on your wedding day. Very best wishes to you and your special man.

  15. Pfffft, "not bridal". Who wrote the handbook on what IS bridal? Oh, that's right, there isn't one! Being 'bridal' is being yourself on YOUR wedding day. Brides should not feel pressured to conform to social norms, just because everybody else does it. Thankfully, more offbeat and 'rocknroll' indie weddings are cutting swathe in the wedding industry – and not a moment too soon! They are my preferred type of wedding to shoot – people who aren't afraid to stamp their individuality, and not give two hoots what anyone else thinks. That is what I will be doing on my future wedding day – and I am glad you did it on yours. You look like a doll, totally beautiful, gorgeous dress, stunning detailing….. and thwackity stick glamour!

  16. You look stunnig, absolutly georgous. The dress and the cane suit you perfectly. Its inspiring.

  17. Wow! I have a lot of blindness in my family and there is a possiblity one day I could get the form of blindness that taunts our family.

    I just hope that if that day comes I deal with it in a dignified and awesome way you do.

    Businesses who discriminate in the way you have experienced do not deserve your business or anyone's.

    Life is about being you, regardless of disability. I hate the idea of having a standard one size fits all wedding. My wife and I just did what we wanted because at the end of the day it is only for you, it is only you that will look back on that day. It should be what you wanted it to be and it sounds like it was.

    You look stunning on the photo by the way I'm glad you did it your way.

    Much love

    Chris

  18. You're awesome. You're wedding and don't change who you are for it.
    Awesome cane too.

    And your hubby sounds pretty cool with that joke too.

    I'm really nearsighted and no desire to wear contacts. I agree. My glasses are part of my face. totally get that.

  19. You go girl! It's called "your special day" for a reason, not anybody else's special day (except your fiancé too). You took control of it, and you looked fierce! Congratulations :)

  20. Just wanted to say, "YOU ROCK!" Bridal is what ever YOU as the bride wants it to be, not what everyone else tries to tell you it is. For the first time ever, I had cupcakes at a wedding instead of a wedding cake. I thought it was a cool idea so now that that same friend is expecting, we are having cupcakes for her baby shower.

  21. Ok. Everything about you is awesome. From your amazing personality to your unique one of a kind, true beautiful self.

    So, let's talk about those SHOES! Seriously you are ROCKING it.

    Your wedding style is in my top 5 all time favorite wedding looks. Thanks for sharing!

  22. The first thing I see is not the cane nor the glasses but that fab dress – I love the way the skirt falls / hangs – the whole look is amazing! – strong and individual – I love the fact that you've swapped the white cane for gold – but can you ever go back now though? – I don't think I could!

    I still can't believe that in 2014 people can still be so stuck in their ways, old fashioned and incredibly opinionated and insensitive – to ANY bride let alone someone who has a disability (that well lets face it – erm you can't really do anything about!!) that they've deemed doesn't quite work according to their norm! – how ruuuude!

    It's your day why should anyone have a say on even what colour your dress is let alone accessories which you actually kinda require!!

    you totally rock this look and I love this article – even if it has made me a little angry about how ignorant and insensitive people can be – but it sounds like you've bagged yourself a fab chap who gets you with a supportive nature and sense of humour – and great you avoided the idiotic vendors too!

    I wish you both all the best! x

  23. You go girl! I'm legally blind and live in Perth, Western Australia. I've got a Guide Dog (Angus) but also use a white cane in places where I don't want to take Angus. I love that you have gotten an awesome cane made for your wedding and are going with vendors that aren't weird about you having a disability. We took Angus with us to meet our wedding coordinator and the resort couldn't have been more accepting.

    All the best with your wedding you rock!

  24. You are a stunning bride. I absolutely LOVE that dress! I love this post even more. :) Congratulations on your wedding!

  25. I would be very interested in any ideas you would suggest for a blind groom. He has only been blind for the past four years, but it is nearly total. I understand that he doesn't have to walk the isle, but there are so many things that I think I could do to help him get a full experience. For example, I am considering a textured/beaded gown, so that he can "see" what I am wearing. Please let me know any hints or tips you have. And I would like to say that I am very glad to hear that you do not allow anyone to talk down at or look down on you because of your disability. That is how it should be.

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