9 tips for a disability-friendly wedding (…especially when you're not visibly disabled)

Guestpost by Phantomssiren on Dec. 10th
My husband and me on our Halloween wedding day.

My husband and me on our Halloween wedding day.

Unless I'm moving around, none of my disabilities are particularly visible — impaired hearing, nerve damage, chronic fatigue, social anxiety, plus various joint and muscle injuries don't really stand out. However amongst our guests we had lots of friends and relatives with health issues of varying degrees and severity; Parkinson's, paralysis, Autism, Crohn's diseas, and Multiple Sclerosis being some of the more severe. We chose our venue and all the details of the day based on what would make everything as comfortable as possible for everyone invited.

For example: We kept the ceremony short, with only one reading so people wouldn't have to sit for too long. We trimmed the photos down so no one would have to stand outside in the cold for longer than necessary. We chose a menu that most of our guests could eat (though it included things I couldn't eat myself), and ensured that the hotel catered to all the allergies we'd been told about in advance. The reception had more seating than we needed so everyone had space, and we arranged for access to quiet areas outside the main room for those who wanted to retreat.

Unfortunately I pretty much forgot to take into account my own health. In hindsight, these are the things I learned or wish I'd have done at my own wedding…

  1. Insist on checking all the hotel facilities. The bridal suite might be lovely but if you can't physically climb onto the bed or use the bathroom you're going to have a lot less fun.
  2. Schedule plenty of breaks. Try to fit in twice as many as you think you'll need and start early in the day. Resting once you've already crashed isn't as effective as not crashing in the first place.
  3. Make sure you know what your medication can be mixed with and try to find alternatives just in case you accidentally end up drinking alcohol.
  4. Make a day-of kit with spare meds and anything else you might need (plasters, painkiller gel, etc.) and give it to someone trustworthy.
  5. Charge someone else with keeping an eye on the time. In the heat of the moment you might forget to eat for eight hours. It's easier if someone else reminds you of those things.
  6. Expect to explain yourself. People expect the bride and groom to float through the day serenely and if your guests are people you haven't seen for a while (or have never met) you're likely to get the "why are you limping/have a cane/wearing dark glasses/not making eye contact?" This is especially true if you have a chronic or invisible illness.
  7. Make sure your officiant really understands your condition. In the UK you often don't get to meet the officiant until just before the ceremony. I didn't properly explain my need to lip-read and ended up swinging my head around like I was at a tennis match.
  8. Double your worst case estimates. We thought a room without lift access would be okay as long as we wouldn't have to climb the stairs very often. However due to finicky keys, we spent a lot more time traipsing back and forth.
  9. Try to make sure people know before they start drinking that you have physical limitations. I do love to dance, but I bruise very easily. The reception was mostly rock, metal and eighties, which resulted in a lot of exuberant dancing and I got thrown around a lot without the opportunity to decline. Over a week later I'm still covered in bruises.

For most posts about working with your disability on your wedding day, check our disabilities archive.

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About Phantomssiren

Steampunk/goth graphic designing, disability campaigning, animal welfare working, accountant loving, craft-mad lunatic. With OCD and a love of chaos, and no, I don't know how that works either.