Kick-ass wedding tips for chronically ill brides

Guest post by Lexie Frost DiNatale
Smiling through the pain, Lexie marries Al in New Orleans. (Photo by Chris Williams)
Smiling through the pain, Lexie marries Al in New Orleans. (Photo by Chris Williams)

What will you be thinking about during your wedding ceremony? Will it be the future you are about to start with the love of your life? Will it be how fierce you look in your dress? Will it be the cake you intend to demolish?

Well whatever it is, I hope you won't be thinking what I was: “Dear God I hope I make it to the end of this thing without wetting myself!”

Yup, sad but true. I have had Interstitial Cystitis (IC), a chronic urinary condition since I was 20. I pretty much feel like I'm passing kidney stones every day and I'm not going to lie, at times it can make life much less fun. By the way, the ceremony passed without my feared outcome although I did have to make my customary Cinderella-dash from the scene.

It took a few years but I began to accept it as part of me and realised that chronic illness, while frustrating and painful, can be the making of you as a person. I guess having a chronic illness makes most sufferers a little offbeat. To lead fairly normal lives requires us to be adaptable and downright inventive.

We favour weird and wonderful hobbies that can be kept up even if we're out of action for months on end. There is no corner of Etsy that lurks undiscovered. We often immediately pick up on outsiders and gravitate towards them because we kind of get it (even if we don't really get it). We also grab every opportunity for happiness and fun that we can, as we never know when our conditions will worsen.

Carpe Diem is our motto. Despite my health I have moved abroad without knowing a soul, I have danced burlesque, I have flown across the world to go on a second date (reader, I married him), and I take way more risks now than I ever did before IC. My friends love it when I update the list of famous places around the world where I have peed in public without getting caught (the Circus Maximus in Rome is currently winning).

We are fabulous multi-taskers, often keeping our troubles from public view while holding down jobs (when we are able).

Chronically ill brides-to-be (or grooms) should embrace the fact that we are used to conducting life like a military operation, so the minute details of wedding planning are second nature. But we shouldn't forget to enjoy the day and the person we are committing to.

In that effort, here are my 10 tips for wedding planning with a chronic illness…

Feel comfortable in your outfit

My first wedding purchase was my underwear, no joke. There is no point in binding yourself up in a corset if you can't breathe and it's an issue. If you get cold easily but want to show off tattoos, have a wrap or jacket on hand.

If you have stoma, go for a '50s prom dress with a full skirt. If you use a wheelchair, consult this post about finding a dress.

Your health should not be a barrier to self-expression, but you should feel at your best in what you wear.

Technology is your godsend

Camera phones can take pictures of venues, dresses, or cakes when you can't make it out and about. Sites like Etsy and Ebay allow you to be as weird and wonderful as you wish, all from the comfort of your bed.

Venue is important

Your needs come first. So if you need somewhere mobility-compatible or close to a restroom, don't get married in the wilderness. Just use common sense.

Stress watch

Stress can affect chronic conditions so if you can arrange some stress-busting the week before the wedding, whether this involves checking into the venue early (and enjoying the spa) or keeping last minute details to a minimum, it will help your body to calm itself.

Create a contingency plan for unexpected health issues

Whether it's a chair nearby, incontinence pads, medications on standby, or knowing the quickest route to hospital. Hopefully it will not be needed but it gives you peace of mind. We are normal brides with one or two special requests.

Always know where the loos are!

Douglas Adams had a point about knowing where your towel is and the same goes for toilets. If you have Interstitial Cystitis you are probably thinking this is a no-brainer. It is never off your mind when you venture somewhere new. Most indoor venues have them but you can check via the Radar Scheme which maps toilets worldwide.

Get the hair stylist/make-up artist to come to you

This is a big help when it comes to energy conservation. And it makes you feel very important indeed!

Take a break if you need to

Your wedding guests are there because they know and love you. If you need to rest/vomit/hydrate/change a dressing or catheter, the wedding will still be there when you return.

Keep photography sessions short

We organised a separate portrait session for the following day. It was much less stressful and also meant our guests didn't have to wait around after the ceremony.

You may seem like a control freak but that's okay

You know that song “It's My Party And I'll Cry If I Want To”? That's our collective song! Even if “Prince of Darkness” by Megadeth is officially our wedding song.

Also, be sure to check out ALL of Offbeat Bride's posts about disability-friendly weddings.

Comments on Kick-ass wedding tips for chronically ill brides

  1. Oh, gosh, does this apply to me! While I don’t have CI, I do have another bladder condition. If I’m lucky, I get 30 seconds warning when I have to pee, usually even less. Fortunately, it does not make me prone to other health problems (aside from the occasional extra UTI) so hospital concerns are not necessary.
    While I did scope out the bathroom near our venue, I am so worried about the dresses I love working with my mad dashes to the restroom. I think I am literally going to schedule in bathroom breaks for myself during my wedding day.
    Now I think I need to go back to the dress shop and try to play around with the dress I picked (but haven’t bought) to make sure I can go.

  2. LOVE THIS! I have arthritis and I was worried about standing all day long. The “take a break if you need to” is, I think, the best advice and the hardest to remember. We want our guests happy, and to me that meant there couldn’t be a large gap between wedding and reception. But I also needed to go lay down, or I wasn’t going to make it through the reception. So, three hour gap it is. Your family and friends love you…if they know the three hour gap is so you can take a nap and be ready to party more, only an asshole is going to complain about it. Fantastic post!

  3. I have several chronic illness, the major one is severe Fibromyalgia. The things I did on my wedding day to avoid making myself physically incapacitated before the end of the night was: (1) no receiving line (hugs, especially that many, are excruciating). (2) My dress was a corset. It sounds like this is counterproductive and have the opposite affect but it help me have good posture all day and hold my spine in a good position even when dancing. (3) Hydrate! This is important for even healthy people, but because of my intestinal chronic illness I couldn’t drink and had to stick to water (which was OK by me!). (4) Took plenty of pain medication before hand and during the reception. (5) Skipped the crazy light show during the dancing portion of reception to avoid over stimulating my neurological issues (and nobody cared and probably didn’t even notice). I’m sure there were even more, but it was over 2 years ago so their probably just not coming to mind at the moment. My symptoms for a few days after were exacerbated of course but if I didn’t do what I did it would’ve been much worse. It was a great day!

    • Ditto on the possibly helpfulness of corsets! I have chronic back problems and was worried about standing up so much – but with my longline bra and corset-laced gown, I had so much support I stood and walked around for hours with far more comfort than I expected. Honestly, I was sooo sore when I went home after decorating the day before, and sooo sore when I woke up the morning of my wedding day, I took pain medication as well (and made sure I had more with me, that I didn’t end up needing). Unfortunately my groom – who also has chronic back problems – didn’t hold up as well. Maybe I should have gotten him a corset, too!

    • Holly, I suffer from Fibromyalgia as well. It can be so incredibly painful at times. I’m glad you made the most of it and had a wonderful day anyways.

      I’m a wedding planner now so hiring a couple of employees really helps take a lot of the burden off my shoulders. Besides, being the boss is a wonderful thing.

  4. Thank you so much for writing this! See… issues like these are what I am most concerned with, yet so few wedding blogs will openly talk about them. It doesn’t seem very ‘bridal’ to have a malfunctioning body at a wedding, and yet here we all are! Brides with wonky bodies!

    I have von Willebrand’s disease (inherited bleeding disorder) and asides from the usual bruises, I don’t anticipate any major issues (unless aunt flo comes early… in which case I will regret wearing white!)

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. I also have fibromyalgia and generally deal with it by plowing through and not letting it limit me. So for the wedding, I’m trying to learn how to accept that I can’t do everything. I can’t set up tables and chairs on Friday if I want to enjoy Saturday. I can’t spend all Saturday afternoon standing to chat if I want to enjoy the reception. Learning to listen to myself and not be ashamed to tell people that I can’t do something are my biggest challenges.

  6. THANK YOU!! I have ulcerative colitis (UC), and while I’m finally getting back into remission, my partner and I worry about how I’ll feel on our wedding day.

    I know that even if I’m in remission when I’m dress shopping, I have to be able to easily use the bathroom in ANY dress, and when we select a venue, the bathrooms have to be easily accessible (and, if the bathrooms are single-stall, there have to be other bathrooms I can get to if the bathroom is in use).

    I SO hear you with only having a short period of time to get to the bathroom once you know you have to go. Worst problem ever.

  7. Thank you SO much for this article! We had a large party last year, right after my hypermobility diagnosis, and it was so wonderful to finally be ok with sitting down when I needed to, taking the pain killers I needed, and having folks be aware and attentive to me. I felt strong and well and it really was all about knowing my limits and prioritizing what I REALLY wanted to do over trying to participate in everything. Endorphins can mask my symptoms, so it’s super important for me to have someone check in with me to force me to check in with myself.

    • Yeah, sometimes my body “behaves” when it “knows” it needs to. At my partner’s brother’s wedding, even though I was incredibly ill at the time, I didn’t need to use the bathroom once. As soon as we got home afterwards, I was in the bathroom off and on all night. I know that there’s a chance that my body will behave during my wedding ceremony, but I need to prepare as if it won’t.

      • omg I know EXACTLY what you mean. That I can feel absolutely awful before a big event (an open class at work or something) then endorphins or adrenaline will kick in, my guts will be silenced for a short time, and then as soon as the hyper-hormones subside it’s back to business as usual or worse.

        I am doing the same thing… hoping my body will behave, but planning for the worst.

    • I also have joint hypermobility and all the fun things that go along with it (joint pain, IBS, migraine) but the one I’m worrying about most is that I bruise like a peach. Part of me really wants a short (well….knee-length) wedding dress but thinking practically I need something long to hide any bruises or attractive joint supports that I’ll be wearing on the day just to keep me upright.

      • What about some cute stockings/leggings or some boots? (for the bruising) Or decorate your joint supports or have some custom made to suit your theme :D!

      • I dont know if this might be helpful but I bruise really easily and I’m really pale (I’m sure there is no comparison but my legs are usually covered in big spots the colours of a sunset) – and I also wanted to wear a short dress. Sephora carries a Kat Von D brand concealer meant for tattoos which is super highly pigmented and designed to be pretty stable (they have a spray that makes it waterproof etc too), my plan is to combine that with thigh high skin coloured stockings (and garters, what what!) for optimal skin-tone-even legs.

        • That sounds fab, I’ve also been recommended Mac Body Foundation so will def be testing these out before the big day.

          One thing I’m definitely doing is changing into flats straight after the ceremony. I need to wear special insoles to keep my ankles stable and not sprain/dislocate something so heels can be a big no-no for me. I’ll wear heels for the ceremony/pictures and am then immediately changing into a pair of custom hi-tops to run around in for the rest of the day and evening. Ankle support, comfort AND matches my wedding colours 😀

  8. THIS! I have type 1 diabetes. And I have been worrying about forgetting to check my bloodsugar and find out it’s running whackadoodle by the end of the day and it wiping me out and making me not feel good.

    Someone I spoke to said she knew of another type 1 diabetic that hired a nurse today just to manage her diabetes through the whole day! I think that’s genius! Consider having someone, maybe a bridesmaid, be in charge of making sure to check in and handle assisting you with medical needs. (Sometimes I just need to be reminded!)

    • When we had a huge party for my grandparents 65th anniversary, we had “sugar maids”. The sugar maids (myself and a cousin) made sure both grandparents checked their bloodsugar, took their pills at the right times and kept my grandpa from drinking too much beer. it let them fully enjoy the day without worrying too much about diabetes, and kept some more worrywart family members at bay. (my mom and aunt just LOVE to pester my grandparents about their health)

      • As a futur bride and a diabetic with stage 4 kidney failure I was concerned about this issue. I actually asked one of my bridesmaids to be my caregiver for the day. We arw both caregivers for a living so I knew she would be helpful in this area. And she can help me inject my insulin too.

  9. I have a whole bunch of disabilities and medical issues, which I call “Heinz 57” and I got married almost a year ago. I planned most of the wedding myself and here are a few tips. Expect the unexpected, I had back ups in place for back ups, for example my DJ cancelled and I had an iPod with speakers which broke so one of our groomsmen had his laptop an we used that for the music. another example is the person who was supposed to help decorate forgot so I had a friend help with the decorations, well it ended up my maid of honor did the decorating because the friend had a last minute emergency. I had extra supplies with me since I have poor bladder and bowel control (I did wet myself during the ceremony, but at least I didn’t poop which is what I was more afraid of especially when I’m nervous). I had a receiving line but did not allow hugging so not to set off my nerves, the priest announced no hugging the bride due to health concerns. My maid of honor and mother-in-law made sure I ate so My blood sugars wouldn’t crash (I’m hypoglycemic). They made sure I took breaks so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed quickly. I called the party off around 10 pm because it was getting too much for me. After I left with my husband, the guests stayed to help clean up. I had planned to walk that day but had severely sprained my ankle 2 days before the wedding so I had to be in my wheelchair, since that was the case some of my family took extra pieces of material left over from making the dresses and decorated my wheelchair.

    • I like the ‘Heinz 57’ nickname. Sounds like you thought of everything in advance (even if a few surprises did occur on the day). I hope you still managed to enjoy yourself despite your health worries.

  10. My husband has Crohn’s disease and some associated health conditions like anemia. He tends to get lightheaded and was terrified of passing out during the ceremony, so we lugged a bench from our garden to the ceremony site and sat for most of the ceremony. The bench is next to our front door now, and it’s nice to see it every day and remember that.

    The menu was another area where we had to make accommodations; he has severe dietary restrictions, and at most events we attend he gets an Invalid’s Special from the kitchen. I wanted him to be able to get something off the buffet table at his own damn wedding, so I made sure there was one hors d’oeuvre and one main course he could eat.

    And finally, we decided to take our honeymoon in a mountain resort area a two-hour drive from home. We didn’t want to do anything too taxing. We took a splashier vacation three months before the wedding, and kept the honeymoon low-key and restful.

    As it happened, he was hospitalized with an obstruction five weeks before the wedding. It resolved, but then flared again a week before. It was a rough, scary night, but there was a silver lining. I’d been dreaming about my wedding day since I was a little girl and had so many expectations wrapped up in it, but after that all I wanted was for the wedding to happen. As long as he was healthy enough to be there and we were married by the end of the day, I’d consider the wedding a success. And that was a great attitude to achieve going into a week of heavy DIY-prep for the wedding of my dreams.

    • Of course, it’s not just chronically ill brides who get married so thank you for sharing your mission to give your husband the day he deserves. You sound very thoughtful and he’s lucky to have you. I particularly like the stress-free honeymoon idea – I got a ‘minimoon’ at the Ritz in New Orleans, just two days using the spa which was so relaxing and lovely before I had to fly home (alone) to hand in a uni essay. Great idea about the bench too – it’s odd how so many answers to health concerns at weddings end up looking charming.

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