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Arranging an accessible wedding
@Ami2301 (24) is one of our fantastic Community Champions, a prolific blogger (https://undercoversuperhero2.home.blog) and leader of Ataxia UK Norfolk Support Group on Facebook. She has Sensory Ataxia, Transverse Myelitis, hearing difficulties and Optic Neuropathy (central vision loss), among a few other illnesses. Ami has a passion for raising awareness of various disabilities, and weddings. Today she talks to us about her recent wedding and answers any questions about getting married and arranging a wedding as a disabled person.
Hi Amy, you recently got married. Congratulations! How was the experience, did you run into any problems when planning your wedding?
Thank you! Believe it or not, it was trying to find an activity which was best suited to me, for my hen do! I don’t drink alcohol, I’m not comfortable with eating in public, I struggle with loud noises and flashing lights, so a ‘typical’ hen do activity would be inappropriate for me. Eventually, I did decide on inviting a few friends to my house, but I became too stressed out with the process that I ended up not having a hen do at all.
Finding a ceremony venue was easy, as I remembered the venue where a friend had got married – I was a bridesmaid for her wedding, and I had to use the lift to be able to access the room that the ceremony would take place in, this was a few months after I lost my central vision and started to have balance issues, using the stairs would have meant putting myself at risk of falling. This was the perfect venue for us!
Choosing a reception venue was easy too, the venue was under a minute’s walk (in my case, wheel) away from the ceremony venue. The hall had plenty of space for me to be able to wheel myself around without bumping into anything, and space for me to go to each table to chat with our guests without blocking anybody's way.
Due to my hearing difficulties, I was unable to contact suppliers by phone. So, lots of emails went here, there and everywhere! The waiting in between emails did cause me a lot of anxiety, whereas if I could phone a supplier then I would have received answers and quotes a lot quicker.
Finding the best entertainment was difficult as we knew having a DJ would be the best choice, however, because I’m sensitive to lights and loud noise, I was worried I would have to leave the hall and not be able to enjoy myself. When I contacted a DJ, I explained my disabilities and my concerns, and we spoke (at length) about what equipment he could bring so everybody could have a good time, including me!
When researching, what sort of questions did you decide to ask in advance?
I researched a range of questions on wedding websites, which helped to give me a sense of what and who to ask. But I also planned in advance what questions I needed to ask to find out if they could accommodate my needs.
For instance, with the DJ, I asked if he could slow the speed of the lights flashing and if the sound could be lowered. On the night, the sound was still loud enough for everyone, but it was at a volume which did not overwhelm me. There was a blue screen which covered the main lights, I didn’t squint once!
Due to having Sensory Ataxia, I can’t tell where my feet are if I’m not looking at them, this means I have to ‘test' where I would be walking. Thankfully, my shoes have a good grip so I am able to walk on a variety of textures. I contacted both the ceremony and reception venue to ask if I could practice walking and standing, I was able to do this a few months before the wedding.
I realised that no question is a silly question – if you would like an answer, ask!
What would you recommend to someone wanting to buy wedding dresses or outfits for big occasions?
You know what you are comfortable wearing. Ask yourself: does this outfit cause me discomfort? If you use a mobility aid, would a shorter dress be the best option? Find something that accommodates your needs and/or mobility aid(s).
What would you change about the wedding industry to make it more accessible and inclusive?
With regards to fashion, I would love to see wedding dress and suit designers to work with disabled people, to find out what we found difficult with previous items of clothing and how they could be improved. Plus, shoes! Luckily, I found a stunning pair of pale gold Vans which coordinated with my ivory dress – but I would have liked to see more of a variety of pretty flats with a good grip! And all boutiques and clothing stores should have at least 1 or 2 disabled changing facilities.
I’d love to find more information about a venue's accessibility and facilities on their website, instead of ‘Wheelchair Access - Yes'. Accessibility means much more than only being able to get through the front door!
How easy was it for you to have the wedding you wanted? What would you change to make arranging a wedding easier for someone in a similar situation? What would you have done differently? Are you about to get married and is there anything you’d like to know to look out for?
Disability Gamechanger - 2019