Weddings are joyous celebrations of love and unity, bringing together families and friends to witness the start of a new chapter in a couple’s life. However, it is important to remember that not all individuals have the same accessibility needs. By making weddings accessible, we can create an inclusive environment that allows everyone to fully participate and enjoy the celebration. Let’s explore some different ways we can make weddings accessible:
First, Ask Them
You may not realise you have wedding guests with accessibility needs, some people do very well at keeping their disabilities hidden for various reasons. The first thing I’d recommend is asking your guests if they have any accessibility requirements. I know people I’ve worked with in the past have been surprised to learn I’m disabled, I have been guilty of feeling ashamed, of wanting to fit in so I’ve hidden it. I don’t do that much anymore, I’m disabled and I’m proud!
Find An Accessible Venue
If you have guests who have accessibility needs, such as wheelchair users or those with poor mobility, consider finding a venue that can cater to these guests without them feeling excluded or made to feel like a nuisance.
Does the venue have upper floors, does it have lift access? Does it have an accessible toilet? Are there steps, do they have ramps?
Also think about the room set up, can they move around freely? Can they access the buffet themselves?
Cater for Dietary Requirements
This is becoming more common in recent years, which is great, but try to ensure all food served during your special day has options for guests who may have allergies, intolerances or other dietary requirements such as being vegetarian or vegan.
Provide Accessible Stationery
If your guests have sight loss, consider having their save the date, wedding invitation, guest information, menu, place card etc. converted into either large print or braille. Don’t worry so much about the aesthetics of this, blind people don’t worry so much about things like that. They’d much rather have the same information as everybody else regardless of the format.
It just so happens I can help with this! I can transcribe any wedding stationery into braille.
Print It Out
If you have guests who are hard of hearing, consider printing the vows, speeches, readings, songs etc so they can read along. Give this to them just before the ceremony starts so they can’t get a sneak peek! I would have really benefited from this as several weddings, where I’ve felt out of the loop because I can’t fully hear what’s going on, and because I can’t see their mouths either, I can’t try to lip read.
Give Them a Plus One
If you have a disabled guest coming, be sure to put a “plus one” on their invitation so they can bring somebody along who can support or guide them during the day. This way they won’t feel awkward having to ask other guests to help them, should they need it.
Let Them Bring the Dog
No, we don’t mean their pet dog (although I am totally on board with this!) I mean their assistance dog, by law all venues must allow assistance dogs inside but sadly this isn’t always adhered to, so I recommend double checking with the venue before you book it to ensure there will be no issues on the day. Ask them to put water bowls down and let your guest(s) know where these are so they keep can keep their dog hydrated and comfortable throughout the day.
Offer A Quiet Space
Some guests can find big groups of people very overwhelming, so have a calm, quiet space set aside and let people know in your order of service or on the guest information card, ask guests to only use this if needed, so that this space doesn’t become overwhelming too! Let any guests retreat to this space without question or disappointment that they may be missing parts of your wedding, they don’t want to miss anything believe me!
Consider the lighting when planning your special day, be mindful of guests with epilepsy, autism, or visual impairment. For example, if you have guests with poor vision, consider having the light quite bright when eating, so we can clearly read the menu and see what we’re eating.
Don’t Draw Attention to It
Now that you’ve made your wedding as accessible as possible, try not to make everybody aware of it in a way that may make your disabled guests feel uncomfortable. Not all disabled people are the same of course, some won’t mind, but some will so it’s better to be subtle and let them enjoy the day in the same way none disabled guests can.
Take the Lead
This all may be very new you to you, you might never have attended a wedding where disabled guests were present, but now is the time for you to set an example, to show others how it’s done, so they can follow suit at their wedding. It’s time for you to make your guests, all your guests, feel welcome, loved and included.
Happy wedding planning!