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A wheelie special wedding

by Liz Carr

24th November 2010

After months of preparation, on November 1st 2010, I became a married woman. I say married but since we’re both female, the legal term is civil partnership, often abbreviated to CP. As a crip, whenever I hear "CP", however, I think Cerebral Palsy. “How was your CP? Was it fun?”
Liz and partner Jo showered in confetti
Our wedding - or CP - was indeed fun. The decorations and food were inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead festival where it is believed that the spirits of those who’ve died return to party with the living. Since we’ve both lost so many family and disabled friends along the way, we chose this date so that we could celebrate with those from our past and our present. Whilst the living tended to buy us better gifts, the dead guests cost less.

Our two brides-men wheeled side by side down the aisle to the lyrics, 'Here come the girls...' and escorted by our mums, myself and Jo followed behind to the Angry Anderson classic Suddenly - the wedding song of Scott and Charlene in Neighbours. And so the ceremony began.
'Invalidos' - a disability sign in a sombrero
If there’s one thing I hate as a wheelie, it’s events where everyone is asked to stand. You sit there unable to see anything because of the barricade of bums. Determined that none of our friends would find themselves staring at someone else’s behind rather than at the main attraction, we asked the Registrar to request that everyone remain seated throughout the ceremony.

As proceedings got under way, All around us I could hear the sniffling of noses, the rustle of tissue packets and the click of cameras. But there were no accompanying flashes. Some of our guests had light sensitive epilepsy, and so the only solution was to ban flash photography. It was either that or have the St John’s Ambulance in attendance.

The Registrar traditionally asks if there are any impediments preventing a couple from being joined in partnership. With an army of disability activists in the room, I feared there’d be a protest. Thankfully she agreed to replace impediments with reasons. But then she suggested that we should also change the phrase 'solemn vows' to 'Special vows'. You win some, you lose some.
Liz and Jo smiling in sombreros
Formalities complete, it was time for the party to begin.

Dad had been told to avoid using the word special at all costs. Instead he crammed 38 years of being my dad into his twelve minute father of the bride speech. He spoke about my becoming disabled without dwelling on it. He talked proudly about my disability activism, my comedy and my new wife. He joked about how I’d banned him from saying things like brave, inspirational and special. Everyone laughed, including me.

There were 170 guests present, at least half of whom were disabled. The room was like a health and safety time bomb and the seating plan a logistical nightmare. The wheelies and blinkies had to have enough space to move about freely. Our deaf friends had to sit near the front so they could lip read. The agoraphobics needed to sit at the back so they could escape. The assistance dogs had their own pen, as did the personal assistants. There isn’t a wedding planning book in existence that could have prepared us for this.

As the reception began, We drank margaritas, were serenaded by a sombrero wearing Mariachi band and ate Mexican food. With so many disabled people present, even choosing a buffet option was a huge gamble; how do you hold a plate, dish up some guacamole and wheel along at the same time? What if you’re on crutches? If you’re blind, is it like buffet Russian Roulette? With an over eager line up of waiters trained to assist, there were thankfully few casualties.
Liz's wedding figurines atop a cupcake tower
For dessert we had wedding cake. Our’s was a beautiful tower of colourful cupcakes adorned with miniature handmade figures of me and Jo. Since there was a distinct lack of wedding cake toppers available featuring two brides – let alone one in a wheelchair, a friend came to the rescue with some clay, wire and springs for my curls. We happily stuffed ourselves with cake and prepared for the next part of the evening.

Both of us were dreading the traditionally awkward wedding dance. People would be wondering how exactly Jo and I dance together; would Jo get down on her knees and hold me close or perhaps scoop me up in her arms and whisk me around the floor? We decided to really give them something to talk about.

So we signed up for dance classes and filmed the result, negating the need to perform on the day. We chose Time of my Life from Dirty Dancing. In the film, Patrick Swayze lifts his dance partner above his head. In our version, the local fire brigade lifted me aloft in my wheelchair.
The wedding guests try to poke the pinata
Later in the evening, myself and Jo found ourselves sitting beneath a Mexican piñata shaped like a donkey and filled with confetti. Our guests pulled ribbons to release it, but only a few pieces fluttered towards us. A blind friend raised her white stick and began bashing the donkey with a targeted and quite vicious aim until finally the confetti showered down. The perfect end to a perfect day.


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