A wheelie special wedding
24th November 2010
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.
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.
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.
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.
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