My big fat inclusive wedding
20th April 2011
With the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton fast approaching, four brides look back at their big day, and those little accessibility touches which helped to make it so special.
Something In The Way She Moves
“I went to many bridal shops in search of a dress but none of them fitted right for me sitting in a chair. On my way to work one day, I spotted a shop which advertised that they made wedding dresses. I explained to the lady exactly what I wanted. It had to flow while sitting down and not get in the way when I moved. The dress she made might have looked a bit odd on the hanger thanks to the five panels sticking out from it ... but it did fit over the wheels of my chair perfectly.”
The chair itself had a crucial part to play on the day, as it was to carry the bride up the aisle.
“My wheelchair is an integral part of who I am, so it was very important to me to get a new one for the wedding. I had a minimalist designer chair made specially in purple, my favourite colour. It really looked right and I used it a lot afterwards too.”
“My guide dog Nicky went up the isle with me. Instead of wearing her usual plain collar, I covered one with the same fabric as the bridesmaid's dress and put a bow on her too.
"I walked in front with my dad, and the Bridesmaid and Nicky came behind. She was part of my life so it would have been strange not to bring her. Would you believe that, in the past, brides have been a bit funny about me taking my dog to their weddings. I think they were worried she might upstage them.”
“We had our tandem custom built. It is part of our relationship. We’ve gone on holidays with it and had some of our best arguments on it so it had to feature.
"It happened to be the right colour, so all we had to do was fashion a gutter out of plastic to sit the back of my wedding dress in. Our little jaunt on the bike gave us some really special time together before the reception.”
It's All In The Preparation
“We got married in Northern Ireland. We found the marriage industry there to be a real phone call culture, which was extremely difficult for us, especially when trying to make contact with suppliers. I had to mostly rely on my friend or my mum to phone for me, as my emails never got a reply.”
“We both used British Sign Language throughout the service via interpreters. A lot of my parents’ friends found this extremely moving because they’d never seen deaf people communicate. To be part of a deaf wedding was a whole new experience for them.”
As well as the exchanging of vows being made accessible, the venue needs a great deal of consideration if you're inviting guests with mobility difficulties, as Tanni was:
“I found it amazingly hard to book a reception. There were so many people in wheelchairs at the wedding that even though one of the venues had a stairlift outside to get people in, it would have taken all day.
"In the end we went for a modern hotel, and We made sure that the people who needed accessible rooms, had them.”
“My dad is a minister. He married us on a balcony looking out over the sea. My siblings, their kids, Michael's sister, her partner and his parents, were the only ones there."
The First Dance
Emma and Toby got lessons from Strictly Come Dancing’s Karen Hardy but forgot them on the day through their nervousness. Having no desire to stand out, Bethan made a pact with the bridesmaids and groomsmen to join her and Michael on the floor as soon as the music started.
The now double barrelled Tanni Grey-Thompson also had no intentions of sticking to the dancefloor tradition.
“I only dance when I’m drunk, and my husband walks with crutches. He doesn’t stand very well and I didn't want him to end up in my lap. I chose to have the first dance with my brides maids.”
Happy Ever After
"Not everyone with a mental health problem is manic before their wedding; being a Bridezilla was not a clinical condition last time I checked, but it can be a risk factor.
"Weddings are expensive, even small ones, so I was constantly asking myself: Am I spending because I need to or because I'm manic.”
Getting married is universally accepted to be both the happiest day of a bride’s life and one of the most stressful things you’ll ever do. Many people may have an anticlimactic 'come down' but what happens if, like Liz, you can't afford any kind of downer?
“I completely crashed when we got back home after our fab wedding and honeymoon. It didn’t help of course that we’d exchanged on a house a couple of days before we left, so came back to a place that needed a load of work done. While I had every reason to be ecstatic I was seriously thinking about accidentally on purpose falling backwards down the stairs from a ladder while decorating the landing.“
She didn’t, however, and four years later, Liz and Michael are happily married and living in Belfast.
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