Wheelchair-friendly wedding: tips to plan your best day
Everything you need to know about a perfect accessible wedding: venue choice, dressing options, dance, and decoration
Planning a wheelchair-friendly wedding? Every marriage celebration is unique, but in this case couples need to consider some additional details. We rounded up the best advice to help make your Dream Day flawless.
Others’ examples are useful when an inspiration boost is needed. You easily can flow into a stream of ideas from Pinterest and Instagram – just type in a search string "wheelchair wedding" and enjoy.
There's even more first-hand experience to learn from real people’s stories! For example, Aurélie from France reveals that she was worried about having spasticity during the event due to stress and strong emotions triggering it. But instead of anxiety, peace is what accompanied her that day:
"I was very lucky as I almost never had any spasticity. I have been able to walk down the aisle with my dad and getting out the city hall standing near my husband. Surely those happy moments brought peace to my body."
Aurélie, bride in wheelchair
Aurélie also shows a nice way to elegantly decorate a wheelchair – take a look at the photos in her post about her wedding!
Jocelyn, a quadriplegic bride, wanted to have her ceremony without a wheelchair, so she was sitting on a vintage sofa instead. Scroll this post to see how Joselyn realised her idea.
Or maybe you're thinking of standing for a while? Grace McGowan rented an exoskeleton device fitted to her legs to make her dream come true. The guests had no idea and were moved to tears watching Grace walking again.
Kent Stephenson, a T5-6 paraplegic from Texas, stood at his wedding to watch the bride walking down the aisle and to give her an unforgettable first dance. A custom-designed standing frame and an electrical stimulator implanted into his spine helped Kent to implement his wish.
Constantly getting in and out of the car in a wheelchair is no pleasure, so it's a practical idea to have the wedding ceremony and reception in one venue. Warning: outdoor spaces are picturesome, but tricky. An unwanted combination of grass, rain and gravel can be neutralised by carpets or planks. Ask the venue if they can provide them to create a stable surface.
Check that all function areas are accessible and there’s enough space to move around. Ramps are not available on the site? There’s a possibility to rent them out. If you or your guests with limited mobility are to stay overnight, check that hotel rooms are tailored to their needs too.
Finally, don’t skip a venue’s viewing! “Always visit prospective venues to check out accessibility, and if you have any important wedding guests with access requirements, consider taking them with you”, bride Carrie-Ann shares her experience.
See in the video how interabled couple Cole and Charisma makes a tour around an urban venue: a former train station with a view over the city – 100% wheelchair friendly and very spacious to fit hundreds of guests. Your dream setting does not always have to be a countryside villa.
A fluffy princess dress or an elegant body-hugging one? It’s for you to decide! As practice shows, almost all fantasies are realisable if you have an eye for detail.
Most important for a wheelchair bride: make sure your perfect dress is practical. Beads on the bottom part and uncomfortable fabrics are to be avoided. A long train and a veil look marvellous, but might get stuck in wheels.
However, a paraplegic bride, Chelsie Hill, found a solution which allowed her to walk down the aisle with leg braces and to look gorgeous when she was in the wheelchair. “If the dress was fit for me in my chair, then if I stand up, it would be too long for me to take a step and I would trip,” Chelsie explained her problem in an interview.
As a solution, she chose a customised dress with a detachable tulle part. It was longer in the front in a sitting position and could be spinned around to create a train as she stood. To see how the dress works, check out this awesome video (at 0:32). Chelsie captured her wedding dress shopping experience in a series of videos on her YouTube channel.
Now, what about a suit for a groom in a wheelchair? You can choose the one you like and ask a tailor for adjustments to make it sit well on you in the seated position. Some adaptive apparel brands also offer suits for wheelchair users: IZ Adaptive sells a suit jacket which can be paired with seated pants, Ministry of Supply offers trousers with SCI-minded features, such as optional catheter access.
“Dancing while standing and dancing in a wheelchair are not the same. It’s different but as fulfilling!” – Aurélie, who was initially hesitant to perform, confides her experiences.
Chelsie, whose dress experience we shared above, performed three different dances at her wedding. It was not only a shared one with the groom but also a father-daughter dance (see video below) and a tempting specialty for her future husband.
Wedding reception is loaded with tricky details. Think about the need to hold a traditional bouquet when using a manual wheelchair. To avoid hassle, Carrie-Ann chose wrist flower bracelets instead. It allowed her to move around freely in her wheelchair and not worry about squashing flowers.
If you feel like you want to incorporate disability into your wedding design, we have some ideas for you.
“You can't hide the fact that my husband spends most of his waking hours in his giant electric wheelchair, so we didn't hide it – we celebrated it,” tells Natalie from Canada, whose husband Tim has cerebral palsy. The couple matched the wheelchair to the wedding colours, and choose cake pops and finger food for the catering – the one which was easier for the groom to eat.
A wheelchair looks just classy when decorated with “Just Married” signs and abundant flowers. Further option is to order customised wheelchair covers matching the colour palette of your celebration. There’s no limit for creativity: do you remember Zack who made a wedding ring for his wife out of her very first wheelchair? Just be careful of attaching anything that you can’t take off well from the wheelchair, such as glue and tape. Ribbon and tulle can be tied onto your device and then easily removed.
We hope our guide will help you to throw the best wheelchair-friendly wedding. If you want to take a step further and plan a honeymoon, check out our article on accessible holidays in Spain or an African safari in wheelchair.
We also prepared an accessible wedding checklist for you. Download and print it out to make sure there's nothing you've missed!
What is the most important aspect of a wedding for you? Share your thoughts with us!