Jo, with Joy by Jo Photography, and I want you to be properly prepared so that all of your guests can bear witness to your love… 100% accessible for all.
Not every wedding takes place at an accessible wedding venue, without naming names, some more rural venues have gorgeous backdrops and settings but yield moderately difficult scenarios for wheelchairs, walkers and unsteady gaits. Read on for ways you can prepare yourself for a wedding that is accessible for all your guests.
YOUR WEDDING VENUE DOESN’T HAVE A CONVENIENTLY ACCESSED ELEVATOR
This might be something to consider when touring the space: ‘how easy is it for all of our guests to get to our ceremony/reception site?’. Even if there is one on site, the elevator may be out of the way or require staff assistance. If you have a guest in a wheelchair (or you are in a wheelchair) make sure to look at and or use it at your venue walkthrough, take notes and pass them on to the individual or the designated caretaker.
That way, day of, they are prepared and can time their arrival accordingly.
YOUR WEDDING IS IN A FOREST/DOWN A HILL/IN THE GRASS ETC.
Nature. Lovely to be in, unless your gait is unsteady or that wheelchair/walker you’ve got isn’t ‘all terrain’.
Being mindful of the best possible path will make your guests feel more comfortable, but your best bet might be a golf cart rental, especially for hills or long distances. Be sure to check with your venue if they provide one for rental and if they are allowed on site.
Golf carts can also be used for anyone having difficulty navigating and can ensure guests get to the ceremony site before you walk down the aisle… not during or after.
I’ve seen some guests not even bother with the trek, remaining behind and out of earshot (i.e. they don’t hear all your vows), because the walk or the elements are much too much to manage.
Being mindful that your wedding day is a big event to manage for all can really make a difference.
YOUR CEREMONY SEATING AND SET UP
Now if you ceremony site has chairs for seating, you can easily remove on of those chairs and allow your guest to wheel into the spot, I like to do this before seating, so that 1) that person knows where to sit and 2) there isn’t a moment of musical chairs right before the processional (or during). If your ceremony site includes pews, benches or log seating, think about where that person can sit that would be most comfortable. This applies to wheelchairs and guests using those walkers with the seat - they might be more comfortable sitting on their walker, since it has arms which are useful when standing.
Make sure that if your aisle width is variable, you leave enough space for all to walk down, especially if they are part of the processional. When all eyes are on you, you don’t want to worry about running over feet or knocking into elbows (or shepherd’s hooks).
Some grandparents will want to walk down the aisle as part of the processional, but some may not. Depending on how comfortable they are with said walk, i.e. how much energy they have, how long the walk is, how independent they are. Check in with them to see which they prefer, sometimes the answer is to be seated already.
YOUR WEDDING DECOR
Floor length table cloths can actually be a nuisance for wheelchairs, but hindering anyone’s movement is floor decor. Be aware of foot (and wheel) traffic when deciding where to place your pretty accents, especially candles!
Speaking of, make sure that wheelchairs and walkers are locked when not in use, and have a plan to move any unused equipment off to the side to, walkers can easily be tripping hazards for your servers. Allow any guests that will need extra time to be seated to go first, this also applies to your ceremony seating (and dismissing).
Have you ever seen someone have an allergic reaction to nuts? Latex?? Dairy or gluten?!?!! Let me tell you, none of those reactions are something you want to include in your wedding day dos; be mindful of your guests and properly label food, avoid nuts if there is an issue amongst your invitees and skip any epi-pen-using-emergency-room-visiting incidents.
WEDDING DANCE FLOORS
In 5th grade a girl in my class had a seizure during Thursday mass. It was neither entertaining nor was it fun. It was terrifying and I’d really like you to avoid experiencing something similar. Flashing lights can be harmful for people with seizure disorders, so ask your DJ about the lighting and be mindful of the people on your guest list who are epileptic.
P.S. no, the service did not include a strobe light
In general, your guests appreciate being at the forefront of your planning, instead of an afterthought. Communication is your best tool, so ask! Ask what their preferences are, and how you can ensure that they feel comfortable and included. After all, isn’t that how you want to be treated? Kindly and with respect?
Prosperity, Love & Happiness,
Header photo by Aqua Fox Photography // Photos by Joy by Jo