Planning Your Wedding with Hidden Disabilities in Mind

For Erin Balfour, a mum of two children who both have Neurological conditions, attending events such as weddings can be a huge challenge. If you, or any of your guests, have any hidden disabilities, here are some things for you to consider

As a mum of two children who both have what’s known as ‘hidden disabilities’, attending even family gatherings, never mind weddings, is a huge challenge. My husband and I usually spend the whole time anticipating or soothing their sensory overloads and missing the event, or sometimes if it’s all too much we simply have to leave early.

What is a hidden disability, you might be asking, and why would that happen? We’re all familiar with disabilities where equipment such as a wheelchair or hearing aids makes it clear that someone needs additional support, but what about when there are no obvious pointers like these to suggest that someone might be struggling?

Neurological conditions like autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, sensory processing disorders, and a whole host of ‘syndromes without a name’, don’t always come with support aids (although lots do). Many of them come with ‘invisible’ characteristics such as being overwhelmed by noises, smells, and lights. This can be really challenging and actually impossible to cope with in a noisy, busy, ‘neurotypical’ world. We are beginning to accommodate the needs of those with these disabilities – we have quiet hours in shops, and autism-friendly performances in theatres and cinemas where the house lights aren’t totally off and the volume is lower – but we still have a long way to go.

Now a wedding day, with its hustle and bustle, and a high likelihood of having extended periods of waiting and milling about, can be extremely difficult for those with the type of disability described above, and for their carers (especially if we’re talking about children). A very common characteristic is the need for a clear and rigid routine with no deviation from what’s been decided. The consequence of this not happening usually leads to what’s known as a meltdown – and no this is not a tantrum, but rather the end result of building pressure inside a person because they’re unable to process or cope any longer with the unexpected and the overwhelming. It can cause them actual physical pain. Imagine you’re in a room with twenty televisions on, ten radios, five people asking you questions, lights flashing, perfumes being sprayed, and you can’t distinguish between any of them, nor filter them out. You would want to collapse and scream! A crude analogy, perhaps, but it goes a little way to explain exactly how overwhelming things can become for those with sensory processing difficulties.

The good news is that there are measures you can take to smooth the way as much as possible on a busy wedding day so that everyone has the best shot at enjoying themselves. It’s all about anticipating needs and accommodating them where you can.

Here are a few things you can do to make it easier for neurodiverse guests and those with complex needs to attend your wedding.

BEFORE THE WEDDING DAY

Provide your guest with the order of the day in advance so that they know what will be happening where and when.

This could include the seating plans, the order of service, the menu, and even itinerary information from the planner. If there’s nothing on the menu that they can cope with, consider asking them what they would like and asking the venue to accommodate this. If the caterers know in good time, there’s no reason why this can’t happen. Remember, some may have a carer with them who isn’t their ‘plus one’, so make sure there are enough seats and meals!

Using the web to do a little research on the type of disability your guest has is invaluable.

A school mum friend of mine did some reading around autism so that she could advise her daughter on what my son would need and also what he would find unhelpful. That totally touched my heart, and has really helped him. A little knowledge goes a heck of long way.

You could also just ask your guest directly what things they might find difficult so that you can either think of an alternative or understand why they might not be able to be present during certain parts of the day.

Help guests to research the venue.

If it’s a church, maybe arrange to go on a few short visits with them to get to know the place. Churches, especially older ones, might have funny acoustics, so it’s best to know that in advance so they know to definitely pack the noise-cancelling ear defenders!

In fact, with any venue it’s a good idea for them to get to know where everything is and familiarise themselves on a more relaxed day with no pressure. Does it have adequate changing facilities if they have continence issues? A place for wheelchairs and other big equipment?

Also has the venue got WIFI so they can access their calming apps and familiar programmes on a tablet? If not, consider getting a portable WIFI hub from your phone network provider.

Speak to the manager in advance to request a quiet area for in case things get too much on the day. A place your guest can go to come down from overwhelm and to reset in their own time before heading back into things. This will be their absolute lifeline.

Continue reading

Vintage & Thrifty 1960s Wedding in New Zealand

Esther and Todd’s wedding was a 1960s inspired celebration held in New Zealand. Being in nature was also important to both of them so they held their wedding at Port Waikato School Camp, an outdoor education camp established in 1928. The site had everything they needed including a big grassy square flanked by long dormitories (ample accommodation!) a dining hall, selection of cabins, and a stunning outdoor chapel where they held their ceremony.

“The whole wedding had a 1960s mid-century vibe”, began the bride, “with a colour palette of dark green, white and bamboo. We sourced our decor primarily from op-shops , did a lot of DIY and made use of things already at the camp ourselves.”

Deciding to have their wedding at a campsite meant their guests could stay with them for the whole weekend, and help them set up and pack down of course! “Having the wedding at a campsite created this amazing community vibe,” she continued, “and it had all the facilities we needed. We had the site for the whole weekend so some guests came down on the Friday to help set up and stayed right through to Sunday morning. It’s super fun having all your best mates away together for a whole weekend and we really appreciated all the help with set up and pack down from everyone.”

Continue reading

Bright & Colourful Vegetarian Wedding on the Bride’s Birthday

Kirsty and Ryan wanted their wedding to be bright and colourful with a mix of contemporary and traditional elements. Their wedding date was actually Kirsty’s birthday and their eighth anniversary!

“We wanted a real Derbyshire wedding,” began Kirsty. “We have both travelled a lot and had been living abroad for three years before we came home to get married. We wanted our favourite (vegetarian) foods that we miss when we’re out of the country, the most beautiful views as the backdrop, and all locally sourced companies. All this, plus a slight bit of inspiration from our favourite films, Harry Potter, which included photos at Hardwick Hall (in areas used in the films) and the table plan to resemble the great hall.”

Their ceremony focused on them, their friendships and all their favourite things. “It was all about us, we had some of our favourite songs, including Queen’s You’re My Best Friend for the bridesmaids to walk in to, and readings by our incredible friends who had travelled from as far as Australia to come to the wedding. I thought I would be an emotional wreck, but I was just so excited, I had a massive smile on my face the whole time! Walking down the aisle to the marry my soul mate was the best bit of the whole day. I was so excited to get to see him, after a lovely morning getting ready with my girls.”

Continue reading

Low Key Brooklyn Wedding at Their Favourite BBQ Restaurant

There is something so very magical about New York in the winter time. Mollie and Ryan clearly agree with me because chose January 7th as the date for their Brooklyn wedding. The day was held at Hometown BBQ, their favourite BBQ restaurant in Red Hook.

“Our wedding was relaxed and non-traditional”, said Mollie. “I did a lot of research on Pinterest and alternative wedding blogs to give us the confidence that all our crazy ideas would come together in the end. Other weddings we’d been to previously we’re a big source of inspiration for us. We shamelessly incorporated what we liked from those weddings and learned from others to make sure everything could go as smoothly as possible for us. For the style of our wedding we took a lot of inspiration from our venue. Hometown BBQ has a fantastic low key vibe. We added in our own touches but we mostly let that vibe flow through our wedding.”

Continue reading

How to Create the Perfect Wedding Playlist

If there’s one thing that makes a wedding go off more than anything else, its the right music. Hiring a killer band or fantastic DJ is a great idea, but if the entertainment budget is tight then a DIY playlist is the definitely the way to go! I’m sure many of you reading this are already planning to do that in fact which is why I’m thrilled to introduce you to My Wedding Songs today. Their aim is to make the job of compiling your perfect wedding playlist much easier – and it’s totally free to use!

Putting together your own wedding playlist can be a mammoth task, for an evening reception you’re probably going to need upward of 100 songs to keep the party going, but My Wedding Songs will make the process so much easier and quicker with their huge library of playlists.

Continue reading

Casual, Close Knit & Calm Wedding Planned in a Week!

Lisa and James had a super intimate, really casual wedding in Dublin. They planned it in just one week and their focus was only on the things that really mattered to them – getting married and celebrating with their loved ones. They didn’t buy into the wedding industry machine, the bride didn’t even wear a wedding dress, and they only spent €1000!

“Our wedding was casual, close knit and calm – the entire wedding was planned in one week and fell together seamlessly”, said Lisa. “The inspiration was for it to be cheap and cheerful, aided by a combination of available options, such as the reception being James’s place of work, the fact I loved my dress and wanted an excuse to buy it anyway. It was just a bonus that it didn’t look like a traditional wedding gown and will see future wear. In true Irish fashion ample drink and plenty of craic was on the menu!”

Continue reading