Planning a Wheelchair Accessible Wedding
. . . Some Helpful Hints

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Anyone who has been involved in planning a wedding is aware of the myriad of details which go into a wedding success story. The "perfect" wedding is possible, but more difficult for people in wheelchairs. In addition to incorporating the traditions and rituals of the families concerned, wedding plans today may also need to take into account the need for accessibility. We would like to make several suggestions which deal specifically with accessibility.

It is certainly the dream of most bridal couples to stand beside one another during the ceremony. A white wicker chair is the perfect solution to equalize the height difference created by a wheelchair.

For the groom seated in wheelchair, and off-the-rack jacket may bunch up because the groom remains seated. Tails may be a better alternative. The tails may be folded smoothly behind the groom's back, allowing the short front jacket to lie flat. The bride who is in a wheelchair should consider the services of a seamstress, who can alter the wedding gown to give the bride the extra comfort she will want.

It is helpful for the bride and groom to discuss the details of the ceremony and reception, along with their personal preferences, with their attendance. Attendants should be chosen carefully because they will be required to do some "extra duty," and the couple will want to make certain that there are no areas of discomfort which will interfere with the "performance of duties."

"Be prepared." Charge wheelchair batteries, tighten nuts, bolts and screws. Make sure that wheelchair tires have air and have someone keep an air pump and any other tools, available.

For couples who will be leaving on their honeymoon from an airport, the selection of a reception site near the airports can be a wise choice. Needless to say, travel agents should be informed of special needs so they may make appropriate arrangements. There are many honeymoon locations which are extraordinarily wheelchair-friendly. Some ideas? A cruise offers sightseeing, shows, shopping and many of the ships are wheelchair accessible (e.g., ships of the Norwegian, Princess , Royal Caribbean and more. Walt Disney World has its own helpful Guidebook for Guests with Disabilities, which outlines boarding procedures for attractions. There also are travel agencies which provide a specialty tour operator for mobility-impaired travelers, private house and apartment rentals and even tours to Africa, Europe and many other destinations.

On the subject of locations, newer hotel and banquet halls tend to be wheelchair accessible. Those which are not, quite often will provide ramping for wheelchair accessibility. It is important to check, in advance, that the spaces for dressing, restrooms, ceremony and reception locations, all provide accessibility. It's important to also check for narrow doorways (particularly in bathrooms), which can make an area inaccessible. Make sure the bathroom is on the main level, has room enough a wheelchair and is equipped with bars.

Clergy and wedding officiators are almost all willing to modify traditional ceremonies in order to accommodate issues of mobility. For example, the bride and groom may sit instead of kneeling at the altar. Another aspect of planning should include locating and "reserving" a place for the wheelchair during the ceremony. Try to find a place close by rather than some remote location.

It is important for the couple to discuss their preferences with their photographer. Some couples want to "hide" the wheelchair, while others find no need to do so. We suggest that you avoid posing the bride behind the groom, because it often results in the bride standing stiffly and unnaturally with her hands on the wheelchair. Many wheelchairs have metal parts off which light may bounce. Opaque scotch tape (the easy peel off kind) can be used to cover any parts that may be a problem.

In addition to emphasis on detail and planning, attitude is also important to the couple making special accessibility arrangements. When making such arrangements, the idea is that making the bridal couple comfortable, by extension will make the guests comfortable as well. Incidentally, if there will be wedding guests in wheelchairs, table arrangements need to take into consideration the extra room that will be needed.

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