Wheelchair Accessible Weddings/ Events
It’s been almost a year since my fiancé proposed to me and our wedding is just eight months away! This past year has been full of fun and stress as we’ve been planning our wedding, and I am sure that the best (and worst!) is yet to come. We're both wheelchair users and we both have LOTS of wheelchair using friends that we're inviting to our wedding as well, so accessibility is critical!
We’ve found our venue – it’s perfect! It’s got indoor and outdoor areas that are both beautiful and accessible, allowing us to have an outdoor ceremony and an indoor reception, which is important because autumn in New York can be chilly! But we’ve had to make tons of other decisions since then too! Here are a few things that we’ve kept in mind as we’ve been planning:
Blocking Rooms at an Accessible Hotel
For out-of-town guests, blocking rooms at a hotel is important to ensure our guests have a fun and easy travel experience. The last thing I want is to block rooms at a hotel that has poorly designed accessible hotel rooms – or worse – not enough accessible hotel rooms for all of the wheelchair using guests we’re inviting! When my fiancé and I were checking out hotels, we asked how many ADA rooms there were; if the rooms had tubs or roll-in showers; if they had extra shower chairs for individuals who may not need an accessible room but who do need a shower chair; and a bunch of other questions. We also toured the accessible rooms, as well as the breakfast areas and pools to check out the access.
Planning for an Accessible Bar and Buffet
While our venue is wheelchair accessible, there are many elements that can be added that would change the accessibility, including the buffet and bar. While I can reach a standard bar and buffet in my iLevel power wheelchair, not everyone has the same wheelchair, so not everyone can reach. We knew we did not want to have a served dinner but having a buffet can be inaccessible if wheelchair users cannot see the food or reach it. We decided to have a lowered buffet with staff to serve the food to all our guests as they go through the buffet line. This makes the entire process more accessible and provides assistance to everyone, rather than singling out disabled people.
Additionally, we have decided to have a second bar set up on the patio. This bar will be table height to ensure that people who cannot reach a traditional bar can reach, including manual wheelchair users and Little People. Plus, this helps keep the lines at the bar shorter because there will be more bars to choose from!
Flexible Seating Everywhere
From our ceremony and reception to our welcome reception, to the evening before the wedding and the post-wedding brunch the morning after, every event has flexible seating! By flexible seating, I mean that none of the venues have fixed seating such as pews or booths. All our venues use chairs that can be moved around or even removed from the area to create space for wheelchair users. This is important to us because we want our guests to feel fully included and welcome in all our wedding activities. My fiancé and I know firsthand what it’s like to sit awkwardly in the aisle at the end of a pew, because we can’t sit in the same row as everyone else. We also know what it’s like to try to squeeze our wheelchairs at the end of a booth rather than naturally pulling up to a table with chairs. Our wedding won’t just be accessible to us, it will be accessible to everyone and having flexible seating is an easy way to ensure everyone feels comfortable no matter what they’re sitting in!
What are we forgetting? What tips or hacks do you have for planning fully accessible weddings or events? What made your day perfect?