Have you made accessibility a priority at your wedding? When planning your wedding, most couples I work with will spend hours making sure all the details are just right. Whether it’s the dress, the cake, the flowers or those all-important RSVPs. Yet, one of the biggest oversights that I see in weddings is accessibility. Regardless of where you are planning to get married, it’s important to consider the needs of your guests and whether they can easily partake in the celebrations without missing anything.
Don’t let accessibility be an afterthought in your wedding planning journey. Older guests, people with disabilities and parents with prams will all need to easily move between the ceremony and reception locations. Here are some tips on how to make your big day more inclusive so that everyone can enjoy watching you marry the love of your life.
Things to consider before the wedding:
Don’t make assumptions.
Even if no one on your guest list has accessibility needs today, circumstances could change in the lead up to the wedding. For example, someone might have a baby a few weeks before your wedding. In order to avoid anyone feeling awkward or unwelcome, it is best practice to have an accessibility plan ready to go.
Be upfront and ask your guests what they need.
Don’t be embarrassed to ask your guests directly what they need. You can include a question on your RSVP form for your friends and family to identify if they need priority parking or wheelchair access. Someone living with chronic fatigue might prefer to have a seat reserved for them near the back. Someone who is vision- or hearing-impaired might prefer to be seated near a speaker.
You could include a note on your invitation that says something along the lines of:
“We are so excited to host you at our wedding. As a beloved guest, it is our priority to make you feel as comfortable as possible. If you have any special requirements or requests, please contact us immediately so that we can accommodate you.”
Wedding Accessibility Checklist:
This is important if you are planning on getting married somewhere “off the beaten track”. Whether it’s on a beach, or in the middle of the woods, the rough ground will make it hard for some people to walk to the designated ceremony location. Consider hiring a couple of wheelchairs and asking some close friends to chauffer anyone who may need it.
For a beach wedding, many local councils in Australia have the option of hiring beach-specific wheelchairs. They enable people to push themselves smoothly through sand and are relatively water-resistant. Ask your surf life-saving club or council service desk for more information about how to hire beach wheelchairs for your wedding day.
Ramp access isn’t only helpful for wheelchair and pram users. They are also helpful for people who need assistance walking up and down steps.
Most wedding venues will already have ramp access (as a legal requirement in Australia), however, if you choose to get married on private property or somewhere a little older, you may need to get creative. Search online for ramp-hire, or create your own with some sturdy planks from Bunnings.
PA and Speakers:
No matter where you are getting married, having a PA system should not be considered a nice-to-have. It’s a must-have. Using a PA system will ensure all of your guests are able to hear what is happening during the ceremony, especially if there’s a lot of noise outside like wind or waves. A great PA system can go a long way to help people enjoy your special day.
Sun and heat mitigation:
Aussie sun hits different. If you’re wedding falls on a particularly sunny day, provide your guests with ample sun protection in the form of umbrellas, sunscreen and shaded seating areas. Keep cold water close by, and ask your celebrant to invite people to help themselves at any point. By doing these things, you’re not only saving your guests from having to squint their eyes in the sun (which doesn’t look great in photos), but you’re saving them from more potentially serious issues such as sunburn or heatstroke.
In addition to making sure everything is clear and audible, consider providing your guests with an order of service that includes transcriptions of your readings and vows. This helps people follow along with all of the important parts and is a thoughtful way for you to make sure everyone can participate in the ceremony.
Handwriting is a very popular style choice for weddings. However, it can be difficult to read for some. To make it easier for your guests to read things like invitations and nameplates, ask your designer or signwriter if they can provide copies with easy-to-read fonts.
Weddings are beautiful and memorable events, but they can also be challenging and anxiety-inducing for guests with disabilities or mobility impairments. Fortunately, there are many ways to make your venue accessible without too much disruption. From hiring wheelchairs at the beach to providing transcripts of readings aloud, you should have an inclusive experience that’s enjoyable for everyone on your guest list.
Did I miss anything? Let us know in the comments if there are more ways to make a wedding accessible for all guests.