Venues – are you prepared for accessible weddings?

Most venues can of course cater for ‘standard’ wedding couples and guests, and may not have had to think about what’s needed if the bride or groom have, say, a visual or hearing impairment, or need assistance walking or sitting.  If your bride, groom or their guests have any kind of special or accessible needs normal rules for wedding planning might not apply.

According to the Disabled Living Foundation there are around 6.9 million disabled people in the UK of working age, which means a fair chunk of people who might get married or attend a wedding

Now, you might have a ramp, and a hearing loop. You might have accessible toilets and wide doors. But trust us, that’s not the be-all-and-end-all for someone who lives with a disability.

So venues, read on and check out our guide to helping everyone get married and have the best day ever!  And if you are a disabled or impaired or in need of support bride or groom, let us know if we’ve missed anything out!

(For the sake of making this easier to write I am going to refer to the bride as the person in need of accessible help!)

♥ Is the aisle flat! Seems like common sense but it may slope slightly and your bride needs to know that!  Whether visually impaired (she’ll need to be prepared for the change in how her body moves) or in a wheel chair or walking with a cane, the slightest slope could affect how she gets down and back, and not knowing about it could cause her to wobble or fall. Offer a test walk so she knows what it feels like.

♥ Assistance dogs are usually welcome everywhere but how prepared are you for one coming to a wedding? Have a water bowl available, ask if the dog is allowed to be petted by staff, and ask what other needs the pooch might have. Offer for them to bring the dog bed. Make sure there’s enough room at the top table for the dog to sit by the user.

♥ Is the aisle wide enough for the bride, the dog or cane or wheelchair and whoever is giving her away? If your aisle is a set width you need to be sure everyone can fit down there. And if it’s flexible, work out how wide it needs to be. You might have a room that will take 60 people but if the aisle is widened it might only take 50 – be aware of this and make your bride aware of the restrictions.  Can you change the direction of the aisle? Walking towards a bright window might cause visual problems so can they walk away from it, or parallel?

♥ For visually impaired (but not necessarily blind) brides, find out if they need anything to help them see a little better. The colour of the Red carpet might be more of a hindrance than a help – what can you offer instead?  (And please please make sure it doesn’t move, ruk up or in any be a trip hazard – which should always be the case!) What about lighting – is it better bright or dim? And is your lighting adjustable enough to help? Are you prepared to bring in alternative lighting or will the bride and groom need to foot the bill for this one?

♥ Most venues have a standard set up for the room – top table, round tables around the room.  But what if you need extra space at the top table for a wheelchair or the assistance dog? How much room will you lose by doing that?  Is there a clear path from the door to the top table?  Can you put the top table in a corner to make it easier to get in?  Or can there be another way in through different doors so the bride and groom can still get applauded in without negotiating a maze of tables?

cake in BSL♥ You might have a hearing loop in your venue but are there other ways you can help a bride who can’t hear or has limited hearing?  Can you help with visual aids? Can any of your team use British Sign Language – you might not even know so if you get an enquiry from a bride with certain needs make sure you know what skills your team have to make her day a fantastic one!

♥ What about cutting the cake?  Is the table approachable by someone in a wheelchair?  Is it high enough/low enough to be reached and cleanly cut with the knife without fear of injury but still get some great photos?

When you don’t have a disability it’s often difficult to imagine how it feels to have one, and some requests can seem inane and annoying. So blindfold yourself or put earplugs in, stint you leg or borrow wheelchair and find out exactly what type of experience your disabled bride, groom or guest is going to have – you will learn something about your venue, you will learn something about dealing with limited senses and you will definitely learn what kind of a wedding day you should be giving everyone who wants one at your venue ♥

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