it’s a joyful day. You want to share your happiness with all your guests. But how do you make sure all your guests are able to participate easily? In the hustle and bustle of wedding planning, it can be easy to get lost in the details of bouquets, bridesmaid dresses, and making sure the bakery delivers the cake on time. All that, however, is just “icing.” Remember that sharing your happiness with everyone is what the day is truly about—and some guests might have difficulty joining you on that special day, depending on the shape and location of your venue.
Being mindful of your wedding’s accessibility isn’t just about smoothing the way for wheelchairs. Even if there aren’t any wheelchair users among your guests, full accessibility will make it easier for guests with walkers or crutches, elderly members of the wedding party, and parents with strollers to easily navigate your celebration. Although most guests will be able to make their way through difficult venues with assistance, it can put a damper on their day to constantly have to be asking for help.
Keep an eye on electrical wires. Between the DJ setup, the photographer’s equipment, the uplighting for the walls, and the projector for the slide show, weddings can quickly accumulate a spaghetti-like mess of cables trailing across the floor. When possible, run wires around the perimeter of the room, even if it means grabbing a few extension cords. If wires must run directly across a room or walkway, tape them to the floor and lay carpet over them to smooth the surface.
When choosing carpeting or doing venue walk-throughs, look at the carpet’s texture. Opt for dense, firm carpeting without loose strands that can snag crutches, canes, heels, and other equipment. If your venue has hard flooring, get a sample patch wet and make sure it’s not too slippery. Drinks often get spilled, and you don’t want the floor turning into a hazard zone.
If you’re using a professional venue, it is probably up to ADA standards. The outdoors, however, can present a trickier situation. If you’re having a wedding in the woods or on the beach, take great care that the paths are hard-packed, smooth, and cleared of debris. Avoid areas that can flood and become mushy, and find alternate paths around rocks and tree roots. For oceanfront weddings, opt for a location with a sturdy wooden dock.
If you’re getting married in a private home or yard, make sure the restrooms and other facilities are large enough for a wheelchair to rotate comfortably. If only one set of facilities meets these requirements, hang signs that clearly direct guests to the right one.
Does your dinner venue have tables with fixed benches or booths? Make sure the open end of the table has enough room for a wheelchair user to pull up without blocking foot traffic. Keep in mind that guests with limited flexibility may also need to use the open end, so there should be enough seating options to fit everyone comfortably.
Will there be a buffet line, bar, name tag table, or other counter-like surfaces guests will need to approach? Keep surfaces low enough to allow guests in wheelchairs to comfortably see and reach all items.
If you’re expecting deaf or hearing-impaired guests, hire an American Sign Language interpreter for your ceremony and speeches. You may also wish to print important passages and information in your programs. Many older guests can be embarrassed or in denial about hearing loss, and printed information is a graceful way of being sure everyone shares the meaning of your day.
This last tip goes without saying, but be sure that your venue is handicapped-accessible from the street. All stairs should have alternatives like ramps, elevators, and lifts. The same rule applies to indoor spaces, if your venue has more than one level.
If you’re worried you haven’t thought of every detail, the easiest way to ensure your wedding is accessible for mobility-impaired guests is to be direct, and simply ask them what they need. Most people will be flattered that you are taking extra precautions on their account, and they will gladly let you know the features they require. After all, everyone is working toward the same goal: a flawless, happy wedding!
Lisa is a special needs teacher and a hugger. She always makes time for everyone and lightens up everybody’s lives with her presence. When she is not chasing her students around the yard, she finds time to write about what she truly loves, and you guessed it, its people and relationships.