Recently I invited the Bridechilla community to share how health (their own, their partner or family and friend's health) have factored into wedding planning decisions.
We had a wonderful response that really showed to me how little we talk about these issues in relation to weddings and the strength and support of The Bridechilla Community.
This episode's guest is writer, appearance activist and Bridechilla Graduate, Carly Findlay. She challenges people's thinking about what it's like to have a visibly different appearance and is a wealth of information particularly from her perspective, living with the skin condition, Ichthyosis.
Listen to episode 309 of Bridechilla
Our Wedding Day
I got married to Adam in March 2016 – almost two years ago. The Bridechilla podcast (it was then called Save the Date) was so helpful in my planning. I got lots of ideas – like donating the money we could have spent on bonbonniere to charity, taking my flowers to an aged care home the day after, and celebrating my personal style (lots of colour) on the wedding day. There were a few other things I needed to consider, too. You see, I live with a rare, severe, lifelong skin condition called Ichthyosis. My skin is red, itchy, scaly and painful, and can be unpredictable – especially when excitement like weddings and travel are involved. I identify as being disabled and chronically ill. I write about it, speak about and can’t hide it – so it’s a big, proud part of my life. And it took a long time to reach this level of self acceptance and pride – and even acceptance from others. I’d dated and kissed a lot of ableist toads before I met Adam.
I didn’t get sick (skin-sore) before the wedding, but afterward, I was very unwell. My skin was in pain during our mini-moon – a quick coastal getaway on the long weekend after our wedding. My skin was throbbing and I couldn’t walk far. I slept and bathed instead of meandering through the streets. I worried I was a burden to Adam. I had three weeks holiday from work after the wedding, and most of that was spent in bed dosed up on painkillers and wrapped in wet bandages. I then had a further week off. So sore. It was the rollercoaster of emotions, the planning along juggling a full-time job, freelance work and my health, and the thud of the “now what??” after the wedding that contributed to my Ichthyosis exacerbating. The same level of pain happened after we returned from our honeymoon seven months later!
I had a manicure and pedicure – after a little drama of one business not wanting to touch my skin without gloves because they thought I was contagious, and then they didn’t have vinyl gloves on hand. I had to speak loudly in the salon that I’m not contagious, and everyone looked. I left. Sigh. Why does it have to be so hard?! I eventually found a great nail salon and sat in a massage chair while my hands and feet were pampered. I provided my own gloves.
Disability and chronic illness (and mental illness) are not spoken about a lot when it comes to weddings. Yet it affects so many of us.
Here are a few tips that I’d give Bridechillas (or Groomchillas) if you are disabled or chronically ill:
Get as much rest as you can before and after the wedding. Weddings are tiring. You want to be well on the big day, but you also want to be well afterward.
Don’t do something on your wedding day that you wouldn’t do in real life. I hate the outdoors – and get cold and hot easily. So of course we didn’t have an outdoor ceremony. We also considered beach photos at sunset because they’d be pretty, but then chucked it in the FIB because it would have been a rush, and Adam and I never go to the beach anyway!
Talk to your vendors about your accessibility needs. I asked my celebrant if we could have two chairs on the stage so that Adam and I could sit down when the talking was happening. I also talked to the venue about lighting and heating that would make me comfortable.
If disability or chronic illness is part of your identity, don’t hide it. I choose not to hide my skin condition. But I could wear makeup if I really wanted to. However, makeup would hurt, and Adam and my family and friends love me the way I look. So I didn’t alter the way I looked for anyone – especially for my own comfort. If you use a mobility aid, or have an insulin pump, and you’re comfortable with it, let it be seen on the day and in photos. Representation matters – and a future Bridechilla seeing you rocking your disability or chronic illness on your wedding day might make all the difference to them.
Ask your guests about their accessibility needs. When there’s a ramp to get in the door, and an accessible toilet, it shows everyone is welcome.
Wear something that is comfortable for you. You don’t have to forgo the style and glamour – but you also don’t have to suffer for fashion. I had a long sleeved lace shrug made for wearing over my first wedding dress (because I always keep my arms covered), and had a soft jersey fabric band made for wearing under the bodice of my dress so the boning wouldn’t hurt me.
Ask your favourite singer to sing at your wedding. Give them enough notice and they might say yes! Mine did!
Carly and Adam's wedding photography by Fresh Photography.