Wedding Bells and Wheelchairs
My fiancé and I have finally set a date for our wedding Saturday, May 18! We got engaged back in August of 2017 and simply cannot wait to be married to one other.
Growing up in Cat Island, a small out island in the Bahamas, I had this idealized vision of how I wanted to get married for the last several decades of my life. I grew up jumping off cliffs into the water, free diving and spearfishing for my dinner in the crystal clear waters, kayaking, frolicking about in nothing more than a bikini, taking Robinson Crusoe type camping trips on deserted islands with my family for over a decade in my younger years, building bonfires on the beach, and taking so many other storybook like adventures on this little out island where I grew up.
I had envisioned getting married in a bikini with a giant barbecue on the beach and having a big soirée with family and friends while we frolicked about in the water. Clearly, I’ve had to adjust my expectations as I’m not quite sure a bikini would be very flattering these days in a wheelchair nor would getting stuck in the sand with my wheels 😉
I’ve been thinking critically over the last several months on what I want to do for my special day. I came to the conclusion that I want my fiancé. Plain and simple. I just want to be married to this man who loves me dearly, and I him! Frankly, I wouldn’t say I don’t care about the wedding, but I’ve never been the type of girl to throw a giant wedding with all the bells and whistles. Honestly, I rather save up all that money spent on a wedding for a wonderful honeymoon and adventures traveling with my main squeeze.
I do want to be able to share my special day with all of my friends and family, but I have come to realize that I have many more limitations than the average able-bodied bride, which I need to be able to plan accordingly for. Life is a series of compromises no matter what situation you find yourself in.
For example, I am one of those quadriplegics who have been “blessed” with super sensitive skin meaning I get a pressure sore at the drop of a hat. You can practically look at my skin and I’ll be in bed for months trying to heal. Also, I suffer from severe nerve pain, which feels like pins and needles burning my entire body throughout the day.
I’m not complaining I’m just simply pointing out that I, personally, have certain challenges I need to deal with when it comes to planning a day that would involve being up in my wheelchair for over 16 hours. Planning a wedding around my skin and my pain doesn’t really make for a romantic vision in my opinion, but these are the cards I have been dealt in life, and I just have to adjust my expectations.
With that said I really want to invite all of my friends and family from all over the world, but I think our wedding would probably be upwards towards 200 people if I did that. I wrote an article for Push Living a few weeks ago on the topic of how expensive it is to live as a quadriplegic. Therefore, every dollar counts and I just can’t justify spending many tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding that I wouldn’t likely enjoy if I had to be up in my chair for most of the day.
I want to be able to soak in my happy day, but not find myself pushing through the pain when it comes time to have my first dance or cutting the wedding cake at the wedding reception. So, we’ve decided to keep our wedding to a small group of family members and likely down to 30 people or so. I so desperately want to invite everyone, but I know my friends and extended family understand the predicament I face. It’s slightly heartbreaking to be honest, but I’ve come to accept my situation and all that comes with it. I have the most understanding fiancé and family who support me in every way possible.
We plan to get married in a small, but magical tropical garden 10 minutes away from where I live in Raleigh, North Carolina. We are literally just going to roll into this gorgeous little nook with a gazebo tucked away within the garden, and have my brother officiate the wedding. I don’t even have to purchase flowers since we will be in this gorgeous garden … Yes that was entirely planned! Do you know how much flowers cost? I almost fell out of my wheelchair when I received some quotes a few weeks ago.
Following our small intimate ceremony we are going to head over to my apartment complex. My apartment complex has a cute pool and a beautiful indoor area that you can rent. We’re going to decorate very simply, cater some delectable Lebanese food from a place I absolutely adore, and just have an intimate gathering with some music, food, and hopefully a lot of laughs. I know my mom is going to sneak in a little bit more decorating to spruce things up, but it is a mother’s prerogative after all 😉
This may sound super simple, but remember I am in it for the husband! I rather have a small wedding with people I love and a lasting marriage than an elaborate & expensive wedding with a man I will only be married to for a few years.
Frankly, I had given up on the idea of love for half a decade after my accident and I never thought it possible to find such a caring, compassionate, and loving man to spend my life with. If it were up to me I would probably just go to the courthouse, but I know how much it means to my family to be part of our special day, and family is the most important thing in the world to me!
I’m generally such a planner … ok, I mean I’m a neurotic planner if are going to be frank about it. However, I just can’t bring myself to plan every tiny detail of my own wedding, which is where my mom and dad are really helping me come up with some creative ideas to have a simple yet memorable wedding.
As for a wedding dress? Forget about it! I’m just a pants kind of girl since I broke my neck. It hides my catheter nicely on my leg, it goes with all of my cute tops I wear, and most importantly, all of my pants prevent pressure sores, which is always on the forefront of my mind. When I think about sitting on rough lace for an entire day I get shivers down my spine wondering what my skin will be like at the end of the day.
I wasn’t sure what I was going to do for a wedding dress as I have seen many other beautiful brides in wheelchairs wearing wedding dresses. So, I envision having white pants made for me and finding some kind of lacy material to have a beautiful spaghetti strapped tank top designed. I spent the last month driving around Raleigh to various fabric shops with my mom, but all to no avail. We kept getting recommendations to go to this place or that place, this person or that person, but eventually through my tenacious determination we were introduced to a woman who does the costume design for the Carolina Ballet here in North Carolina.
She even came over to my apartment after hearing my story and was so excited to be able to help me design something so unique. She had worked with one other woman in a wheelchair many years ago helping her design some cloths, but she said she was up for the challenge and looked forward to helping me design the most gorgeous wedding top she could make. I’m looking forward to working with her over the next couple months and as we progress I will have many photos to share along the way.
This was a very hard decision to make indeed. Initially, I wanted to take a trip over to Europe and explore the mountains of Switzerland. I thought since we were saving so much money on the wedding that it would be feasible to have our honeymoon over there, but after months of working with different handicap accessible travel agencies I came to the realization that price wasn’t the only uphill battle.
I was going to have to take my manual chair to Europe, which I usually can only stand for about 8 hours at a time before the pain gets too intense. In an ideal world my power chair provides me the comfort I need and my manual wheelchair is great for small excursions ranging from 4 to 6 hours. Also, I had to think practically about my energy levels. I love adventure, but my mind and body are not always on the same track. My mind can go for 14 to 16 hours a day, but my body usually only gives me about 50% of what I desire before fatigue, pain, and pressure sores start to set in. This is my reality and C’est la vie as they say!
Okay, no problem … we decided to scratch the idea of going to Switzerland, not to mention it’s one of the most expensive countries in the world. We planned a trip somewhere closer to home that would allow me to take both my manual and power chair along with my many supplies, which would offer me the comfort my body needs at this point my life.
I love the idea of frolicking about the world and taking daredevil handicap “accessible’ish” trips as so many of my fellow quadriplegics do whom I read about on a constant basis. However, every spinal cord injury is different and I just need to face the reality that I can’t just be thrown into some random car, go four wheeling on a jungle road, zip lining down a volcanic mountain in my wheelchair in Costa Rica (yes, I was seriously considering a trip like this too … I don’t know what I was thinking), etc. I am very lucky in so many respects, but when it comes to my body and health, I have to be much more careful than some others. That’s okay though because I’ve learned to accept that even though these kind of roadblocks do get me down sometimes that I just have to stop and realize that life is about people, not places! My fiancé reminds me of this all the time 🙂
After months and months of research my fiancé and I settled on going to Asheville, North Carolina, just five hours away from our home, for our honeymoon. Honestly, I’ve been wanting to visit Asheville for the better part of 10 years. It is this quaint artsy type city hidden in the Blue Ridge Mountains with waterfalls at every corner, thousands of acres of beautiful forest, stunning Château’s nestled in the mountains, and an explosion of art and culture.
wedding reception apartment complex pool - Wedding Bells & Wheelchairs
I told my fiancé I really want to be able to relax on our honeymoon. I am always a girl on the go and if we went on some extravagant trip around the world we would be going non-stop all day, every day. I want to be able to wake up, sleep in, casually get ready, go swimming, eat and drink our way through a town, and relax. I just don’t know how to relax very well and I thought my honeymoon would be a great place to start!
I’m super excited about our decision and the fact that I get to take both of my wheelchairs, the hotel we’re staying at has multiple swimming pools, there are hidden waterfalls that I know are handicap accessible from my research, and we can casually stroll into town to explore all the culture the city has to offer.
Sometimes you have to take five steps forward, seven steps back until you end up several steps forward again. I usually find this true when researching anything. You cannot always hit a homerun right off the bat and Asheville wasn’t even on my list when I started my honeymoon research.
Many of my friends and extended family have asked me how they can contribute or send a wedding present, etc. At this point in our lives I think we have enough blenders, lamps, kitchenware, and just generally stuff if you know I mean! It’s amazing how much stuff we accumulate over the course of our lives, especially by the time we are in our mid-30’s.
I was thinking critically about this and I came across these honeymoon type websites. I was pretty unfamiliar with the concept, but for those of you getting married who don’t want any more “stuff,” want friends or family to help contribute to a honeymoon, adventure, a new house, etc. there are a handful of companies who have created these very cool websites that essentially allow people to donate toward something specific.
I thought it was such a cool idea that I created one for our honeymoon. I found this great website called Wanderable (www.wanderable.com). This particular website allows you to write a story about who you are, how you met, and what you are looking for in the way of gifts. It then offers a type of registry where folks can purchase champagne and strawberries for the honeymoon, plane tickets, and blenders if you so choose or whatever you might be interested in. I by no means am asking readers to help contribute to my honeymoon, but I thought some of you might be interested in checking it out because it was a new idea to me, and I think it is very cool:
Just as people come in all shapes and sizes, so do weddings! Ours will definitely be unconventional, simple yet elegant, and surrounded by people we love. We decided in our mid-30’s we just can’t justify spending an obscene amount of money on a wedding where we will be worried the entire time of whether or not I get a pressure sore or how my pain is doing.
I don’t want the wedding to be about me with respect to my spinal cord injury. I want my wedding to be about the people around me and I want to enjoy every single moment with our loved ones even though we will miss so many of our extended family and friends along the way.
My apartment complex where we are hosting our wedding reception does have a pool, so who knows I may end up having a pool party just as I had always envisioned as a little kid, just not in the conventional sense. I would hate to be normal!