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Already Wedding Ready: I'm a Disabled Wheelchair User

Navigating wedding planning as a wheelchair user came with it's difficulties for Eliza. Here, they explain that, while they are #AlreadyWeddingReady - it's perhaps the industry that isn't

eliza rain who has rainbow coloured hair sits in a wheelchair outdoors with flowers behind them - they are wearing a red floral shorts and a white tshirt with black edges

eliza rain who has rainbow coloured hair sits in a wheelchair outdoors with flowers behind them - they are wearing a red floral shorts and a white tshirt with black edges

As part of our #AlreadyWeddingReady campaign, we spoke to Eliza Rain, on Instagram as @disabled_eliza, who opens up about their journey to feeling 'wedding ready' as a disabled person. If you're inspired by Eliza's story, download our #AlreadyWeddingReady badge and join the campaign, sharing your own story on your social channels.

Hi, I’m Eliza. I'm a content creator from London, I love everything colourful and bright and spend my spare time in art galleries, on nature walks or snuggling my dog on my sofa. I am also disabled and in a few months time I will be getting married.

What Being Wedding Ready Means to Me

Over the years I have learnt that being disabled isn’t a bad thing, and I don't need to change anything about my existence to be loved, get married and have fun!

Getting to the point of feeling ‘wedding ready’ for me had everything to do with finding the right wedding suppliers and venue that catered to our needs, and nothing to do with changing myself or trying to fit the mould that society wants me to be as a newlywed.

I am proud of my relationship, I am proud of how far we have come together as a team and honestly, I can’t wait to celebrate our love with our friends and family. 

My Journey to Being a Nearlywed

eliza has rainbow hair and sits in a wheelchair next to their partner michael - both are on gravel in front of a lake

Navigating wedding planning as a disabled person has been quite the journey, but before we get into all that, here’s a bit about me, my relationship and my wedding planning journey so far.

From Facebook Messages to a Decade of Dating

My partner and I have been together for a long old time now. We first met at a party more than a decade ago, now. After we first met, I thought, I’m going to message him on Facebook. 

I’m dyslexic and after I sent the message, I realised there were some spelling mistakes, so I quickly deleted it and sent another. The same thing happened *again*, so I deleted it again and sent a third message.

Little did I know that deleting it on my end didn’t delete it for him, so when Michael hopped onto Facebook the next day, he had all three of my messages waiting in his inbox. Great.

Luckily, that didn’t scare him off. Maybe he liked the keenness! And here we are now, 10 years later, about to get married! We’ve been dating since we were 16, so we really do feel like childhood sweethearts. 

When the Going Got Tough, He Never Got Going

I was always a bit of a sickly child, but in my teenage years, I started to become even more unwell. After Michael and I had been together for around a year, I started to become pretty sick, and with that came a lot of hospital trips and overnight stays. 

Michael would take me to all sorts of different hospital appointments and I remember feeling embarrassed. I mean, this isn’t exactly what you want your ‘date day’ to look like - a hot stuffy room filled with people foot-tapping and nail-picking as they wait nervously to see the consultant. 

But despite how I felt, Michael was never bothered by any of it. And he was there for me, at every appointment. From holding my hand in support, to grabbing sick bowls when I needed them, he always made me feel like a priority. He loved me and enjoyed my company, whether our day consisted of hospital appointments or no hospital appointments

Unfortunately, as time passed I didn’t really get ‘better’ and I was eventually diagnosed with life-long conditions that needed life-long support and care. Over time, my mobility decreased and I needed to start using a wheelchair.

My Disability Doesn’t Make Me a Burden

For those who aren’t disabled, you may not be familiar with the term ‘internalised ableism’. 

The definition is, “Internalised ableism is the way in which an individual absorbs and applies the beliefs and moral judgements of the dominant ablest culture at a subconscious level.”

Because of the society I grew up in, I began to feel like a burden because I needed a wheelchair. I almost felt as though I was broken, and not worthy of having a loving, kind and safe relationship.

It wasn’t easy, but over time I began to unlearn these thoughts and feelings. The truth of the matter is, these ideologies I had thought up weren’t based on anything true at all. 

In fact, the reality is that disabled people make amazing partners. And although our relationships might look a little different to non-disabled people, they are still just as valid and just as important.

I am perfect just the way I am, wheelchair or no wheelchair. I deserve love and joy just as much as the next person. 

And Now I’m Getting Married

eliza and michael in front of a shark tank in an aquarium as eliza holds up their hand and showcases the engagement ring michael gave them

Now let’s skip forward a few years to December 2022. This was when Michael asked me to marry him, and I (of course!) said yes.

“Where did he do it?” I hear you cry… Well, Michael couldn’t have possibly chosen a better place to propose to me. Fun fact about me, I love sharks. I’m completely obsessed. They are by far my favourite animal. 

Because of this, you’ll understand why asking me to marry him in front of the shark tanks at the London aquarium was by far the most ideal place to propose. As soon as it happened, we couldn’t wait to rush home and tell all of our family and friends.

Accessible. But Are You Actually?

As things stand right now, I feel pretty wedding ready as far as all the practicalities go, but getting to this stage was much more difficult than I initially thought it would be. And that’s because finding a wheelchair accessible wedding venue proved to be no easy task.

And that’s not because they don’t exist - it’s because so many venues don’t list their accessibility features and facilities online, making it incredibly difficult to research and find a venue that worked for us. 

We actually used Hitched to find accessible wedding venues, and would then call the venues to confirm that they were in fact fully accessible. But this came with its own hurdle. Not many places (and this goes for wedding and non-wedding businesses) truly understand what being ‘accessible’ really means for a wheelchair user. 

Non-wheelchair users often think that accessibility means that a wheelchair user can physically get into the building, and whilst that is obviously very important, the buck doesn’t stop there. 

Being an accessible wedding venue also has to tick other boxes, like having an accessible toilet, accessible wedding accommodation, an accessible station nearby, wide spaces and the functionality to fit more than one wheelchair into the space. 

And this is just for wheelchair users, other disabilities, both visible and non-visible, will have other requirements and accommodations which need to be met for a place to brand themselves as fully accessible. 

My Experience Finding an Accessible Wedding Venue

eliza in their wheelchair next to their partner michael in front of a giant heart that says eurovision 2023 on it

Many venues didn’t list their accessibility online, which made the research process much longer than it needed to be. And on top of that, we came across a few venues which were accessible during the day, but didn’t have accessible overnight accommodation. Planning an accessible wedding shouldn't be this difficult. 

As a couple looking for an accessible wedding venue, you could very easily find yourself in a position where you have an accessible wedding venue that has accommodation that isn’t suitable, that you can’t actually access, but that you’re still paying for, which just doesn’t feel fair or right. 

Eventually, we did find a wheelchair accessible venue that fit our needs and would cater to all the wheelchair users that are attending, which is another thing that is often overlooked. I have a lot of friends who are wheelchair users as well, so it’s not just one wheelchair that needs accommodating. 

There are actually 15 of us wheelchair users attending my wedding and it’s vital that everyone has the space to access and navigate around the venue as freely as possible. 

If I could give any advice to businesses and vendors, I would say, please, please list your access on your website so that disabled people know and understand what to expect when visiting your location. It makes a world of difference to us - and will also make you much more money!

I'm #AlreadyWeddingReady, and So Are You

eliza has rainbow hair and wears a baby blue beaded dress in their wheelchair as their partner michael stands next to them wearing a suit

I have spent years educating others about my life as a Disabled person. And I’m not going to pretend that there haven’t been some really tough times, because there has. But I am at the point now where I wouldn’t change one thing about myself. 

As far as I’m concerned, I am already wedding ready, it’s the rest of the world who needs to catch up. 

For me, being ‘wedding ready’ is about showing up as me; the colourful, confident and worthy person that I am. But what does being ‘wedding ready’ mean to you?

I’d love to know! Share your story using #AlreadyWeddingReady, download the #AlreadyWeddingReady badge and help spread the word (and the love!) as far as we can. 

Download the Badge

Eliza x

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