Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

Disabled People Don’t Need Fancy Wedding Venues

5 Jul 2011Onto part three of my wedding planning madness. In last week's blog, I explained how I came to find my beautiful wedding dress, that will be unveiled no sooner than 11/11/11. I talked about how difficult it was to find something that fitted my tiny frame, but after only one shop, I found THE dress! This entry will be all about the drama of finding a wheelchair friendly reception venue.

So, just to fill you in on all the details, in case you missed it; Todd and I met on an internet dating website in November 2008, on the 11th. This year, will be our three year anniversary, and because we were faced with a once in a lifetime opportunity, we both agreed it would be such a good idea if we got married on our three year anniversary, which would make our wedding date the 11th of the 11th, 2011.

When Todd asked me to marry him, I was very excited but I also knew he would have to ask soon-ish if we were going to make our dream wedding date a reality. Even though I was anticipating it, I was still shocked and surprised when he officially popped the question.

Todd mostly grew up in Wollongong, which is on the south coast of New South Wales, he and his family later moved to South Australia, where he'd been living up until only a few years ago. Being the youngest in his family, Todd was a mummy's boy and was always very close to his mum, Christine.

Unfortunately, I will never get to meet my future mother in law, as she lost her battle with cancer in 2002. Because the family had so many memories in Wollongong, they decided to scatter Christine's ashes in a park, overlooking the beach, where they shared many happy times together, enjoying family BBQ's and picnics.

Knowing of the special bond that Todd shared with his mum, I thought it would be such a beautiful way to honour his mother's memory, by holding our wedding ceremony at the same beach that became her final resting place.

When I mentioned this idea to Todd, he was thrilled and agreed that it would make our day even more special.

So with that decided, off we went to visit the park and beach where, as a child, Todd had spent so many days. When I first got there, I thought that it was just perfect. Being in a wheelchair, wheeling on sand is extremely difficult, if not impossible, so when I tell people that I'm getting married at a beach, they always look at me funny and ask how. The great thing about this beach is that there is a large grassy area before the sand, it is elevated above the sand level too, so it gives a perfect view of the ocean. We still haven't decided which end of the grass we will be holding our ceremony, as I don't want it to be too bumpy or hilly whilst making my grand entrance on my way down the isle to Todd, but wherever we decide, it will be beautiful.

Next on the list were visits to wedding reception venues. The first one we went to was right on the harbour, it was very nice but a tad small for what we were after. The venue was on a sloped block of land, with the smaller room on the ground level, and the larger one up a flight of stairs. I made sure I found the disabled parking space near the smaller room that we were looking at, once parked right out the front of the reception venue, we both entered the building together, me, armed with my wedding planning folder, and we told the staff that we had an appointment. To which they advised; all appointments were held upstairs.

Because of my keen wheelchair-access-eye, that can spot a ramp or lift a mile away, I noticed that as we drove in, there was another way to get upstairs, which didn't require going up any stairs. If we walked around the building, to another entrance in another street, we could enter up there on flat ground.

We started walking around and Todd spotted a ‘short cut' through the grass, up a hill, so he was pushing me up the very steep grassy incline, and I was holding on for dear life. Once we got to the top, the ground became really rough and bumpy, containing lots of potholes. Because I am a huge girl when it comes to letting people pushing me, I refused to let him take me any further and climbed out of my wheelchair. He was getting frustrated because I didn't trust him to push me, and I was boiling hot and exhausted, because we'd just gone so far to get somewhere that would've taken mere seconds for an able bodied person. So there we were, with Todd walking up ahead, and me, leaning on my own chair, pushing it, because I am stubborn. We finally made it to the other entrance, got inside, only to notice MORE stairs once inside. It was a multi level venue, with different levels from the large room, to the bar, to the bathrooms, to the entrance, so we would've been better to just walk up the stairs to begin with!

Once we met with the wedding co-ordinator, she got a bit annoyed at her staff for making us come all the way upstairs, when she could've just walked down to meet us. Never mind. Besides the venue being a bit small, it also had another wedding on the same night as ours, and together could hold a total of 200 people, but only had three male and three female toilets for all 200 guests! So we decided to move on to our next appointment.

The next one overlooked the whole of Wollongong, with a breathtaking view of the ocean, it was just spectacular. When we got there, we noticed that it had stairs to the entrance. Next to the stairs, was the steepest ramp I have ever seen. It looked as though someone had just decided that the venue wasn't wheelchair accessible enough, and slapped on some concrete over the top of some steps. There was no way I was getting up there myself, so as independent as I am, I had to ask Todd to help me. That was pretty much a deal breaker right there... The view almost sold us, but I couldn't see myself graciously entering the venue in my big dress on my wedding day up a ramp as steep as that.

The next venue was right on the beach and had two rooms, one large and one small. We were booked in to see the small room. It was amazing! There were glass windows and doors all the way around, looking straight out onto the beach. It had a balcony that you could walk out onto that also had a beautiful view of the water. There were twinkling fibre optic lights in the ceiling that could be turned on if needed. The access was perfect, not one step, not even to the balcony. There were plenty of bathrooms to adequately accommodate all guests. There was also a large separate disabled toilet. So with all that this venue had to offer, even though it was over our original budget, we both agreed that it was perfect and told the wedding co-ordinator that we'd take it.

*Above is a photo of one of the wedding reception venues that was lovely, but just not right for someone in a wheelchair....*

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Previous Comments

V from Sydney posted on 30 Jan 2013
i loved your story! would you be willing to share the name of the venue you ended up using?

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