Ableism in the Wedding Industry

A great many things have changed about weddings and receptions as technology and social media have infiltrated the aisle. Some couples are asking that invitees leave their cellular phones in a secure location outside of the event spaces. This is to ensure privacy and possibly how the ceremonial actions are captured.

Wedding photography is a big business and these photographers deserve to be paid well. Make sure to do the necessary research to find the right photog for you. Consider their talent as well as their character and image archive. Many of these things can be found online (of course) and active photographers use social media and their own websites to showcase their work. There are some real artists out there waiting to meet you.

A great place to see the past and present changes in the wedding industry can be found here. The author discusses several key ways the optics and presentations of weddings have transformed for Millennials. Namely, digital elements are replacing paper items and traditional gift bags are now access to an online photo album.

One thing that is not mentioned is how individuals of differing abilities are able to participate in the special day without causing issues for the betrothed and the attendee. (To be clear, for the article linked above, this was not the point of the author’s writing.)

However, since many transformations have recently occurred in and around my life, I feel it is important to consider ALL people in this industry. People of Color should be employed at all levels and in all aspects of wedding and celebration development. Still, how are all of your loved ones going to be present if they are unable to navigate the ceremony and reception spaces? Often elders are considered, whether or not they have a walker, wheelchair, or cane. In this case, there is usually a designated family member responsible for assisting them throughout the day.

This isn’t necessarily true for attendees who are younger, although they may have a parent or guardian in charge of them. But I wonder, what is their experience going to be like? Will the totality of what you have planned be a part of their happy memories as well? Or will they recall the challenges they had moving around the ceremony space? Is the dance floor accessible, can they move around the tables and chairs, is the bathroom in a reasonable location?

These are the questions I immediately think of when someone has a visible disability. For some people, a degree of pity emerges in some part of them and they can’t help but to help all of a sudden. I don’t pity people, I just consider what they need. So what if the need isn’t obviously identifiable? What if we’re not worried about Jimmy and his Autism Spectrum Disorder because we’re familiar with it and been conditioned to understand how his specific behaviors emerge. Are they light and sound sensitive or do they not speak? This is what we are aware of now.

But what about that cousin you rarely see at family gatherings? The one who doesn’t speak much and tends to be found outside somewhere far from the business of food and family and fun. They might not see it this way. They may have anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, borderline personality disorder or some other mental or emotional difficulty made all the more challenging by the crowds and chemistry.

They can’t drink alcohol because it negatively interacts with the medication you don’t know they take. But hey, I don’t know what “negatively interacts” looks like…could be someone crying hysterically or dancing on the tables. Others might have an upset stomach in the face of all that delicious free food. The attire includes covering up as much as possible but keeping the clothing light and breathable. Making sure you have naproxen sodium on hand for headaches. Or simply not being present because it hurts too much and it’s too much of a complicated matter for which to prepare. That cousin you rarely see at family gatherings.

Inclusion is important and it starts at home. If we cannot find ways to include all of our family members, especially the ones willing to actively participate, then we must reflect on their importance in our lives and the ignorance we still hold. My family has several differently-abled members and I have never seen them treated inappropriately. If you’re queer, that’s a different story. They always had a place at the table, food on their plate and space on the dance floor.

Why not encourage more businesses to install ramps instead of stairs. Some of the stairs we have to walk are poorly measured and cause just as many problems as walking down a steep ramp in heels. But the ramps don’t have to be steep. We can have inclines everywhere, making it easier for all of us to be mobile. We can continue the process with safety in mind and help our neighbors receive the care they deserve.

 

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