Your special day is about celebrating your love with your closest friends and family. Beyond focusing on your vision and the details to bring it to life, you’ll also want to consider how you can elevate the guest experience. Immersing everyone in a romantic atmosphere is one thing, but ensuring your event is accessible for all is another matter.
Accessibility fosters an inclusive environment, making the experience more memorable (and enjoyable) for everyone involved. It also ensures the people you care about can participate in this meaningful milestone.
There are many thoughtful ways to make your wedding convenient for those with limitations. Orsella Hughes of Serenity Ceremonies recommends discussing mobility concerns with one’s wedding planner.
“Depending on the need of the guest and if the ceremony is taking place on a lawn or on a beach, or even at a church, the planner can make arrangements with the guest and venue ahead of time to ensure their entrance to the wedding doesn’t prohibit the ceremony from starting on time,” Hughes says.
Planning an accessible celebration ensures your wedding is considerate of others while you create unforgettable memories that will last for years. Here are some must-know tips for the ultimate inclusive experience!
Inquire about the venue’s accessibility
Your setting plays a significant role in accessibility. So as you search for the perfect wedding venue, “note your guests’ accessibility needs and take them into consideration when venue shopping,” advises Greg Carlyle of The Millennium Event Center.
“If stairs are part of the venue’s layout, make sure there’s an elevator or ramp,” he notes. “The Americans with Disabilities Act only requires an elevator if the building has three or more stories.” Schedule tours of your favorite venues to confirm whether they have essential features like wheelchair accessibility and assisted accommodations.
As you tour each venue, Mary Angelini of Key Moment Films stresses the importance of discussing mobility accommodations for your big day. “Speak with the venue manager about any concerns and ask how they can handle the challenge without your guests having any unpleasant or challenging experiences,” she suggests.
These answers will help you and your partner determine the best option for your big day. And when your attendees feel supported and adequately cared for on your wedding day, you can trust that they will enjoy the festivities to the fullest extent!
Review transportation and parking arrangements
An accessible building is only one part of a guest’s experience — Angelini notes that couples must also “consider parking and transportation options to ensure guests can get to and from the venue easily.”
For instance, if you expect anyone to take public transit, research bus or train schedules and the proximity of the nearest stop to the venue. If possible, provide a map with directions to the event space. Share this information on your wedding website so everyone can plan accordingly and ease into your celebration.
In addition, you’ll want to make parking a breeze for those with mobility limitations. Carlyle encourages couples to “reserve some spaces next to the venue for those guests. Designate them with some balloons and ‘Reserved’ signs and let those guests know the spaces are available for them.”
While you may not have control over public transportation, you can establish parking arrangements so there’s one less stressor for your guests to encounter. Discuss parking options with the venue manager and confirm that there are accessible paths to your event space.
Check for level ground and access points
Are you planning an outdoor celebration to soak in the fresh air? If so, be sure the “ceremony site is on level ground, and there’s a smooth pass to accommodate a wheelchair,” says Carlyle. Slopes, pebbles, and gravel can cause additional barriers to mobility. You can brainstorm ways to arrange the landscape to accommodate your guests with your venue manager.
If you can’t avoid uneven ground at your dream venue, “consider using speakers and audio equipment if your location is too hard to navigate so everyone can hear the ceremony and be involved,” suggests Jen Sulak of Weirdo Weddings. From there, you can transition to an indoor space with level flooring for cocktail hour and the reception.
As for indoor events, Sulak emphasizes being “mindful of all access points” to accommodate accessibility needs should they arise. Carlyle elaborates, adding a reminder to “make sure paths and aisles are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Doorways should be at least 30″ wide for a wheelchair.”
Likewise, you’ll also want to maintain a clear and leveled dance floor. “Smooth flooring without tripping hazards is ideal for everyone to enjoy the celebration,” Angelini notes. That means routing cords away from the main dance floor. Discuss this practice with your entertainment and venue.
Although level ground and access points may seem like minor details, they are vital for an inclusive guest experience that everyone can enjoy. Make it easier on your loved ones by ensuring they don’t have to worry about their own accommodations!
Create a well-designed layout
Consider the seating arrangements at your ceremony and reception party when designing your wedding layout. Hughes mentions placing a “seat marker with their name on their chair reserved for them or reserve an area (if a wheelchair is in use) where they can sit to enjoy the ceremony.” In terms of layout, she urges couples to select an area with minimal foot traffic.
Hughes also highlights the importance of seating guests in a way that will not cause commotion or disruption to others. “Placing them at the tables that are on the outside of the perimeter of all tables is the best way for easy access to and from their tables,” she confirms. So as you review seating arrangements, consider how easy it would be for guests with disabilities to leave and return to the area.
Implement other key details
In addition to even flooring, cables, and seating arrangements, you can incorporate signage to guide guests with mobility limitations. Angelini notes that you can mark “paths with clear signage or temporary tape,” ensuring there’s plenty of space to maneuver between tables, speakers, and decorations.
If you have people in your wedding party who require additional support, Sulak recommends that you “allow enough space when designing your aisle way and seated rows so everyone involved feels valued and included.” This simple arrangement requires communicating with your venue and the set-up crew.
Finally, don’t forget to take bathroom amenities into account. “Consider placing beautiful signage in the bathroom, encouraging their guests not to use the stalls reserved for the handicapped community,” Hughes suggests.
If you expect to host guests with mobility limitations, kickstart your planning process by consulting with your wedding planner to develop accessibility plans to keep everyone comfortable. Some critical factors include the venue layout, restroom facilities, seating arrangements, and parking accommodations.
Creating an inclusive celebration begins with intention. Being considerate of others is the perfect foundation for your big day and will make it even more special when you can spend it with your favorite people. Plan accordingly and prepare for an unforgettable experience!
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.