Disability Life Writing

My Wedding Dress, My Wheelchair, & Me

11th January 2019

When I was getting married, I only had a few must-haves for my wedding dress.

3. Wedding dress must not make me look like a giant cupcake and/or little girl playing dress up.

2. Wedding dress must be purple.

And my number 1 on my wedding dress list: The dress and I had to both sit comfortably in my wheelchair at the same time. I had to wear the dress, the dress could not wear me.

When I was growing up, it didn’t really bother me that the bridal shop window mannequins that I passed or the real brides that passed me were standing up in their dresses.

I figured, when the time came, I would find a standing wedding dress that I liked, and my Nana, who could make magic with ANYTHING, would make something I could sit in. Comfortably, and yes, beautifully.

Fast forward to when I was looking for my actual wedding dress, when I thought one of those dresses in the windows could be my dress. I started thinking these thoughts about a year before I proposed to my boyfriend, and then he proposed to me. I like to plan.

But they were dream dresses until I had a ring on my hand.

 

Blog post on wedding dress shopping as a disabled bride. #disability #wheelchairusers #weddingdresses #weddings

 

Looking for a dress when you’re engaged is different, because you must find your actual wedding dress. THE DRESS. MY DRESS.

None of the dresses I saw in bridal shop windows were my dress. Most were pretty, some were hideous, all were on standing displays.

How would that look sitting down?

That’s beautiful, but too much fabric.

Too cupcake.

It would get caught in the wheels.

That would fall in the wrong place.

It’ll look like a skirt.

I’ll look like a sausage.

Sadly, my Nana could not make earthly magic alterations to any dress. My Grandma could not tell me I’d look good in any dress I picked.

Brides in wheelchairs were not represented in bridal shop windows.

I honestly chickened out of making my own initial wedding dress appointments. I told my Maid of Awesome that it was her job.

Because I didn’t want to hear that I couldn’t even get in the door, or that the dresses were upstairs, or is the one in the wheelchair a bridesmaid?

We found one shop.

They gave us champagne and I asked if they had any purple dresses.

‘Red ones, maybe. But we’ll see what you like.’

I tried on four dresses, draped another two over myself.

I went to a department store, and found a purple dress off the rack. I was not a cupcake nor a sausage. I was in love.

However, I went back to the bridal shop. Bought the first one of the four I tried on. The traditional wedding dress I disliked the least.

Because maybe I wanted to look like an actual bride. Sitting down in my wheelchair getting married.

I’ve decided I’ll wear a purple dress when we hit ten years married, and get our vows renewed with the help of an Elvis impersonator in Vegas.

Back then, I talked to the alterations people about taking the hoop out of my very traditional wedding dress, so the whole thing would mostly fit in the chair, tapering the hem so the dress wouldn’t get caught in my front wheels, and I wouldn’t drive over it. Extra support for the boobs, because I’m sitting and THEY’RE RIGHT THERE, HI.

All of this, in the midst of standing mannequins, and the idea that I was a trailblazer because I found a man who wanted to marry me, wheelchair and all.

‘He isn’t marrying the chair,’ I said. ‘There’s this woman who uses it. Can I have more champagne?’

All and all I had a wonderful, if interesting, wedding dress experience. I loved the place I bought it, the people who fixed it, and the crew that put me in it on the day.

I was reminded of those times when I saw this article from the BBC on a bridal shop’s wheelchair window display.

I have thoughts on this, and they are generally good ones.

Disabled people do get married. Wheelchair users need wedding dresses. We need mainstream representation, that’s all good.

However, while I was initially excited about the display, the chair in it is old and undriveable and the dress looks uncomfortable to sit in.

I know the point of the display is to make wheelchair users see themselves as actual brides, because we are, and for other people to realize disabled people get married, too.

And to display a dress in general.

I showed Neil. ‘That’s good, but the dress is too big and you can’t drive the chair,’ he said.

YES, DUDE. THAT’S WHY I MARRIED YOU.

I appreciate the representation, and there should be more of it. We need to be seen. The kid I used to be needed that display, and kids today need it more.

But as an actual wheelchair user, the display doesn’t work. And I realize that part of advertizing is wish fulfilment and seeing yourself.

I enjoyed seeing a wheelchair user in the window, even in mannequin-form.

Perhaps the next display will include a chair we could actually use, and it won’t make the news.

 

Neil and me on our wedding day. It’s not about the dress.

 

 

 

 

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Also published on Medium.

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27 Comments

  • Reply Darlene 11th January 2019 at 6:19 pm

    You look lovely and hubby in a kilt. Wow! A great team. Glad you didn’t go for purple. But the purple n the flowers are perfect. Thanks for sharing this post.

    • Reply Lorna 11th January 2019 at 6:22 pm

      I’m not glad I didn’t go for purple. But thank you.

  • Reply Ritu 11th January 2019 at 7:08 pm

    You looked like a beautiful bride Lorna!
    And I like the idea of purple for your renewals!

  • Reply justmuddlingthroughlife 11th January 2019 at 8:11 pm

    Lovely photo Lorna, we had lilac bridesmaids.. purple is a lovely colour.

  • Reply Danni Ever After* 11th January 2019 at 8:32 pm

    I love the dress and I love you & Neil <3 (and the kid, of course)

    I'm very much looking forward to the jaunt to Vegas for the 10 year vow renewal!

  • Reply becomingcliche 11th January 2019 at 8:50 pm

    I am looking forward to the day when the bridal industry (and every other one) realizes that some of their customers are disabled and will cater to their needs instead of expecting their customers to adapt to their cookie cutter approach.

    • Reply Lorna 11th January 2019 at 8:57 pm

      I get you. Someone in the comments section of the FB post for the BBC article suggested special days where disabled people could shop with ramps and accessible changing rooms, etc. As it happens, that kinda happens already, but it shouldn’t be special, it should be the norm.

      • Reply becomingcliche 16th January 2019 at 12:51 am

        Exactly. Every day should be accessible.

  • Reply Martha Kennedy 11th January 2019 at 10:13 pm

    This is so wonderful. I love your sense of humor and your sense of self.

  • Reply Jennifer 12th January 2019 at 4:02 am

    Until I got to the part where you said you bought a traditional dress, I going back to the photo trying to figure out how the light washed out the purple from your dress. LOL.

  • Reply Debbie Harris 12th January 2019 at 10:07 am

    I’m in the mood for wedding stories today given it’s our 39th wedding anniversary and yours was fabulous Lorna! It hit all the right spots, was entertaining and had a good outcome. You look absolutely beautiful in your wedding photo and you both look radiantly happy – as one should on their wedding day. I must admit I kept looking to see if it your dress had a purple tint 🙂 In regards to the colour purple, when I went looking for my MOB (Mother of the Bride) outfit, I had a list of what I didn’t want and purple and sleeveless were top of the list. Guess what I ended up buying? Purple and sleeveless (with a short jacket) and I couldn’t be happier with the end result 🙂

    • Reply Lorna 12th January 2019 at 11:06 am

      It was actually goldish. Ordered the ivory, but I was fitted in the gold, liked it better, and was given a discount on whatever dress because they figured it was their ‘mistake’. I just called it vintage to feel better than saying ‘I’m in gold’.

      I shall have to get another cuppa, and read your post. Saw the link last night, but it was too late to read properly.

      Happy Anniversary! <3

      • Reply Debbie Harris 14th January 2019 at 7:38 am

        Thanks for your good wishes!

  • Reply fancypaperblog 12th January 2019 at 10:49 am

    You are bringing me right back to my wedding dress search. It was wonderful when I got it but wow- I had a few terrible experiences first. Basically we don’t make dresses to fit you stuff. I was size 14-16.
    I agree that a progression is good for shops but it will be better when that is a given and does not have to make the news.
    Another memory- a lady who barely disguised her disinterest in my body trying on one of her made for greyhound dresses giving me an 8 and when I clearly couldn’t try it on asking me to hold up it up and imagine what it would be like. Wow.

    • Reply Lorna 12th January 2019 at 10:55 am

      Greyhound dresses made me LOL. Exactly that. My fave was ‘Mermaid?’ and I was like ‘NAW’. I think with actual wedding dresses, they’re meant to take your size and add 4.

      • Reply fancypaperblog 12th January 2019 at 8:55 pm

        Mermaid. I got that too. The fishtail was never going to be me!
        Wedding dress size is a whole new ballgame

  • Reply Chomeuse with a Chou 12th January 2019 at 10:13 pm

    I love seeing wedding dress photos, and you looked absolutely stunning in yours! It may not have been purple but it was still gorgeous (but v good idea for the vow renewal). I actually had no idea if I was going to love or hate mine until a week before my wedding – when I got engaged my mum reminded me of a discussion we had had when I was ten, when I had asked her to make my dress (she sews as a hobby but is not a dress maker). I didn’t want to disappoint her so we chose a pattern and material together and I hoped for the best. The mock up version (with cheap, stiff material) was terrible but by then there was nothing I could do…thankfully when the real dress was made and fitted I absolutely adored it, but, like you, I had stealed myself to the idea that the marriage was the important bit and not the dress!

  • Reply CarolCooks2 13th January 2019 at 3:45 am

    A beautiful photo and I love the idea of purple for the 10yr bash…xx

  • Reply Jo Wilson 13th January 2019 at 4:26 pm

    Your dress was awesome. It was a wonderful day!

  • Reply rachaelstray 14th January 2019 at 1:38 pm

    Your dress is beautiful and I like your plan of wearing purple (my favourite colour) when you celebrate 10 years. Hopefully it will become more mainstream so it doesn’t have to become headline news but at least it raised awareness and hopefully will make more shops and those who design the window displays realise they are missing a bloody trick!

  • Reply gemmaorton 17th January 2019 at 10:24 am

    No wedding dress for me, but just feeling ‘dressed up’ is harder with wheels. Things just look so different sitting than they do standing. Hems of tops etc.
    I agree the wheeling wedding dress display is a good step, but also agree it’s the details that’s important. Wheelers should be involved in the process of advertising and displaying. Only those with experience know, and your fab husband. People that just get it are cool.
    You looked stunning. I can’t wait to see the purple dress!

  • Reply Gloria 17th January 2019 at 10:26 am

    I agree … ‘Does it really have to make the news?’ The wedding dress search has it’s hurdles for every bride, but it always works out in the end. You both looked wonderful Lorna. Lovely post! Yes….go for the purple for the renewals!!

    • Reply Lorna 17th January 2019 at 10:34 am

      It had to make the news, because disabled brides and people in general are overlooked and unaccounted for. But yes, I look forward to the day it’s not news and just life.

      • Reply Gloria 17th January 2019 at 10:40 am

        Exactly Lorna! At least it’s progression.

  • Reply Deborah Hunter Kells 17th January 2019 at 10:46 am

    Yes – being one of the crowd – ie getting married is all you want to be known for I think.
    I had to smile – I got married in a wedding dress that was purple… 🙂 country and western style
    I did a post on my blog.. Loved the dress first time I looked at it… I hope your time
    for vows is great too… I’m looking forward to mine. 🙂

    • Reply Lorna 17th January 2019 at 10:53 am

      I’d like to be known for more than getting married, but I get you. And I’m going to go read your purple dress post! As for shoes, I wore Docs, one reason being I couldn’t find the perfect cowboy boots!

  • Reply angelanoelauthor 17th January 2019 at 1:15 pm

    My favorite part of this post is your happy smile. But, I also always like your perspective on how the world is seen from where you sit. It’s eye opening for me because my day-to-day experience doesn’t “see” when things like wedding dress options and restroom availability are a different kind of challenge for others.

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