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A Guide to Inclusive Wedding Ceremonies

What does the word 'inclusion' mean to you? Does it conjure up images of people in wheelchairs and inclusion meaning that there is a ramp to allow them to enter a building? How about ensuring that all race and religions of people are treated equally within the work place? Or maybe, inclusion is ensuring that members of the LGBTQIA+ community are made to feel comfortable with the language used around them?


All of the above are, of course, forms of inclusion, and every individual on this planet has the right to feel heard, to be treated as a respected human being, and to expect reasonable adaptations to be made to enable them to reach their full potential or to gain access to the same life events as others.


Now, I want to begin this blog by saying that I am by no means an expert on all areas of inclusion and want to start by offering a sincere apology if I offend anybody with incorrect terminology or advice that they don't agree with. I will add though that, having within my own family, members who have mobility issues, neurological differences, brain damage, hearing impairments, are part of the LGBTQIA+ community and are of bi-racial backgrounds, on top of twenty years of working in education, I have had my fair share of making adaptations, considerations and thinking ahead of how to make life a little easier for others!


What does this mean to you and your wedding ceremony?

The chances are you have somebody coming to your ceremony, whether as a guest or as somebody who is a part of the wedding party, who may need some thought put into where they are seated or some gentle adaptations made to enable them to fully enjoy your day, or who may feel more accepted and included if you have a talk with your celebrant about certain language choices to enable them to craft a ceremony script that is respectful of all religious, cultural and gender identities.


So, let's now delve into a few simple ideas to help to create a fully inclusive wedding ceremony. (From hereon, the word 'guest' is used to represent anybody attending your wedding, whether an invited guest or a member of your wedding party.)


Accessible Venue

One of the first things an engaged couple does when beginning to plan their wedding is to book a venue. If you have guests with mobility issues, prioritise venues that are equipped with ramps, lifts and accessible toilets, and those that provide designated parking spaces for those who need them.


Seating

For the ceremony itself, and for other times throughout the day, consider the position and type of seating that is provided for your guests.


  • Those with wheelchairs may need a chair to be removed so that they can use their wheelchair in its place, whereas those with other walking aids may need additional space to manoeuvre themselves comfortably.


  • If you are having a drinks reception, ensure that there are seats available for those who may need them and consider the seating that you are offering - benches and hay bales look beautiful, but may not be suitable or comfortable for some guests; a mixture of seating choices may be a better option.


  • Guests with neuro differences such as ASD, ADHD or anxiety may find themselves overwhelmed during your ceremony. By planning their seating so that they can quietly and discretely remove themselves if they need to will give them a safe option without drawing unwanted attention to themselves.

  • Consider seating guests with hearing or sight impairments close to the front where they will be able to see/lip read/hear yourselves and your celebrant more clearly.

  • New born babies are unpredictable little creatures and may not fit their feeding schedule into your wedding day timings! Allow breastfeeding mothers the 0pportunity to be seated where they will feel comfortable feeding their babies or where they can easily and discretely remove themselves if they'd rather.


Communication

Consider how you can ensure that everybody is able to understand what is being said, what they need to be doing and where they need to be. Nobody likes to feel alienated or confused so try, as much as possible, to make sure that everybody feels that you have tried to accommodate for them.


  • For those with hearing or sight impairments, as well as considering their seating...


  • If you have guests whose language is not the same as the one your ceremony is being conducted in, consider hiring a bilingual celebrant or an interpreter for them and having bi-language wedding signage, menus, etc... You could learn and share your vows in both languages for a beautiful touch.


  • Speak to your celebrant about the language used in your ceremony script so that it is mindful of any guests who identify as gender fluid or non binary. Adaptations from 'ladies and gentlemen' to 'everybody' are so simple to make, but go a long way in ensuring that everybody feels valued.


Other Simple Ways in Which to Consider Other's Needs

There are so many other small ways in which other's needs can be taken into consideration with some pre-planning and clear communication with your venue staff and other wedding providers. For example...


  • Provide a simple, calm area for those who need quiet time.

  • Provide earplugs or ear defenders for guests with ASD or ADHD (or have a conversation with them beforehand and suggest that they bring some).

  • Consider the lighting used, particularly by your DJ, if you have epileptic guests.


As a celebrant, I want to ensure that every single ceremony that I officiate at is as inclusive as it can be. I don't want my couples to shy away from mentioning things that may be 'awkward' or 'inconvenient' - tell me, and let's try to work out how we can include somebody in your ceremony or how I can make simple adaptations to my script to make sure that every single person at your wedding feels included and valued.


As a human being, I'm always learning. Share with me your ideas or experiences of inclusive ceremonies. What worked well? What could have been done better?


I hope that this blog has given you a small insight into how, with a little thought and planning, your ceremony CAN be as inclusive as you want it to be.





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