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Autism-Friendly Wedding


By James Cleves & Fiona Robertson




When Fiona and I decided to get married, we had to discuss the usual things -

venues, food, dresses, music - so far, so typical.

But as an autistic man, there were many other things to consider. Especially as

we have other autistic and disabled people in attendance. Inclusivity has been

paramount to our plans.



First, the venue

Every couple wants to choose their ideal venue, whether it’s a church, hotel or

somewhere outdoors. For your average couple, you might just consider the look

of the venue, and how easy it is for you and your guests to get to.


But with autism in the mix, new places can be overwhelming. You start to feel

anxious about what the place will smell like, if the layout will be confusing so you

get lost, if there will be a quiet place to go if you start feeling overwhelmed…

You even worry about having easy access to a loo.


It’s a good idea to write down all your concerns. Turn them into a list of

questions to ask when visiting your potential venues. For example, we asked each venue about the possibility of a quiet space for me and our other autistic guests to retreat to if things get a bit much and they need a time-out. Only one venue, though was able to offer a workable solution of a

separate room to act as a quiet space, away from the music, lights and other

guests. (My only concern is that James will spend too much time in there on the

day! - Fiona)


If you have time and budget, we’d also recommend visiting your venue a few

times in the run-up to the big day. For example, we have had a couple of meals

at our reception hotel already, so he is familiar with the layout, colours, smells,

staff and the location of the facilities.


Clothing

When it comes to choosing outfits, if you have sensory issues, you really need to

work around those. Like, if you can’t bear the feel of certain fabrics that might

dictate your outfit choice. For example, here in Scotland, grooms tend to have a

choice between kilts or suits - two very different outfit styles and materials.






Photography

We’ve decided against getting a wedding video, but we definitely want some

lovely photos of our special day.

Like a lot of autistic people, James struggles with eye contact - I’m one of the

few people he can look in the eye.

When it comes to the camera, even when taking selfies, James seldom makes

eye contact, so photographs may be a big deal on the day.


We chose a photographer that James already knew, so he should feel more at

ease. And we will be meeting with him soon and discussing the eye contact thing

as I’m sure he will have some ideas for workarounds.


So, our best advice on photography is probably just to make sure you go with a

professional because they’ve probably encountered this kind of situation before,

and choose someone you feel at ease around so you can be honest about things.


Flowers & Decor

We’re back to sensory issues with this one, as flowers, though beautiful, can

have overpowering scents.If you’re a bride with sensory issues, you might want to consider dried flowers,

or something more unusual, like a bouquet made from paper or fabric flowers.


And when it comes to putting flowers around the venue or in table decorations,

it’s best to look for ones that don’t have really overpowering scents. For

example, we considered including some lily of the valley in the table

centrepieces, which has a glorious scent, but it can be overpowering. And we

quickly realised that would not only affect me, but also our other autistic guests.



The same goes for scented candles - we’ll be making sure any we use are

unscented.


Entertainment

Luckily, we both had similar ideas for entertainment. We’ve opted for a disco-

style evening, filled with our favourite pop and rock tunes to get people dancing.


But we’ll be checking with the DJ to make sure there aren’t any strobe or heavily

flashing lights in use, as that is another potential trigger.


As you can see, there is a common thread running through all these things -

being open and honest with your suppliers. Asking them for help and advice,

whether that means selecting the lightly-scented flowers or tips on how to get

the best photos.


They are the professionals, so they should know - or can find out - the answers

to your questions. And if they don’t have a satisfactory answer (like the venue

who just wanted to screen off part of the dance floor with a pull-up banner for a

“quiet space”) then move along to the next supplier until you find the right fit.

But there are a few bonus tips we have for you, too!


Schedule & Breaks

Firstly, when working out the schedule for the big day, try not to make the

running order too cramped. There may be times when you need a breather (and

possibly escape to your quiet room!) just to make sure you don’t get

overwhelmed. The last thing you want on your special day is a meltdown.

Secondly, these days, wedding suppliers are generally very flexible and will

customise your day as you need and want it. For example, we aren’t having a

receiving line as that would mean seeing too many people all at once and it

could be really overwhelming for James.


Wedding Website - Communicate your Needs!

And finally, we used our wedding website to not only provide all the usual info to

our guests - things like accommodation, timings etc - we also made sure to add

a note asking people not to hug James. So if you have any potential issues like

that, being upfront and open with your guests could help avoid potential

awkwardness.


There’s not long to go now - wish us luck!

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