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