Ableism in the wedding industry

Disabled and not seen

According to Scope 21% of working age adults are disabled, the real number is likely higher. Yet we definitely aren’t seeing over a fifth of wedding features including disabled people. Not only that, but many venues and suppliers don’t know how to cater to disabled clients or don’t really care.

I first talked about it with Emma from White Petal Cakes and we discussed creating styled shoot that isn’t the standard able-bodied wedding fairytale we’re sold by all the media, but a truly inclusive experience. I never thought we’d actually pull it off. This is my first styled shoot and it would have been so much easier to go for a theme of “boho chic” and roll with it, but no, there was a message we felt was too important to pass on. So all these wonderful suppliers came together and made it possible. Everyone brought their absolute best to the table and it was so reaffirming to be surrounded by fellow suppliers who just get it.

As long as disabilities are seen as something inconvenient or “other”, we will not achieve true inclusivity. Disabled couples shouldn’t fight for being seen and featured once a year.

The Venue

When searching for an accessible venue I used different directories. Yet even when a venue would be categorized as accessible, it really wasn’t. For instance mansions where the bridal suite would be up several flights of stairs or there were no toilets for disabled people. Or the venue was simply in a field. Sure, that ticks the box of there being no stairs, but would it really be wheelchair-friendly? What if it rains? And moreover, not all disabilities are mobility related. It just shows that in the industry it’s become normalized to tick a box and say something is accessible, when in reality clearly disabled people haven’t actually been consulted or properly considered.

In the end I asked for real couples’ experiences and was recommended Winters Barns. It had everything we were looking for and the staff were very open to suggestions.

The Motivation

Building my business has been a very rocky journey. For the longest time I just couldn’t come to terms with the fact that I might have conditions that put my life into “hard mode”. But I’m not the only one! Meeting other neurodivergent and disabled suppliers changed my world.

Shortly before this shoot I’ve started taking medication for both ADHD and PMDD which made a huge difference. I still struggle with many symptoms, but it’s definitely more manageable. I was worried that I might lose my spark or creativity, but it didn’t!

Since discovering more about my conditions, I realized that so many disabled folks start their own (often creative) businesses to be able to cater to their needs. And the wedding industry is chock-full of amazing disabled suppliers, which isn’t visible at all. This is what we want to change. We want our clients to know we can relate and cater to their needs. Whether anyone has a visible or invisible disability, they should have the same beautiful experience planning and celebrating their wedding.

The Suppliers

This shoot would never happen without all the amazing suppliers working hard on driving the point home. Most of us face challenges in our day-to-day lives which puts us in a unique position to offer our clients the service they require and really get it.

I’d like to especially thank our models and my very good friends Jenny and Dan. Jenny is living with phocomelia affecting right arm, left leg and fibromyalgia (purple is the colour for fibro awareness which is why it’s so central in the shoot!) and Dan has ADHD, Tourette’s and memory loss. Jenny is a talented photographer herself, a proud owner of Feline Doggeous Photography specializing in wildlife and pet photography.

Lily Jones is a multi award-winning Wedding & Event Planner and Stylist.

Lily focuses on encouraging their clients to make their weddings as unique to them as possible, throwing out outdated traditions that don’t fit with their vision. Lily was so excited to style this shoot as not only is it an essentially important issue, but it is also one that is close to my heart. And a special thanks to Lily for picking up the slack when just shortly before our shoot I had to take a step back from the planning when war broke out in my home country of Ukraine.

White Petal Cakes is luxury cake artist, serving Kent, Sussex, London and Paris.

Renowned for her expertise in sugar flower creation and outstanding service, Emma creates all her cakes with the upmost professionalism but more importantly she pours her heart into her creations. Emma Joined the disability awareness shoot, as she has multiple disabilities of her own. The main being – Behçet’s disease which effects everything from her eye sight to mobility, it is important to Emma for other people to see that disabled people are not held back by their added day to day struggles.

Quinlan Couture Bridal is designer who specialises in dresses for brides with various disabilities. She campaigns to bring equality and representation to the disabled community within the wedding industry and recently opened a fully accessible bridal boutique in South Yorkshire.

Kathryn Palmer-Skillings is also a proudly Disabled Woman and have been active increasing awareness of the lack of accessibility & representation of Disabled People as couples and suppliers in the Wedding Industry and Wedding Media from the start of her career as a celebrant.

VENUE | @wintersbarns

CONCEPT & PHOTOGRAPHER | @nnastia.photography

STYLIST & FLORALS | @lilyjonesevents

MODELS | Jen & Dan @felinedoggeous

MAKE UP | @makeup_with_emmac

HAIR | @hair_by_tel

CELEBRANT | @kps_celebrant

CAKE & FAVOURS | @whitepetalcakes

STYLING ASSISTANT | @posypatou

DRESS | @quinlancouturebridal

BOUQUET | @fauxeverblooms

STATIONERY | @thisispurplenib

We’ve been published in Most Curious Wedding Blog!

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