11 things that make me feel like a non-typical bride

I’ve joined a couple of wedding groups to maybe get some inspiration and chat to other brides. I thought I might find it hard to fit in – because I’m not an ultra-girlie extravert – and I do find some of the conversations a bit hard to relate to, but I’ve picked up some tips as well – the best of which so far was about wedding insurance. I didn’t even know that was a thing. Fortunately I got ours before the whole coronavirus thing as I imagine it may have gone up now.

Anyway, in one of the groups there was a discussion about what people will be doing with their phones on the day. Everyone said they would be turning it off and leaving it in the hotel room/giving it to a bridesmaid/leaving it at home etc.

I get it – you don’t want to be like one of those people who spends the whole evening on their phone whenever you meet up with them – but some of these things just seemed a bit extreme to me.

So I piped up and said I’d have mine with me. I wouldn’t be looking at it all the time, but it would be on, apart from during the ceremony. I’m quite good at ignoring it when I’m busy, but I at least like to have it.

Also, as a blind person, in a big group of people, I can’t just look around and find people – so if I can message them, it’s a massive help. Not in a bridezilla “come here right now!” kind of way, but if I want to speak to someone and don’t know where they are, the phone is my friend! My maid of honour won’t know most of the people there, and I don’t know what they all look like to describe them to her.

I don’t go out of my way to rebel or to be the odd one out. I think in some ways I just say the thing that some other people are thinking, but they don’t want to be the first to say it. Because as soon as I made my comment about having the phone with me, a whole bunch of others said that they would bee keeping theirs with them too. True, mostly for selfie-taking-related reasons, but they were out there – the phone-keepers! It just took one person to put another point of view.

So that got me thinking – I am a bit different in a few other ways. I don’t actually care about that – I’ve always been a bit of a head-strong “I’ll do it my way” kind of girl – but it did make me smile, so I thought I’d list out some of the other ways as well.

I think a wedding is a real chance for a couple to give their own vibe to the day – to make it special and personal. We’ve got lots of ideas about how we’re going to do that and, especially if you are organising it yourselves, you don’t have to feel constrained by things that don’t fit with your idea of how the day should be.

Usually I do like rules and structure. Rules help us to manage expectations and know what’s coming up. But I guess if a rule doesn’t make sense to me, and I’m not obliged to follow it, I usually won’t!

So here are a few more things:

  1. I only follow the traditions that I like. These do not include not allowing the groom to see me on my wedding day. However, I’m happy to start new ones too, like the bride doing a speech.
  2. I’m not making my own confetti, because I don’t see the point of it! It makes such a mess and someone has to clear it up. It gets everywhere and some of it is bad for wildlife. Time and money saved!
  3. I’m organising my own hen do. Maybe I’m a control freak. But also it’s because I like organising, I want it to be fun for everyone, including me, and I know that most of the people there won’t know each other. Also I don’t want to dump all that responsibility on any of my friends, especially when I know I will enjoy sorting it out.
  4. I’m not buying into the whole craziness with gifts – a bunch of gifts when you ask someone to be your bridesmaid, more gifts for all your hens, gifts the night before your wedding, and then gifts on the day. Ok the last one is fine, because I want to show people who have helped us that we appreciate them, but what’s with the whole proposal box for other members of your wedding party thing? Fine if you want to do it, but it all feels a bit commercial and social media driven to me.
  5. I’m not getting wasted on my hen night – because I don’t drink. Yay for no hang-over the next day!
  6. I’m not going to pick my dress based on whether anyone cries, or not buy a dress I really like because I didn’t get emotional. It’s like a pressure to feel the right thing, but really it’s about what you like and feel happy with. I tend to be a bit more practical, but that’s ok.
  7. I don’t get excited about wedding stationery. I guess I’m just not the ideal target audience! But that’s the cool thing about weddings – you can put the time and money into the things that you do really care about.
  8. I don’t ask people I don’t know whether everyone else is doing a thing if I want to do it, or whether anyone else is not doing a thing because I really don’t want to do it. I’m not judging people who do, because it sounds like they just want a bit of reassurance. But what I read between the lines when people do that is “I reeeally want to/don’t want to – is that ok?
  9. I don’t want a beach honeymoon – because we don’t like beach holidays! We’re still going to have fun though!
  10. There will be no salted caramel – anywhere! Not because of my allergies – although there will be no allergens either –we just think salted caramel is a thing that shouldn’t be a thing!
  11. And maybe the most safety-conscious – I won’t be lobbing my bouquet. Because let’s face it, blind bride hurling her bouquet into the crowd is bound to end in tears, or a split lip – but seriously. I’m going to time and trouble deciding on flowers that I like – I want to take better care of them and keep them!

That’s a lot of “I won’t”s! There are a lot of things that we ARE doing to make our big day special and personalised, but I can’t really share those with you yet. I don’t want my blog readers to know more than the people at my wedding. So anyone interested in the details and more wedding content will need to wait till the big day is over next year!

For those of you who are married, are there any traditions that you ignored, or new ones that you made?

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Blind bride to be – choosing our venue

This is the next part in my blind bride-to-be series following on from my we got engaged and wedding fairs posts.

I’m not going to talk about my venue here. There will be posts about our actual big day after the day. Most of my guests don’t know where it’s going to be yet, and I don’t want my blog readers to know more than the guests! These first posts in the series are more about the planning process in general, and the extra things that you may want to think about or do differently if you have a visual impairment.

Every wedding is different. Every couple is different. I don’t want my visual impairment to be centre stage on the big day because I don’t find it particularly interesting or relevant in terms of defining me as a person or our relationship as a couple. So really it’s more about the planning process for me – getting help when I can’t see pictures of things – getting help to visualise the things that I can’t see, and deciding a colour scheme when I have never seen colours and can’t express my preferences in that respect.

So this post is going to focus on choosing the venue.

Some people have it all sorted – they know exactly where they want to get married. Others have to do a bit of research.

At first we considered various options, but the early ones all had some element of movement in common, and it is a lot easier when everything happens in the same place. You have a base. Your guests don’t need to worry about how they’re going to get from A to B – especially good if they don’t drive. I nearly got stranded once because the people I knew at the wedding had got stuck in traffic and missed the service. Fortunately I found a colleague whom I hadn’t seen for ages, but it could have been interesting working out how I get with my guide dog from a little church in the middle of nowhere to the actual ceremony!

Also, if you want some kind of evening event and are going to hire a venue, that venue probably offers whole-day packages that may end up cheaper or more convenient than other things that you’d been planning.

Making a shortlist

There are loads of wedding venues, so you have to start the narrowing down process somewhere. There were a couple of places that we’d already visited – either as wedding guests at other weddings, at business events, or even wedding fairs.

Going to the wedding fair, particularly the regional one that wasn’t hosted by a particular venue, also gave us some ideas about places that offered what we were after, but that we hadn’t heard of before.

The wedding fair generated a lot of shiny leaflets that I couldn’t read, so I needed someone to work with me on sifting through all the information. I know some brides like stacks of glossy magazines, but I did find myself wishing for something a bit more sustainable like an online exhibitors’ list with website links. I was heartened by some of the exhibitors who took my details and then emailed me information afterwards – meaning I could access details of the venue myself. This didn’t get round the issue of pictures though and many venues let their images speak for themselves, rather than giving any kind of useful descriptions of their function rooms.

Fortunately S is very much involved in the planning and we talked about the pictures and venues before putting our shortlist together. We ended up with 5 on the list – some places we’d been before, others new ones. The length of your shortlist will depend on how long you have to go round looking at venues. I think if we hadn’t found anything we liked, we would have looked at some more, but five was a manageable number to start with.

Setting up initial meetings

We’d both booked a week off and the plan was to set up the meetings during that week. I called the wedding co-ordinators to set them up. We had a couple on one day, but I didn’t put them too close together so that we had time to drive to the venues without feeling rushed, and it also meant we could have lunch at one of them if we felt like checking out the restaurant.

One of the venues deselected itself by being particularly inflexible. Some venues will give you a minimum spend budget and let you allocate it as you want to. Others will try to be really prescriptive about numbers for each part of the day, and this didn’t work for us. Then there were four!

I know some couples tell the venue if someone is visually impaired. This can be useful if you want them to describe the venue, but I chose not to mention it. They’d find out soon enough when I got there and I didn’t want to make a big deal of it. All they really needed to know was that they were meeting with a potential customer, and the other information that most of them took about desired dates, party numbers etc.

What’s important to you?

Before we went to any of the meetings, we came up with a list of criteria to think about for each venue. This could be things like:

  • Cost – because only the super-rich don’t factor this in! It matters – both in terms of getting value for money and making sure you’re not going to be spending the next 20 years paying off the wedding!
  • Distance – how far do you want to travel? Is public transport important? (I’ve trekked all over the country for weddings before, so this wasn’t high on the agenda, and we’d fixed the basic area before doing the shortlist. But if one potential venue is a lot closer than one of the others, it might play a role.
  • Venue – what rooms are available and do you like them?
  • Wedding co-ordinator – how interested are they in you as a couple? How willing are they to work in things that are important to you? You can’t base your choice purely on the wedding co-ordinator because people move on and don’t always stay in the same role, but you’re naturally going to click with some people more than others. Can you imagine yourself working with this person?
  • How important is the date to you? Even over a year in advance, not all of the venues could offer our first choice as it had already been snapped up.
  • Do you have any special requests? Due to my sensory needs, a breakout room in the evening was important to us and we needed to find out if the venues could accommodate that. Can alternative arrangements be made for the toast if one of you can’t drink alcohol? Do you have preferences about the roomsreserved for the wedding party or the wedding suite? Are there things that you want to customise to make them reflect you as a couple?
  • Are there any restrictions on suppliers? Do you care?
  • If there are wedding packages, how well do they fit with how you imagine the day?
  • What options are there for food and how well will any dietary requirements be accommodated?

We didn’t fill out the table in the end, but having it helped us to focus on what things were important to us – where there was room for negotiation, and which criteria were deal breakers if they could not be met.

Going to the meetings

All of the meetings followed the same general format – we had a chat over coffee about what we were looking for and what the venue could offer. After that, we walked around the venue, looking at the areas where the wedding ceremony, wedding breakfast, and evening event could take place, and also having a look at the bridal suite.

I tended to do more of the talking – mainly because although I’ve never organised a wedding before, I have organised conferences and other large events at work. I know my way of doing things surprised a couple of people – I was focussing on facts, figures, details – and less carried away with the emotional side of it all. That’s just how my brain is wired! I guess some of those meetings go a bit differently. For me it just felt like being prepared.

I built a better rapport with people who answered me directly when I asked questions. I don’t care if you don’t do eye contact – I don’t either – but looking at my partner the whole time when it was my question is really quite rude and it doesn’t usually result in people getting our business.

I think the main difference was that people described the rooms more – both S and the wedding co-ordinators. I think it’s important to take someone with you if you can’t see the rooms yourself, because people are likely to portray their own venue in the best possible way whereas someone you take can be more objective and make comparisons with the other venues that you have visited. It was also good for me to walk around the spaces and get a feel for how big they were, where the chairs would go, how the rooms could be set up in the evening etc. Walking around a space – well being guided around a space – helps me to visualise it better and think whether this might be the place where I wanted to have our ceremony.

Many of the wedding venues that also do fairs suggest that you come back to see the rooms when they’re decorated, but for me, not having the rooms cluttered up with people made it easier for me to imagine what they looked like and how we would move around between the different areas throughout the day.

Making our choice

This was not as easy as I thought it would be. I had my heart set on one venue most of the way through the week, but we changed our mind at the end. It felt pretty easy to discount two of the four, but the decision between the final two venues was harder. Both would have been great – but it came down to looking at what each venue had going for it and then making the choice. Fortunately we both felt the same!

I do think it really helped that we went to the venues, talked to someone there, and physically walked around them. I get a lot of information online, but it’s good to get a better idea of how the venue is when you get there – because even if you can see them, pictures don’t always tell the full story!

The whole wedding planning process is something that we are doing together. Ok, I’m doing a lot of the spreadsheets and there will be things that S won’t be as involved in – bride-related things – but whether it’s the groom or someone else you trust, I think it’s really important to have people who will give you honest feedback about how things look, because you don’t always get this in the sales materials, and the sales materials aren’t always accessible.

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Blind bride-to-be series – wedding fairs

To be honest, I didn’t really know that wedding fairs were a thing. But I liked the sound of them – lots of people in one place who can help you put your big day together – and there’s cake! What’s not to like! Well, maybe the crowds are something not to like – I’ve done big exhibitions before – but I thought we could start small.
I discovered that really there are two types of wedding fairs – the venue-specific ones, and the larger geographical ones. The smaller, venue-specific ones are more intimate. They’re good if you want to know more about that particular venue, they’re usually either free or fairly cheap to get in, and it’s easier to get an overview of who’s there and what they’re offering. The bigger ones tend to be more busy, but you do get a better choice of venue. We picked up information about places we hadn’t even heard of before, and two of them ended up in our shortlist of places to book an appointment and talk with the wedding planner. So overall, I was glad that we did both types of event. We may well do more before the wedding, but we’ve done all that we’re going to for this season.
Any bride to be can write a post about wedding fairs, but I wanted to focus on the particular aspects of organising a wedding as a blind bride – because that’s what this series is all about. I want to share tips about things that worked – or didn’t work – for us, so that they might be useful for others.

1. Planning before you go

Whether you go to the wedding fair with your partner, as I did, or with a friend/relative, it’s good to have a think about what kind of exhibitors you want to visit. It’s possible you don’t know what you’re looking for in some cases and the inspiration comes when you get there, but if you can discount some things that aren’t relevant – children’s entertainment isn’t relevant for us – it’s easier to plan your way round the event. You don’t have to visit every stand and you get to spend more time talking to the people who are offering what you’re looking for.
I suppose some people might want to, but as someone who’s blind, attending this kind of event with no sighted assistance is not my idea of a fun day out! There are lots of people milling around and apart from the fact that it’s easier when someone else is in charge of navigation, it’s a nice activity to do with someone else.

2. Be prepared for lots of paper information

Poor trees! The wedding industry is a visual beast and it relies a lot on glossy brochures, leaflets, and magazines. You may well get a goody bag – I enjoyed the chocolate and the hair mask that I found in ours, but the main point is to give you further information about the exhibitors, and it will probably be a business card, a magazine, or a glossy leaflet.
At other (non-wedding) exhibitions, there’s been a web page with links to all the exhibitors’ websites, and I found it really helpful, but none of the wedding shows I went to had anything like this.
I can’t read printed materials. If you’re in the same position, you either need a way of taking down contact details, to ask the vendors to email you, or to have a helpful fiancé who agrees to type up the contact details later!
We put all of the relevant contact details on our wedding planning spreadsheet that we can both access. This gave me the chance to check out some of the websites for myself, but the whole exercise created a lot of paper for the recycling!

3. Talk to people

The person with you can describe the displays, but I found one of the best ways to find out more was to talk to people directly. There were a couple of people who seemed to be repeating the exact same speech to anyone who came by, but most, especially the smaller businesses, were interested in getting into a conversation, finding out what you’re looking for, and telling you about what they have to offer. Then you can begin to suss out if there is a connection there, and if you want the person or business to be part of your big day!
Especially when people are creating things themselves, they have a closer connection to the end result than something that’s mass-produced. I want to support local businesses anyway, but I find they are also more open to describe their products and customise them to make them a bit more unique, special, or tactile.
Having said that, if there are a number of people selling similar things, it’s also good to have a trusted opinion about which products look nicest/more professional as it’s natural for people to put their own products in the best possible light.

4. It doesn’t all have to be decided straight away

It might be that you want to attend a couple of fairs or talk to a number of florists, cake designers, or make-up artists. For me, these events are just about making connections. I find exhibitions too noisy and too full-on to have proper conversations anyway, but once you’ve got someone’s contact details, you can find a convenient time for you both to chat, or you can visit them, or carry on the conversation in some other way. The fair is just the beginning of the conversation!

5. Customer service counts!

Most of the people whom I work with every day have never encountered a blind person before, and to me that’s normal. I don’t expect people to know what’s helpful or what I need, but I do expect basic courtesy. If someone doesn’t like eye contact, that’s fine – I can’t do it either. But if I am asking the questions and they spend the whole time only looking at my partner while they answer them, that’s not cool and they probably won’t get our business!

6. Smaller events tend to be quieter

Big events are good, especially if you haven’t decided on your venue yet. The single-venue events don’t tend to advertise their competitors.
I have other sensory issues anyway, but if you’re going to an event as someone who is blind, talking to the vendors and your companion is going to be important. The smaller events did have music as well, but it wasn’t as loud, which made talking easier for us. Overall, I preferred the smaller ones, but there’s a place for the larger ones too as they definitely helped us with our choice of venue.

7. Hands-on experience

I wouldn’t ask to touch anything that other people were going to eat, but when it comes to rings, dresses, flowers etc, most people are happy for you to handle them carefully.
One of the biggest problems I’ve found as a blind bride-to-be is that I just don’t know what’s out there. Most other brides head straight to Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration –but I can’t – because they’re such visual sites. There are blind people on Instagram, but I lasted about 2 days because it was really all about the images.
Going to the wedding fairs was good for me because it gave me the chance to touch some of the products and decide what things I liked, what I thought would fit with our theme, and which materials I wanted. Having real objects in front of you makes this much easier.

Coming soon

I hope some of these tips were helpful – either to other blind brides-to-be or to anyone exhibiting at wedding fairs.
The next article in this series is about choosing your wedding venue, so let me know in the comments if you have any questions that you’d like me to answer.

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We got engaged!

I knew about the picnic. I knew we were going to Watership Down for a walk. It had been in the diary for a while. What I didn’t know was that S was planning to propose to me there!

Last Saturday morning started like any other, apart from the fact that S disappeared to the shops in the morning. Not that unusual really, but normally we would have gone on route. I didn’t think any more of it though.

The night before we’d been out for dinner to celebrate our 4.5 year anniversary. Ok it’s not common to celebrate half years, but when you start dating on the shortest day of the year, it makes sense to celebrate on the longest one as well! Easy anniversary to remember!

Anyway we set out in the car and drove to Watership Down. I haven’t seen the series on Netflix, but I did read the book, both as a child and an adult, and was looking forward to see whether we could spot any rabbits up there!

We walked for a while until we came to a nice spot at the top of the hill, far away from all other people and sounds of traffic. This would be a good place to have our picnic.

I was a little surprised that S wanted to go for a walk – that’s usually something I would suggest – but I thought he just wanted to do something nice for me. And after all, if you’re going for a picnic, nobody wants to have it in the car park or on the side of the road.

As I was sorting out the picnic blanket, S stopped me and said we’d had a stow-away. I was thinking maybe something grim that was attached to the blanket in the bag – a slug perhaps? A snail? But no! It was a cuddly owlbear (a creature from dungeons and dragons with the head of an owl and the body of a bear).

It was designed to be a dice holder, but this particular owlbear was bearing a note that S had hand-written in Braille. Actually the owlbear was going to deliver the ring too, but the box was too big to fit in his zip-up tummy where normally the dice would go, so the next thing was that S handed me the ring and asked me to marry him! I said “yes!!!”

Actually I didn’t say very much for a while – for once I was lost for words – but at least I got the main answer right and said yes!

He had been planning this for a while. It had taken time to find my ring, which is tactile and in the shape of an owl sitting on a branch. The stone is the main part of his body, and you can also feel his face and ears. Perfect for an owl-lover and I also love the tactile design.

I also love all the thought that went into it – finding somewhere in the middle of nature to do it, because he knew I would like that. Writing the note in Braille, although he doesn’t actually know Braille and had to look up how to do it on the internet. Finding my owl ring.

We did then have our picnic, although to be honest I was more excited than hungry!! The sun was shining and it was a lovely day for a picnic – so of course we had to at least eat the Colin caterpillars before they melted!

It was then time to tell the families! We sent a picture of my hand wearing the ring and the view of Watership Down. My mum understood the significance – other people took a bit longer!

So – I left my boyfriend on Watership Down and came back with my fiancé! The very next day I started my wedding planning spreadsheet – it’s quite impressive and already has over 10 sheets, partially filled out, and ready for new ideas as I get them! It’s not going to be a big wedding, but I love a good project to organise!

Planning the wedding

I’m not going to document everything here, at least not in advance, but I am planning a new wedding section on the blog to talk about the experience of planning everything, and the big day itself.

It’s different for everyone. I know as a blind bride-to-be I’ll have some extra considerations that other people don’t. A lot of the advertising in this area is very much image based, so I’ll need good descriptions. I will need help with some things, particularly around colours, but I have very definite ideas about others!

So from time to time I plan to share parts of the journey here on the blog.

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