Fashion, Style & other tips for summer wedding & party guests with disabilities like charcot marie tooth disorder, MS & other neuromuscular or neurological conditions.

Summertime is synonymous with outdoor parties and fun.  Just as temperatures outside begin to rise, the grills are fired up and people everywhere come out of hibernation. Come June, there’s a barbecue, grad party or block party happening on every corner. If you’re post-college age (before 2nd mortgages and teenagers), summertime is also wedding invitation season.

While making the cut and getting invited to an outdoor wedding is exciting, it can also be a source of anxiety for those living with invisible (not obvious) physical disabilities. When you have physical challenges and wear assistive devices under your clothing like myself, summertime is the antithesis of being ”carefree” and  ”easy-breezy” as it’s often described. You can read more about this in my post  Seasonal-Self Pity Syndrome.

Do you have an outdoor wedding or event to attend this summer? Is your head   spinning with questions like: What will I wear?  What if there’s no seating?  What if I fall on my ass? , then hopefully this list of 10 do’s and don’ts will help to minimize some of your pre-party angst.

 DO: GET THE 411

If you have difficulty walking or balancing and want to avoid falling on your ass in front of your high school nemesis, then it’s up to you to ask questions beforehand. Unless you’re that obligatory distant cousin who always shows up late & re-gifts dollar store items, you’re likely invited for a reason; someone wants you to attend. If you don’t feel comfortable asking the hostess questions, then call the venue directly and ask speak to the event coordinator. Some questions you might want to ask are:

Will the ceremony be set on the beach or on solid ground? Will there be a covered pathway? What about elevation? Is the venue ground hilly or even? Are there stairs to the restroom?

 DO: DECIPHER THE DRESS CODE

Whether it’s black tie, beach casual or something in between, understanding what is expected will help you narrow down an outfit that’ll be comfortable both physically and emotionally. Daytime and beach weddings are typically relaxed and ”dressy casual”, whereas evening receptions are more formal, ”black tie” or ”cocktail attire” dress codes. If opting to wear a maxi (full length) style dress, the difference is in the material. Casual maxi dresses are usually made out of lightweight breathable materials like linen & cotton, and formal maxi dresses, are typically silk, chiffon or satin. You can check out options and get inspiration in the Summer Wedding Attire & Shoes For Leg Brace & Orthotic Wearers post.

 DON’T: MAKE ROOKIE DISABLED GIRL FASHION MISTAKES

I’m sure you already know that wearing white to a wedding ( unless you’re the bride) is a huge faux pas. Here are a few lesser known (because I made them up) party dressing tips.

  • When tailoring your outfit be sure to try it on & practice walking in the exact height of shoes you plan to wear to the event. When you have mobility issues, the last thing you need is a ½ inch too long dress tripping you up.
  • If you have fine motor issues, carry a small handbag with a wrist or crossbody strap, NOT A CLUTCH. (In my post, Cocktail Party Survival With A Disability I also suggest choosing between having a drink or eating an appetizer; never both simultaneously.)
  • Bring a shrug or shawl in case it gets chilly when the sun goes down.

 DON’T: BE A WORRY WORT

Being proactive and asking questions is smart, as it allows you or the hostess time to make any necessary accommodations. The rest though, is out of your control. Yes, it is possible that you might wipe out on the makeshift dance-floor or that you might get overheated & need to leave the reception early. It is also possible that nothing bad will happen & you’ll end up having a great time. Worrying about the what if’s, is a total waste of energy and only serves to increase your anxiety.

 DO: HAVE A MANTRA

Mantras are not just for yogis. Positive self-talk has gotten me through many insecure moments. Positive self-talk in general, is one of the ways of coping with any form of social anxiety. Your mantra doesn’t have to be intense or have spiritual connotations. Pick something simple and reassuring to calm your nerves like, ”I got this” or ” ”I am not my disability”.

 DO: FIND COMFORTABLE PLACES TO SIT OR STAND

In the Cocktail Party Survival Post, I suggest scanning a party room upon entry  for places to balance against and chairs to sit on. The same advice applies to outdoor events. However, be careful of what you rely on for support as outdoor décor is typically portable and breakable: e.g. foldable chairs and tent poles.

 DON’T: MIND READ

Try not to make assumptions about what other party guests are thinking or noticing about you. Usually, when we think someone is making judgments or staring at us, they’re in reality, just zoning out in their own heads.

 DO: HAVE AN ESCAPE PLAN

Be mindful of your energy levels and get out before running low on gas or out  completely.  Never rely on anyone else to drive you home. Have the Uber or Lyft app on your phone and ready to go when your done. If you drove someone else to the party, make sure ahead of time that they’re comfortable leaving early or have secured another ride home.

 DON’T: DRINK TOO MUCH

If you’re wobbly on your feet without alcohol, than sipping those mixers will only make you more unsteady.  If people don’t know about your disability, they will likely assume you’ve had a few too many. Now falling into the arms of a cute single person would be a great strategy, if you’re single. Not so great if you’re married & falling onto other women’s husbands; trust me on this.

 DO: HAVE FUN

When you lead with a smile, that’s what others notice first.  Try not to let your disability or physical issues prevent you from taking in and enjoying the moment. Be present and laugh with old friends, or make new ones. Dance if you want to, without caring about being coordinated or how you look. Take notice of the beautiful décor ( someone probably spent a fortune on it ) and take silly photos with props at the photo booth. Have fun, be yourself and don’t forget to grab a party favor.

8 Comments

  1. Some good tips there, thanks. Most of all though it’s just nice to be reminded I’m not the only one who has to think about this stuff, rather than just ‘Shall I wear the sequinned sandals or the silver pumps?’, like other people.

  2. Thanks for all of this information. My son is getting married this September and it is an outside country wedding. I have been planning my outfit, shoes, etc. for months already. I have bought 4 different pairs of shoes and have been working with them. I think #4 will be going to the wedding. My biggest concern after what to wear was the idea that I might fall and have everyone assume I had been drinking too much. I won’t be drinking at all and will be the designated driver so that works out well. I just don’t want to ruin my new daughter in law’s wedding because I know how important that day will be for her. Thanks for all of the great information you share with us. Like Frances it is just nice to know I’m not the only one that obsesses about all of this. 🙂

    • Wanda,

      First of all, how awesome & exciting. Congrats!! I’m glad you found shoes and an outfit. I’m sure it’s a big relief to have that part done. 😀😀😀 The what if’s are endless for anyone regardless of ability, and worrying about them only makes the anxiety stronger. I’m sure that you will not ruin anything and that it will be be an amazing day for your family. If you fall, what then? What’s the worst thing that can happen? You’re being smart by not drinking etc if that makes it worse. That’s all you can do and it’s enough. 💕
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  3. Great piece; so refreshing to read an article about wedding sesson that isn’t just based on what’s in fashion to wear or etiquette. Applicable to most occasions too, not just weddings. I have to say I was fortunate enough to be Maid of Honour for my best friend who was considerate enough to get a long dress for me so I wasn’t self-conscious if the way I walked down the aisle, but we made sure it wasn’t too long. This way I could wear the lower, strapped shoes I needed and the other bridesmaids that favoured other styles could choose what they wanted. I hate buffets/appetisers though as trying to hold the plates with cerebral palsy is a nightmare!

    • Hi Teya,

      Oh I remember those bridesmaid days & how anxious I felt about what the bride was going to pick, messing up her vision etc. I’m glad your friend was so considerate and I’m sure it was a huge relief!

      I get it about the buffet as you know 😀

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