First of all I’d like to say that I am completely overwhelmed by the amazing response my first article of the series received – thank you very much, Love My Dress readers. It has been so interesting and encouraging for me to read your responses, please keep them coming. Both my fiancé and my mum kept telling me whenever there was a new comment, and we were all so excited to read about your own experiences.

When searching for a venue, we knew that we wanted to have the wedding in a historic building or a livery hall, as we feel that we want the venue for ourselves on the day, so a hotel was out of question. Neither Bob nor I are religious, so we were also looking for a venue with a licence to hold the ceremony – it seems more practical, and easier for guests, to have the whole shebang at the same place. Last but not least, we wanted to get married in central London – this is our home, and this is where we met at a music festival, one and a half years ago.

Nina

The first venue we looked at was lovely – an old livery hall that was built in the 14th century! Of course, access in a historic, graded building is never the same as in a venue that was built from scratch with access in mind – however, it was clear that the venue did what they could to make it accessible: there were platform lifts and ramps to reach every part of the venue and disabled toilets on every floor. That first venue had everything we hoped for and more: a lovely little garden, a venue manager who would be there on the day to make sure all the lifts and ramps work as they should, and they were willing to make the ‘accessible side entrance ‘ the main entrance for our wedding.

After this experience we were really excited to see all the other venues: But the rest of the week was rather disappointing. The ‘brilliant’ access the venues promised was sometimes far removed from reality: In one venue, the lady who showed us around said she found the disabled toilet they had ‘horrible’ – surely I could use the ‘normal’ one, as it was rather big? This resulted in a very awkward experience for both of us, as she realised that while the toilet was big, a wheelchair user could never close the door once the wheelchair was inside the cubicle, and the whole endeavour became quite embarrassing.

Another venue stated that I had to leave the building and go through their courtyard every time I want to use the toilet, which left me with images of me out in the rain in my wedding dress, desperately trying to find the disabled toilet through their labyrinth of little pathways and corridors. I honestly feel let down by that venue – I think they should have warned me on the phone that the disabled toilet can only be reached via the courtyard and that the garden pathways were full of gravel. To make matters worse, none of their staff were properly trained to use the platform lift they had. Although the manager of that venue promised me to email me an information pack, I never heard from them again, and I think they realised that their access isn’t good. Access in historic buildings can be tricky, but this venue hunt showed me that it can be done really well, and there is no excuse for staff not being able to operate lifts or not knowing where they store the ramps when they know that they have an appointment with a disabled bride.

With most venues we did not end up choosing, access was not the deciding factor, though. Rather, we felt with some that they would not fit the style of wedding we had in mind, or it was simply a case of liking another venue better.

On the last day of our venue hunt, we visited a place called ‘One Great George Street’ in Westminster. Over the phone, I was told that they had a special lift at the entrance, which is ‘quite something and needs to be seen to be believed’. When we arrived at the venue, I was confused – there was no lift in sight, only stairs. However, once we rang the bell, a doorman came out and made every wheelchair user’s fantasy reality: At the touch of a button, the stairs vanished, withdrew inside of the building, and revealed a platform lift. The wedding co-ordinator told me that they also had a stair-free back entrance, but that the venue had felt that this was not good enough. The building is also the home of the Institution of Civil Engineers, so they came up with a very elegant solution indeed. Here is a video of the lift in action.

One Great George Street was built about 100 years ago, and looked like the place I had imagined my wedding in when I was a child – there were fireplaces and chandeliers everywhere (is anyone else obsessed with chandeliers?), the walls were light and beautifully decorated, and most rooms did not have carpet. Carpets are more difficult to get around on in wheelchairs than other kinds of flooring, but I also think that most carpets are just plain ugly.

he venue was absolutely wonderful both in terms of access and the way it looked, and the wedding co-ordinator, Aoife, seemed really forthcoming and cooperative about all our suggestions and ideas.

One Great George Street

This left us in a tricky situation: We had two venues we really liked, and it became quite clear that Bob, after imagining our wedding for over a week in the first venue we saw, found it difficult to consider a different one, while for me, seeing One Great George Street had changed everything. There was a lot of tension between us, and it took a few days for us both to realise that we should be incredibly happy that we found two incredible venues, rather than quarrelling over which one was ‘better’.

We did end up making pro and con-lists, and while it was no easy decision, we ended up picking One Great George Street. I think what won Bob over were two things: That this was exactly kind of wedding venue my 6-year-old self would have dreamed up, and that access simply wasn’t an issue. The venue did not make me feel disabled: there were no barriers or difficulties for me to consider – if the lift by the entrance broke down, there was another accessible entrance, if the lift inside broke down, there were two other ones we could use. Instead of focusing on access issues when thinking about the wedding venue, my mind was completely free and I could immediately start thinking about colours, cakes and dresses. Which is what it should be like, really.

Nina

 

Nina Neon was born with a disability and has a mobility impairment. She is due to marry her fiance Bob in September 2014.  Nina Writes our ‘Confessions of a Disabled Bride’ series, within which she documents and shares her experiences of planning a wedding.

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29 thoughts on Confessions Of A Disabled Bride #2 ~ Venues: The Good, the Bad and the Amazing, by Nina Neon

  1. That access is amazing! When I was looking for my venue I was conscious about access as my Auntie has MS and is in a wheelchair.
    We saw one venue we loved but it was a very old building and the access was just not going to work. I was worried we would have to go for something new so we could get the access I wanted but we did manage to find somewhere that has the look and feel we wanted and would allow my Aunt to access the building easily.
    I’m glad you managed to find the perfect venue for you x

  2. A perfect example of good design, beautiful and functional. And a bit fun too, what’s not to love? It looks like a stunning venue all round.

  3. I am so pleased you found your dream venue – it’s perfect! Nobody should have to compromise and One Great Street’s ramp solution is practical and beautiful – proof that it can be done…although as a venue owner myself, I think most venues would struggle to be able to afford such an elegant solution. Laura

  4. thanks Abbie, access in older buildings can be trickier indeed, but there are historic venues out there with good access! Also, I have come across so many new buildings that have rubbish/ badly thought-through access! I think a lot depends on the venue’s determination to have good access.

  5. I was just wondering yesterday whether I’d missed the second installment of your blog entries, as I enjoyed the first one so much, but I haven’t yay!
    That entrance is bloomin’ fantastic! Looking forward to your next entry already :-)

  6. Heroic Nina,
    All brides have to be a bit fearless and heroic, is not it?
    I wish you all the best and much strength until September… I’ll be here on this side rooting for you guys both.
    hug

  7. Really pleased to hear you found this venue. I photographed a wedding here last month and the staff were excellent and so helpful. The main room is so grand that all the guests were blown away when they entered and saw the room beautifully lit. Hope you have a wonderful, happy wedding.

  8. Great post! I used to work in a historic building that held events, including weddings, although access wasn’t always brilliant, what really let it down was the attitude of some of my fellow members of staff. Although not an incident relating to disability per se, I was once walking through the building when the fire alarm went off only to find a woman nearly in tears because she had a buggy with her and couldn’t get the buggy and the children out the building without help. A member of staff had told her they couldn’t help and walked off and left her! Imagine if that had been someone with serious mobility issues on their own. (incidentally I helped her!). But my point is that having the right exits/entrances and devices for assistance is vital, but so are people who are well trained and able/willing to make everything run smoothly without the person in question feeling like they are being difficult. Looking forward to the next post!

  9. I agree. Some of the venues we looked at had good access, but staff was really unflexible and generally lacked motivation – in those cases, I always fear that if there’s a problem with the access (a lift breaks down etc.) they won’t be good with dealing with that. I think friendliness/ flexibility/ know-how (of access and other things) of the venue staff is the most important thing when it comes to access.

  10. That venue is superb. I shall show my other half that video clip – he will be very impressed! A few buildings up here in Edinburgh could do with having access like that. The ceiling and chandeliers in that room are beautiful. A very romantic and dramatic setting. A great find!

  11. I’m Perry Simmonds, the Events Manager at One Great George Street. I was really interested to hear what you say about the venue staff and attitude.It is so important and we recgnised long ago that physical adaptations are just part of providing a truly accessible venue.
    For many years now, we have asked Jude Sefton, an accessibility Trainer to run a seminar on-site about all aspects of accessibility and disabilities and how to adapt so that all our visitors are treated with correctly. Additionally, staff are trained in fire evacuation and a good number in the use of evacuation chairs.

  12. Thanks so much for taking the time to reply Perry – clearly you have an excellent venue to manage!! I’m so delighted for Nina that she has found such a super amazing place to hold her wedding too.

  13. It is an incredible venue and so lovely that they made you feel like a bride, rather than a disabled bride because that’s what you are, a bride who should be able to be excited about marrying her fiance in a venue she loves. I’m so happy you’ve found somewhere! I can’t wait for the next update

  14. That’s great to hear, Perry! As a disabled client, I can tell you that I really can tell the difference between venues who had some kind of disability equality trainings, and ones that have not (no matter how good their access is in terms of infrastructure).

  15. Your venue looks fantastic. Unfortunately I have not had as much luck with accessible venues in Nottingham where I live. My boyfriend and I both use wheelchairs and are getting married 6 July 2013 but were unable to find anywhere we felt confident about so are now having the reception at home. It means the number of guests will be small but at least we can be sure there is a loo we can use. Looking forward to hearing more about your plans.

  16. WOW – that accessible entrance is amazing. Why can’t they all be like this? ; ) I’ve only seen one other similar at the Kew Bridge Steam museum and they were inside ones.
    Wheelchair access was important for my wedding too. I have wheelchair using friends and was unimpressed by a venue that just hadn’t thought about it at all even though they had obviously just had a new leisure area built and could have included an accessible entrance and toilet.
    How refreshing to see what a bit of thought can do.
    Venue’s don’t necessarily need to have gone this far though, sometimes just a bit of thought and the right attitude can be the difference between good and bad access.
    Several places I have seen that have had refits recently have stunned me with the lack of thought that obviously went on when designing the entrances. Older buildings obviously have more problems and the accessibility is often a bit odd, but newer ones *shakes head*.
    Good luck with the rest of the planning.

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