Why is this important?
If you don't have sensory needs yourself, you may be thinking, "this is my wedding, why should I make it sensory-friendly?" While there's no way that you can tell if someone needs accommodations, it's important to talk about this need in an industry that overlooks such a large and diverse group of people. In this article, we'll talk about why this is necessary and what it could look like for your wedding!
The topic of neurodiversity is nuanced and complex. If you have never heard of the term "neurodivergent," I encourage you to read this quick article that explains it best. It's an umbrella term used to describe people who may have autism, ADHD, PTSD, OCD, and more. Neurodivergent people have different needs that are often overlooked in weddings. As a Los Angeles neurodivergent wedding photographer, my goal is to help others in this industry understand the importance of inclusivity!
Planning a wedding is a big task, and it can be especially challenging if you or a loved one has sensory sensitivities. Sounds, smells, textures, and bright lights can all be overwhelming for those who are highly sensitive. However, with a bit of planning and creativity, it’s possible to create a beautiful and sensory-friendly wedding that everyone can enjoy!
What does it mean to be Sensory-friendly?
Having a sensory-friendly wedding means that there are accommodations for people who have sensory-processing difficulties. Don't worry, this doesn't mean you should change your entire wedding. This means that having options available for you and your guests will allow everyone to enjoy your wedding to the fullest. Sensory-friendly weddings are not the standard in today's industry. This can be extremely difficult for people who have a low tolerance for crowds, loud music, and flashing lights. As a neurodivergent wedding photographer in Los Angeles, I have noticed this pattern in almost every wedding that I attend. I bring ear plugs and take quiet breaks during the day if I'm able to, but there may be guests that aren't aware of their own sensory needs (it has taken me years to realize my own sensory needs!) or they might not be comfortable with sharing that information. Being overstimulated can be very debilitating and may lead to emotional meltdowns, anxiety, and irritability.
Although, there's no way for you and your partner to 100% know if your guests are neurodivergent, there are ways you can incorporate sensory-friendly details in your wedding day. So how can we fix this problem if we aren't aware of everyone's needs? Create options! Having options for your guests is the most effective way you can ensure that your guests will enjoy your wedding. Here are some questions you can ask yourself before you start planning accommodations:
- Does my venue have a quiet room /area that is available for my guests to take a break?
- Will there be flashing lights during the reception?
- Will the music be too loud?
- Will the schedule be available so my guests know what to expect?
Here are a few tips to help you plan a sensory-friendly wedding:
- Choose the right venue. When selecting a venue, consider the lighting, noise level, and overall ambiance. It’s best to choose a quiet and calm location, with soft lighting and a relaxed atmosphere. Outdoor venues, such as gardens or beaches, can be especially calming and beautiful. Or choose a venue that allows you to have a quiet break room or area.
- Offer alternative seating options. Traditional chairs and benches may not be comfortable for everyone. Consider providing alternative seating options, such as floor cushions, beanbag chairs, or rocking chairs. This will provide guests with a choice of seating that may be more comfortable for them.
- Provide ear plugs. Loud noises such as crowds and music can be extremely overwhelming. Ear plugs provide some relief.
- Provide fidgets or sensory tools. For guests who have sensory processing challenges, having access to fidgets or sensory tools can be helpful. Providing stress balls, fidget spinners, or noise-canceling headphones can make a big difference in helping them feel calm and comfortable.
- Create a sensory-friendly menu. Some guests may have food sensitivities or aversions. Book a caterer that offers a variety of options, including gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian choices. Avoid using strong-smelling or spicy ingredients, as these can be overwhelming for some.
- During the reception, do not use flashing lights on the dance floor. Flashing lights can be overstimulating and are unsafe.
- Provide the guests with a schedule so they can have expectations for the day.
- Limit the number of guests. Finally, consider limiting the number of guests in order to create a more intimate and relaxed atmosphere. This will help to reduce the noise level and overall sensory stimulation, making it easier for those with sensory sensitivities to enjoy the event.
- If you have sensory processing difficulties, let your vendors know ahead of time! Your planner and photographer will be your point people all day long. It's important for them to be aware of your needs so that they can provide you with the space or tools for you to enjoy every moment.
With these tips in mind, you can create a beautiful and memorable wedding that is sensory-friendly for all guests. By planning ahead and being mindful of your guests’ needs, you can ensure that everyone has a comfortable and enjoyable experience on your special day! Feel free to reach out to me if you want to learn more about this, or are looking for a Los Angeles wedding photographer!