Tuesday, March 29, 2011

To Walk or Not To Walk? Getting Down That Infamous Aisle

“So how are you going to get down The Aisle?” This is the one question that has been asked by nearly everyone that hears about the wedding. Thinking about it, it is sort of a weird question. Definitely not a question most brides hear, but then again it’s not something most brides have to think about either.

And the thing is; I do have options, so the question isn’t that weird. Even though I do have a disability, I am lucky enough to be able to walk with the assistance of a mobility aid and have been known to use a number of different things to get around: crutches, which I use for short distances, a walker which I use for longer distances and a wheelchair, which I used for even longer distances. Now, The Aisle is a pretty short walk, and you might assume that I easily came to the conclusion that I would use my crutches, for this most important of walks. But it was not a decision I came to lightly.

See, I can walk, but that doesn’t make me a fan. Walking is not just a pain in the ass logistically, it's a literal pain. My feet, ankles, knees and hips have all on one occasion or another decided to rebel sending me sprawling and I would prefer, NOT to make that kind of an entrance on my wedding day. Also, I get nervous when I know people are looking at me, which I know seems odd because people are always staring, but that’s different. At weddings people REALLY look at you, and my nerves get to me so bad that I have used a wheelchair during almost every other wedding experience.

But the wheelchair has its own set of complications. I would have to make sure that the aisle is wide enough for me to get down the aisle with someone walking beside me, in many weddings I have been in where I used a chair, the person walking with me had to walk behind me because the width of the aisle was not wide enough

I also didn’t want to be looking up at Tom during the whole ceremony. Or have him have to stoop down to deliver the big smooch. I feel like using my chair would create a barrier during a moment where we are supposed to be very close to one another.

Most of my friends with disabilities assumed off the bat that I would walk, simply because I had the choice. Those that don’t know me well assumed the wheelchair and my closest friends were just curious what my decision would be.

I will say that from the start, I felt a lot of pressure to walk down the aisle as opposed to using my wheelchair, although I cannot remember actually being pressured by any one person. I am not sure where it came from; I just remember having this overwhelming feeling that that is what people expected me to do.

When I was little, in the eighties and early nineties the most important thing in the world was to walk. It was the one thing that my entire life circled around; I was even pulled out of classes regularly to receive physical therapy. There were surgeries, braces, walkers, crutches, canes; every effort put forth was put towards walking. By walking I do not mean “better mobility” but rather just walking. It didn’t matter if I was slow, or if walking was exhausting or even painful, as long as I was upright and putting on foot in front of the other, I was a success.

I never really agreed with this line of logic, and felt no guilt upon getting my first wheelchair in tenth grade. In fact, I was giddy at the freedom it provided me, but there are others in my generation who are still taking those slow agonizing steps and calling it independence. Maybe it is their whispering voices I hear in my mind, maybe it is my parents', or my physical therapist's, or those surgeons' all who wanted nothing more than to see me walk. Or maybe it’s me.

I ultimately came to the decision I will in fact be walking down the aisle. My daddy will be supporting one side and a crutch supporting the other. God willing, I will make it down the aisle without performing any swan dives, however, my wheelchair will be there also, just out of view, incase my brain and body are not on the same page.


  1. I used to feel the same way about walking...back when I had the option. You're right about the assumption to walk, kinda like we're all going, "How dare you choose not to walk, when you can!" But it's your choice. Your Day. Damn the rest!
    P.S--you're a good writer, and as a writer myself, you know that's hard for me to admit!

  2. Thanks Robin! I know, I guess I sorta feel sometimes like I gotta do these things for all my friends that can't. I know I put it on myself, but I have always felt that way to some extent. So I am pretty sure the pressure to walk was coming from inside my own head.

  3. I didn't assume either way....... but I like your plan with options.. I understand how you can tense up when nervous and it one of the biggest 'walks' of your life :)
    I'll be happy to see you walk down that aisle

  4. I will never understand why some people perceive using a wheelchair as some kind of failing, as giving up.

    Having seen people struggle when they would do better with a wheelchair, I wonder why society doesn't accept that everyone should pick to be mobile in whatever way is easiest and allows them to live the fullest life?

    Wheelchairs are a great piece of technology! They don't need to have a deeper meaning than that.

  5. I agree Ruth. I love my chair, but I do feel pressured by something I can't put my finger on to walk a lot of the time.

  6. I'm trying to change the way general society perceives wheelchairs, but it is slow going!

  7. Thank you for your blog entries. I love reading them! I wish more of my families would start looking at things this way and realize walking is not always the best option and help their kids to understand that they are still good people and not a disappointment if they decide they would prefer a wheelchair over walking for all the reasons you've listed.

  8. Thanks Suzy, I am glad that even people without disabilities can see the flaw in this thinking.

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  10. I came across your blog for the first time tonight, and the universe could not possibly have found a better time for that to happen. I'm stuck in quite a rut of feeling doomed to never have a man truly fall in love with me, all because of my wheelchair. Your blog has reminded me that is is possible. And, you address so many things that sound so relevant to my life. I absolutely love dancing, but it is always a struggle at parties. I've often felt self-conscious about scars, and I always wonder how I'll get down the aisle if fate ever decides to work out for me. Thank you for writing this blog!

  11. I've gone for Options.

    The master plan is that I will walk down the aisle supported on one side by my best sturdy male friend and on the other side by my Best walking stick.

    If I'm not up to that, then I will enter at the other end of the room through the alternate entrance. Ten steps from door to registrar.

    If I'm not up to that, then I'll wheel in through the alt entrance.

    We already discussed with the registrar that we will *both* be seated throughout the ceremony. We chose a venue with a slightly raised 'stage' area (it's two steps up from the 'aisle', which I can do with help, or the alt entrance is level onto the stage). My new husband will help me stand up for the big kiss.

    Another couple I know decided to hire a wheelchair for the non-disabled partner to use as this would be a much easier way of creating equality than the disabled partner attempting to stand/walk.

  12. Emily, Thank you so much for your comment! When I started this blog, I really hoped that it wouldn't end up being this self indulgent thing read only by my family and friends. I really wanted it to help people. So your comment means a lot! I think you will find someone someday. There are a lot of people in the world that will see past your chair, but you have to see them too. Tom is my complete opposite, a type of guy I had never thought I would date but I gave him a shot anyway, and it was the best change I ever took. Good luck with everything.

    Mary, options are absolutely a good idea. I am going to have my chair on standby just in case.