Disability, Inclusion and Perception in Weddings Carly Findlay

Kylee Yee

If you have been following Nu Bride for a little while you will know I have a strong passion about raising awareness and discussing the importance of the mainstream wedding industry doing more to be visually inclusive and represent and appeal to more than one type of bride.

So when I was contacted by Australian bride-to-be, writer and motivational speaker; Carly Findlay a bride, who happens to be disabled,  I wanted to share her journey with you. It certainly opened my eyes.

Hi Nova, I’ve heard you on the Save the Date podcast and have been so impressed with your take on diversity and inclusion. Well done on your recent award!

I am getting married next March (eek!) and I have a diverse background. I have a rare severe skin condition called Ichthyosis. I’m a writer and speaker, and push for diversity in the media. There are very few brides with disabilities featured in the media and if they are, it’s a bit of a pity story (or inspiration porn as we call it in the disability community – yes I’m proudly disabled). I recently wrote a piece about getting married for a disability website, and I realised that my experience planning of the wedding is just like my friends’ experiences. Love doesn’t discriminate.

busichicCarly

It was Carly’s message about positive discrimination that resonated and reinforces how very important it is to be inclusive in an honest and authentic way, rather than just be ‘seen’ to be doing the right thing. To be helpful, ESPECIALLY during such a universal experience such as planning a wedding.

This recent article in Huffington post featuring model Madeline Stuart also re-affirms this view;

“I think that being a bride is a life experience that every woman should be able to see herself doing…”  Isadora Martin-Dye

Carly has Ichthyosis; a rare and severe skin condition which can include sore, dry, red and scaling skin, often resulting in facial disfiguring, there is no cure.

Carly recounts some of the most enlightening and disappointing experiences she has encountered simply because of her appearance.

The assumptions and expectations placed on what someone with a disability or difference should be achieving. Huge assumptions on desirability and more.

My Mum tells me that when she mentions I’m engaged to a beautiful man, people are surprised. Some people ask her if he’s got Ichthyosis too, waving their hands around their face in the international language of ‘I’m not sure how to describe the skin condition’. Not that there’s anything wrong with me dating someone with Ichthyosis. But there is an assumption that we’ll seek similar. It’s so bothering. Carly Findlay Read more here

 To the curious and innocent, but nevertheless invasive and ignorant questions including whether or not she can have sexual intercourse. I kid you not….. 

People forget their manners when talking to me and others with disabilities and facial difference. They unleash their thoughts and prejudices before engaging their brains.

“Excuse me, can I ask you something?”

It’s often followed by the variations of these questions:

Have you been sunburnt?

Are you wearing traditional African makeup? (Nu Bride: Really?!?!)

Is that a Halloween costume?

Can you have sex? Carly Findlay Source

I have always found it fascinating how difference perplexes some of us so much but Carly’s journey to happily ever after really did highlight the industry movers and shakers who are being inclusive and encouraging diversity in all its forms it brilliantly by treating everyone as they deserve, as individual and as human beings.

Read Carly’s brilliant journey here!

Carly and Adam

Carly and Adam

It’s funny how the cliché is true, you find romance when you stop looking.

In 2013 I was loving single life.

I was working full-time, my writing and speaking career had taken off, and I was planning an overseas trip for early 2014. Even though I was signed up to an online dating site, I told my friends that I didn’t have time for a boyfriend. I had given up looking, tired of the constant rejection and the shallowness I’d encountered. I didn’t want to have to explain my appearance to another person. And then Adam came along. 

He messaged me first , telling me he liked my smile. We chatted and while I didn’t give the early stages as much care as I should have, he was quite besotted with me, online only it seemed.

We went on some ordinary dates – he was so shy he barely spoke in person. One of his messages after our first date said “I enjoyed myself last night and had a great time. I get nervous around beautiful women like you.” Still, I had my doubts. I wanted him to show me the same affection in person.

It took some persevering on my part (Adam was showering me with love songs by the second date!) and also the realisation that I couldn’t expect Adam to know everything about disability if he hadn’t experienced it before.

I’m so glad we worked at it and I got to know him. He is kind, funny, cute, loving and committed. Everything I wanted. 

My rare, severe skin condition, Ichthyosis, can’t have been easy for Adam to get used to.

My red appearance attracts stares and often nasty or silly comments. I shed more skin in a day than an average person sheds in 28 days.

My clothes get oily because of the ointment I use (and so do his, now). And I get very sore, it’s prone to infections. When I apologise for my skin, he tells me off. And he touches my face, telling me “you’ve got something on your face. It won’t come off. It’s beautiful.” I melt.

Adam looks at me like I’m the most beautiful woman in the world. He tells me “never rush a huggle” making up for all the touches I’ve missed out on because people were afraid to touch me. He makes me laugh with his funny dancing. And he is so driven with his new handyman business, I’m very proud of him.

I write about what it’s like living with Ichthyosis on my blog and for a few news sites. Sometimes Adam gets recognised as being my fiancé, he loves it! He has also become very involved in my work, coming to watch and assist with the disability performance troupe I’m a part of, and helping organise Australia’s first Ichthyosis meet in May 2015. He’s become very aware of disability issues and has made many friends in the disability community.

Our engagement happened quickly. In March 2014, five months after we met, I went overseas, on a two month trip, alone. He had been dragging me into jewellers for around a month and friends joked that we could get married in our local shopping strip because of the amount of wedding vendors it has! Things felt very right, and I planned a marriage proposal before I left. I didn’t expect to be a proposer but I’m ok with standing out, so I did it!

I proposed in bed. I wrote him a little piece and bought him a ring, but it didn’t fit. The piece I’d written was still on my iPad – and when I handed it to him, it fell on his face! I think he was surprised!

He said yes, of course, and the next afternoon he took me to choose my engagement ring. Our car was in a 30 minute parking zone so it was a very quick choice – the biggest and the sparkliest! He wooed me by doing the dishes so I could meet a writing deadline, and then proposed to me in front of the TV. Romantic! (Nu Bride: Brilliant LOL!)

Our wedding is on the 20th March 2016 .We’ve involved friends in our wedding, our friends are the celebrant, DJ, cake maker, florist and dressmaker and my gorgeous bridesmaid has done great work designing the invitations. It’s been lovely to see others get excited about our big day. 

The planning wasn’t always plain sailing. I was really nervous about trying on wedding dresses.

My skin gets cold and sore trying on clothes, and so I didn’t know whether it would be a comfortable experience.

I was also nervous about how sales assistants would treat me. Would they worry I was contagious? Would they be annoyed if I got skin on the dresses? Would they doubt I was worthy of marriage? (I have reason to think this, sometimes shopping experiences have been bad, I’ve even been ordered out of a store because the owner said my face would ruin her clothes.) But I was pleasantly surprised. I tried on five dresses without discomfort. And the sales assistants were lovely. I felt like a princess.

It was funny modelling the dresses with the other brides in the store, I had other women giving their opinion about how the dresses made me look! I actually didn’t consider the comfort factor of the dress for the big day. I don’t know how the boning will feel on my skin, but I’ve asked a few friends with Ichthyosis how they’ve coped and they said they felt so beautiful and excited the pain didn’t matter! (Nu Bride: No pain, no gain!)

 I’ve chosen a simple theme for the wedding day , colours inspired by The Tuileries in Paris; cornflower blue, purple and pink. I want a handmade feel but don’t have the time to make everything, and so I’ve purchased some of my accessories on Etsy and the Save the Date Wedding Podcast has given me many ideas, it’s where I found Nova and Nu Bride too! (Nu Bride: Hurrah!)

The great thing about our venue is that the staff are covering my accessibility needs (flattering lighting, well that’s a bit of vanity really (!) and a warmer temperature), as well as ensuring accessibility for our guests with disabilities. Adam and I dedicating some time to talk about marriage equality in our ceremony, covering race, gender and disability. Equal love is so important to us. 

We chose our photographer because I’d seen (and loved!) their work before in blogging circles, and they are lovely and calm. I really wanted a calm photographer so I wont be stressed on the wedding day. I’ve specifically asked them not to airbrush any of our faces or skin. I want to show our natural selves. 

It’s so important for wedding vendors to be physically and attitudinally accessible and inclusive to couples and guests different accessibility needs. From a ramp to get into the building, to catering for various dietary needs, being flexible in room set up and most importantly not having preconceptions about people with disabilities. Politely asking the right questions about accessibility needs without being too intrusive will also help to ensure access and inclusion.

My venue has been fantastic in doing these things, they make me feel so welcome and valid. And I’ve been working with amazing, talented crafters and stores to ensure I’m comfortable – a friend made a bolero to cover up, an Etsy seller made me a headpiece, complete with a felted backing so it doesn’t scratch my scalp, and a dress shop I blog for sent me a second dress to change into. I feel very special. 

One reason I write is to change the way people with Ichthyosis, facial differences and disabilities are portrayed in the media. I hate the sensationalist and pitying stories about disabilities the media often present. And so I write to control my story and empower others.

Telling my story has so often given others the confidence to tell theirs, especially people who’ve had Ichthyosis all their life but thought they were alone. Positive, first person media representation of people with disabilities has increased in recent years. But I haven’t seen a lot of wedding media that’s inclusive of people with disabilities. 

image

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Adam & Carly courtesy of @carlyfindlay

I wrote to Nova to ask her if I can help change that by sharing my story, and hopefully encourage others with disabilities to do the same. Twenty percent of the Australian population have a disability, and around 17 percent of the British population has a disability. The wedding industry needs to reflect and include this population, by creating accessible spaces and attitudes, raising expectations about disability and showcasing diverse love. Marriage equality needs to be recognised in all forms. 

Fresh Photography

And here they are after their wedding this weekend. The gorgeous Carly and Adam. Photography: Fresh Photography

I cannot put it more eloquently than that.

Thank you SO much Carly for sharing your story and for flying the flag for people and communities who feel frustrated and silenced by continuously not being represented.

Congratulations to you and Adam on your wedding day and here’s to your happily ever after. 

The Talent

Featured image: Kylee Yee

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One Response to “Disability, Inclusion and Perception in Weddings Carly Findlay”

  1. Denise Webber
    March 22, 2016 at 11:57 pm #

    I love Carly, she is awesome, and I wish her and Adam a long and happy life together.

    p.s Carly, I bet Stella would have given a cracking speech at the reception, but I know she was there in spirit.

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