How to host an all-inclusive wedding day to suit guests of all ages and abilities

Old, young, able-bodied or not, every guest deserves looking after. Amy Shearer hears from two venues that are going all out to make their weddings inclusive for everyone

Young boy runs down aisle at Kilmardinny House in Bearsden
Wee ones are always part of the fun at Kilmardinny House in Bearsden (Photo: Half Light Photography)

Feeling left out is a horrible experience. We’ve all been through it at one time or another – like being picked last (or not at all) for a sports team at school (although that particular situation secretly never bothered me – I was just delighted my hair wouldn’t be getting messed up!).

But you know what I mean: the last thing you want at your wedding is for a loved one to feel you haven’t considered them, or that they’re a nuisance. It’s supposed to be a special celebration for everyone, after all. We can all be guilty of taking things for granted, when some people lose sleep over worries such as ‘Will my wheelchair fit through that door?’ or ‘Will they remember I’ll be really ill if I eat gluten?’ Small gestures that make guests feel valued can have a big impact. Read on to find out how you can make your day accessible and inclusive for everyone.

Can everyone see the action?

Imagine having an incredibly proud grandpa who cannot wait to watch you walk down the aisle. But when the moment arrives, he can’t see you in all your glory – because he is a wheelchair user, and all the other guests are standing up, blocking his view. Take some time to work out where best to seat guests with mobility issues so they don’t miss any of the special moments during the ceremony. In fact, suggests Eilidh Young of Kilmardinny House in Bearsden, it’s worth scoping out the venue before you book to make sure it is suitable for all your guests.

“I’d recommend asking about how accessible the building is and if the doors are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair,” she says. “You wouldn’t want guests with mobility issues to have to come in through a back entrance – it’s much nicer for them to have the same experience as everyone else. Find out if there is disabled parking close to the entrance too.” If your venue has several storeys, adds Fiona Hainey at 1599 at the Royal College in Glasgow, ask if it has a lift to every floor: “It’s not fair if those with mobility problems are left out of the fun.”

Can your guests hear what is happening?

Catching all the jokes and sweet words – as well as those crucial vows – is going to be tough if you’re hard of hearing. Even if your ears are pretty good, the acoustics in some venues might not be up to scratch. So how can you help guests, deaf or not? Kilmardinny House offers microphones and hearing-aid loops for the ceremony to ensure no one will miss a thing. Eilidh also suggests placing those with hearing issues close to the action.

“I’d recommend reserving some seats at the front for guests who would appreciate it,” she says. People are often invited to sit wherever they like, but it’s important, she adds, to reserve aisle seats for those with mobility issues (plus one for their assigned carer, if they have one). “Think about where these guests will sit during the meal too,” she adds. “You don’t want them to face the challenge of manoeuvring their way through a crowded function suite.”

Ensuring that guests with mobility issues are seated in prime spots can prevent them from having difficulties manoeuvring around the venue, says Kilmardinny House

Take a breather

Weddings can be noisy and full-on, and some guests might welcome a break from the party. “We offer quiet spaces away from the celebrations for anyone who’s feeling overwhelmed by it all,” shares Fiona at 1599. Over at Kilmardinny House, Eilidh says: “We don’t have on-site accommodation but we always set aside a quiet room away from the wedding for those with additional needs. A wedding is a long day so it’s nice to be able to take a minute and have a bit of breather.” She points out that she is very happy for guests with disabilities to come and check out the venue in advance if it helps put their mind at rest ahead of the big day.

Dietary Requirements

“Catering is crucial at a wedding, so don’t forget about guests with allergies,” stresses Eilidh. “The more notice your venue has about what’s required, the more options they can give you.” All dietary needs are looked after at 1599, so nobody will go hungry. “We have our own in-house chef brigade to cater for all requirements,” promises Fiona. “We simply ask for this up to a week beforehand. We’ll tailor-make their plates to suit their needs.”

Alcohol-free offerings

There’s no denying us Scots enjoy a good drink, but that’s no reason for alcohol to dominate your wedding. You may be inviting guests for whom alcohol is simply not on the agenda, perhaps for health or religious reasons. It’s worth making sure there are lots of nice alcohol-free options so people who don’t want to drink aren’t left toasting your marriage with a glass of tap water. Liz Taylor, who runs events management company the Taylor Lynn Corporation, shares her tips for a sober celebration: “Source high-quality non-alcoholic wine and beer, and get creative with inventive combinations of ingredients that imitate the flavour of alcoholic drinks (with none of the downsides).”

Make it child-friendly

Stressing out about whether your younger guests will last the pace of the day? Find out what your venue can do to help. “We have two fantastic lecture theatres at 1599 – we can put a DVD on our big screen and make it into a bit of a cinema experience for the kids. We even provide popcorn and juice,” shares Fiona. “We have added tents to make things really special for the little ones, and we have a children’s menu for the meal too, but our chefs can also cater to special requests, such as banana splits!”

Set up tents and cinema screenings at 1599 for the wee ones who need a break from proceedings