Being Deaf and Getting Married: How to Handle the Wedding

***Today's post is part of a week long series here at Kiss My Tulle to help y'all plan your wedding and accommodate any special needs that your wedding party or guests might have. Be sure to check out yesterday's post from Katie Farrin of Lovebird Productions on planning your wedding while working with the special medical needs of your guests, this post about wheelchairs and weddings, and my tips on planning a wedding if you have Social Anxiety Disorder.***

If you are not hearing impaired then you probably haven't even considered about how the standard wedding ceremony and reception could isolate the Deaf. And, if one or both of the people getting married are Deaf, figuring out how to fully experience the wedding is a different kiind of planning altogether. Here's some tips to make it easier:

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Image Courtesy of: The Popes

  • Hire or involve ASL interpreters. Plan on having at least one extra body at the front with the officiant (even if your officiant can sign, not all the guests will be able to see) for the the two people getting married. If many of your guests are also Deaf, plan to include a second interpreter for them and be sure to print copies of the ceremony for anyone who would prefer to read them. Provide your interpreter(s) with a script of the ceremony several days before to allow them to prepare.
  • Remember sight lines during the ceremony. Some Deaf people can read lips while others rely completely on ASL. Be sure to accomodate every need by carefully arranging the interpreter(s) where they can be seen. Be sure to arrange the wedding party so that any involved can see the interpreters also. Double check with your guests beforehand and see who would like to sit in the first couple of aisles (to speech-read or ensure sight lines) – reserve their spots with notes or markers.
  • Hire Deaf vendors (or those with experience working Deaf weddings). Hiring vendors that make you feel comfortable and at ease is a must do for any couple getting married. Within the wedding industry, there are many vendors who are from the Deaf community or have worked with Deaf weddings. Here's a few that I know of: Tate Tullier PhotographyDavello Photography, Pastor Harold Warner, Wendy Haynes, and Deaf Apostolate of the Archdiocese of Boston.

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Images Courtesy of: Outer Focus Photos and Smetona Photo

  • Plan for a way to communicate between the hearing and Deaf. No interpreter? Have small notepads handy so guests can write back and forth. Another option is to show guests how to use their smart phones to text each other or use the Dragon Voice-Speaking app
  • Twirling napkins and other traditional alternatives. Think about it, a Deaf wedding is a visual wedding. There's no point in tinking the glasses at the reception to get the couple to kiss or clapping after the first kiss. Instead, it is customary to twirl napkins (in leiu of glass tinking) and wave those hands in the air (AND WAVE 'EM LIKE YOU JUST DON'T CARE! <— Sorry, got carried away there…) instead of clapping! The movements are easier to see and are standard in the Deaf community.
  • Focus on small things at the reception. Keep the centerpeices low (for easier speech-reading and signing), play the music loud (to feel the vibrations), and keep the area well lit (low lighting can make it difficult for Deaf guests to communicate). Plan to flash lights whenever the couple is about to do one of the reception's traditonal moments (i.e. cut the cake, the First Dance). Consider projecting words on the wall or a large screen to let peopel know what's happening next.

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Image Courtesy of: The Popes

  • Plan on a first look. It's the chance to work out all the kinks with interpreters, vendors, and the couple. Also, be sure to have a second photographer so that the emotions (and signing) of both couples is captured.
  • Speeches. If you want to have them, keep sight lines in mind and plan to ask for someone to interpret. It will allow both the hearing and Deaf to enjoy them fully. In leiu of speeches, you might want to have a slideshow and have people's speeches included (with captioning) in there.
  • Sign your vows. Whether you are both Deaf, only one of you, or only your guests are – signing your vows is an amazing experience. It makes the intangible concrete and makes you focus on the actual words you are saying to each other.

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Image Courtesy of: Smetona Photo

I have to tell you, one of the most powerful weddings I have ever attended was between a Deaf co-worker and her ASL interpreter groom. There's something amazing about stripping out all the sound from a ceremony and watching the power and emotion of signing the vows. Also? Best. Reception. Ever. It was loud and everyone used their hands to talk – my kind of people. Have any of you attended a Deaf wedding? Are you planning a Deaf wedding? What tips or advice can you share about the experience with Tulle Nation? Let me know!