BIG Project Reveal: The Differently Abled Bride Guide

Those of you that follow this blog closely know that I have been hinting at something big. Something huge that I’ve undertaken, a research project that I hope will change the world.

It’s called The Differently Abled Bride Guide.

I came up with The Differently Abled Bride Guide after mourning my own wedding planning experience and still grieving my diagnoses. What I wanted to do was use these two strange experiences to help other women.

In the media, the female disabled body is never portrayed, and when if it is, it is pitiful or evil. There is a lack of understanding from the outside in, and ultimately a lack of representation. More specifically, there is absolutely ZERO representation of disabled women in the bridal industry.

I decided I would write a book about this phenomenon. I’m almost there. All I’m doing is waiting for permission from the people I need it from and to get in contact with an editor.

This book I intend to go the traditionally published route after I was inspired by friends and professional book people in my circle to do so. I had originally planned a KDP book, but after I shared the idea in real life and was met with high praise, I decided to learn how traditional publishing works. As a result I am now a member of my state’s premier literary society.

It’s been a wild ride, and if you’re interested in learning more or helping out with the research, you can email me.

As always, I designed an amateur book cover using a commissioned watercolor used in the book by redlittleberry who, authors, if you need illustrations is fabulous. My book covers are always meant to be motivational for myself. I think these 4 book covers turned out pretty well. However, I could use a little sensitivity. What do you think? Offensive?
The last thing I want to do is hurt someone, so please give me feedback. Note: this book is an all-inclusive look at people with chronic illnesses and varying abilities.

Real Spoonie Weddings: Interview With the Reluctant Spoonie’s Katherine! Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)

All wedding images, except for this cover image, are Katherine’s.

Katherine gave me a wonderful love story in her wedding interview – virtual interview Q + A. It was amazing to hear what her husband and she went through to be together. That’s the stuff books are made of ( and I do believe Katherine does have a book – please check out her blog, it’s lovely and very informative).

Katherine was one of my first followers on this blog when it was a wee zygote, and my blog is still in it’s embryo stages. On my last Spoonie Bride post I talked about collaboration. Collaboration can be as simple as supporting someone’s work. So, thanks Katherine!

Now, on to the interview.

Q1. Tell me everything there is to know about your condition & how it specifically relates to you.
I have Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) which is a condition that causes dizzy spells, chronic fatigue and a fast heart rate. These symptoms mainly occur when you are standing up (hence the postural part) and those with POTS fall onto a spectrum with regards to the severity of their condition. I have a very severe form of POTS that left me bedridden for several years. 


Q2. What is your wedding story?
My husband and I met in our first year and he proposed after just 6 months (he was 18, I was 19). My husband was on a three-year course and I was on a four-year course. We had always planned to get married the year after I graduated from university. However, I developed POTS in my final year and became bedridden almost instantly, so we decided to postpone our wedding until I was well again. When I found out that I had a long-term chronic illness, we had to make a decision on when and how we would like to get married. We decided that we didn’t want to wait any longer as we had been engaged for almost 5 years at that point. We scaled down our wedding plans and I started physiotherapy so that I would be able to walk down the aisle. I planned our wedding in the space of 6 months and made sure that we still had all the little details that we’d originally planned such as themed ring boxes and a chocolate fudge wedding cake. 


Q.3 What was your venue, how many did you look at, and what factors did you consider in looking at a venue?

As we only had a short space of time to plan our wedding, we didn’t have a huge amount of venue options for our wedding reception. We ended up booking the venue next-door to the registry office who catered for wedding parties and had a dedicated wedding planner to organise these events. Everything was going smoothly until I disclosed my illness and requirements to the wedding planner 2 months before my big day. Communications were sporadic after that and they didn’t even show up on the actual day! My Maid of Honour even had to take over and organise the cake.

Q.4 Did you require any special catering?
Because of my POTS, I am not able to drink alcohol so I arranged for a non-alcoholic alternative for myself. Unfortunately, I was still given a glass of champagne when I arrived. I can’t manage large meals, so we chose to have an afternoon tea style wedding reception instead of the standard 3-course meal so that I could enjoy the food without fear of overloading my stomach. 
Q.5 Did you have any symptoms on your wedding day? If so, how did you manage?
I planned the day to minimise symptoms. I arranged to have the ceremony at 2 pm, a time when I am most alert and my morning meds have kicked in. I also sat down for my vows which I thought would ruin the photos, but they turned out great! 
Q. 6 How big was your guest list and wedding party?
We only had 20 people attend our wedding which included close friends and family. I had 3 bridesmaids and 1 brides-man. My husband had 3 groomsmen. 

Q. 7 What was your dress like, where did you find it, and was it a certain way to accommodate you?
I wore a vintage 50’s style tea-dress which I had altered to fit me. I had a coloured petticoat added so that it would look nice when I was sitting down to give a pop of colour. 
Q. 8 What are 3 things you would like a wedding vendor to know?
1. Not everyone is able to have a big wedding. Small weddings deserve your full attention as well. 2. Accessibility and accommodations are not optional and are requirements for everyone to enjoy the day.
3.  Be professional. Educate yourself on your client’s disability or illness to better understand their needs. 

Want more Real Spoonie Weddings?

Read about Jess’ and Jenny’s! If you’d like to be featured, email me at spoonielifestyle@gmail.com.

Real Spoonie Weddings: Interview With Study in Fitness’ Jess! hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

Jess was kind enough to go over her heartwarming wedding experience with me today. During these troubling times I know it’s hard to carve out space for collaboration, so I am doubly thankful for her getting back to me with my standard 8 questions.

I am hoping the Spoonie Bride Project will be a great collaborative project where all of us Spoonie gals come together for a bigger goal: turning the bridal industry upside-down. After joining the Chronic Illness Bloggers Network, I am thankful for the ability to connect with other bloggers trying to make a difference – most in more nobler ways than I do – and putting me in communication to better realize my loftier goals.

So, thank you, Jess, let’s get on with the interview. Check out her blog please and thank you!

Question #2 was omitted per request.

Q1. Tell me everything there is to know about your condition & how it specifically relates to you.

I have hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. For me, it means that I manage a lot of leg, hip, and neck pain and my ribs and vertebrae subluxate frequently (less frequently after a year of physical therapy!). I’m fortunate in that I don’t dislocate at all and have done enough strength training that I do not require bracing of any joints. My hEDS really affects my gut, which affects my skin a lot, so I am constantly watching my diet to avoid trigger foods that could cause gut issues and acne/eczema. Stress management is crucial for me too because any stressors (good or bad) will trigger pain, gut and skin flares.

Q.3 What was your venue, how many did you look at, and what factors did you consider in looking at a venue? 

Our backyard was our venue. I looked at probably 5 other venues but they were all so expensive and many of them had minimum guest requirements. We never wanted a very big wedding and even inviting everyone we would have liked to have there, we wouldn’t have met the minimums. Plus when we realized that the venue money would be better spent doing a lot of the landscaping we already wanted to do to our backyard, we decided that was the way to go. And the whole stress of planning a wedding at an actual venue was too much for me.

Q.4 Did you require any special catering? 

We took our wedding party out to dinner at our favorite local New Mexican restaurant. I was able to special order my food so I could (sort of) stay in compliance with my elimination diet, but I didn’t make too many dietary concessions because I just wanted to enjoy my wedding dinner! I paid for it a little over the next few days, but not too bad.

Q.5 Did you have any symptoms on your wedding day? If so, how did you manage?

I was still having some head cold symptoms and a fair amount of fatigue but didn’t have any gut, skin, or pain flares thank goodness! Everyone was really helpful and all I had to do was ask for help if I needed it. We had already communicated well with everyone about how we wanted to keep things relaxed and enjoyable and everyone really stepped up to make that happen.

Q. 6 How big was your guest list and wedding party? 

We had 9 people total, not including my husband and I. And we didn’t really define a wedding party.

Q. 7 What was your dress like, where did you find it, and was it a certain way to accommodate you? 

I got my wedding dress from JuneBridals.com. It was the only place I could find the wedding dress I wanted – none of the bridal stores in town had the bohemian/fairy tale style I wanted, or if they had it, it was WAY too expensive. I found a beautiful dress that I love for $200 from JuneBridals.com. It didn’t fit perfectly (even though I put in my measurements prior to placing the order), but it worked out really well. My mom had to modify it a little in the shoulders to make it fit a bit better – I have very slight shoulders which makes it hard to find dresses that fit anyway. Not sure if that’s from the hEDS or just my skeleton!

Q. 8 What are 3 things you would like a wedding vendor to know?

I would love wedding vendors to know how to work with a couple to create a calm, small, intimate ceremony. I didn’t get the impression that I could have that with any of the vendors we looked at. There were too many details, the guest minimums were huge and it all felt too commercialized. 

So I guess the 3 things I’d like vendors to know is that not all brides want everything 1. overanalyzed and over-planned, 2. HUGE, and 3. Commercial. I just wanted a beautiful space where someone else took care of the decorations, and I could show up in my pretty dress, commit my vows to my husband, and then kick back and enjoy celebrating with a small group of people whom I love.

See previous Real Spoonie Weddings here.

Want to be a part of the Spoonie Bride Project?

Find me on twitter @MOShea00660361 or email me at spoonielifestyle@gmail.com.

The Spoonie Bride Project IS Underway

The Spoonie Bride Project, my largest social media project to date, has not reached a road bump or a stopping place. I am in the process of interviewing 3 Spoonie brides and will hopefully have their info by the end of the week.

I am very excited about all of this. Wedding planning can feel so lonely – especially when you have a chronic illness or disability – and I hope the Spoonie Bride Project helps alleviate that.

Part of the project is to help vendors understand the needs of this base of their clientele. The 8 questions include the final, “What would you want a vendor to know?”

Today please enjoy Holly’s wedding story on Pink Fortitude. She shared it with me and it is a beautiful story. Do enjoy.

Want to be part of the Spoonie Bride project?

Contact me at spoonielifestyle@gmail.com with the title “Spoonie Bride Project [insert your condition here]” and we’ll get the ball rolling with your interview!

How to Plan a Budget Wedding For Under $6000

I planned two budget weddings for the same man. The first wedding was our big 100 person shindig that cost us exactly $6,000. Then I was diagnosed with lupus during my first semester of graduate school and lost my ability to walk long distances. I had to go through the process all over again as I was forced by my family to have a home wedding. That wedding cost us about $500. Either way, they were far, far under the usual $30,000 mark most American couples spend on their weddings. The result? Bear and I were able to buy a house!

Tip #1: Shop Local

My shopped local $200 wedding dress. Photo Credit: Tauni Joy Photography

Leveraging your community is your biggest, most important aspect of budget wedding planning. By shopping local, I was able to:

  • Get specialized, custom Vegan Italian food from a local Mom & Pop restaurant for $13/head. My guests loved it!
  • Bought my wedding dress for $200 from a local Quinceanera shop after explaining my health problems.
  • Bought all my decorations in bulk off of Craigslist in my hometown (where my venue was) for $30 from a previous wedding which had also been held in my hometown.
  • My photographer gave us 50% off because we were locals (having the venue in the same small town she was) and not forcing her to drive long distances as a new mother with small children as most of her clients did.
  • My hometown venue was in a tiny small town with few hair stylists, and I got my hair done for $30.

Tip #2: Use What You Have

Heirloom china with seating chart placement. Photo Credit: Tauni Joy Photography
  • Does your family have tons of heirloom china and fancy cutlery? Use that instead of buying or renting plates and silverware! It’ll be a personal touch. It doesn’t matter if everything doesn’t match.
  • Does your family have heirloom crystal pieces? Hello, centerpieces!
  • Does your immediate family or extended family have land or a nice house you could use as your venue?
  • Christmas decorations can be repurposed for any time of year. My altar was created using tulle gifted to us and clear Christmas lights, as an example.
  • If anyone in your family has antiques they’d be willing to lend, ask and let them! Another part of our altar was an heirloom grandfather clock.
How to put on a budget wedding (under $6000) when you have a chronic illness.
My DIY grandfather clock altar with clear Christmas lights. Photo Credit: Tauni Joy Photography

Tip #3: Let Your Friends Help!

This really, really should be the most important part of making your day go smoothly. During my planning process I:

  • Had my first 300 acre venue for a $60 deposit for a total of $600 for 24 hours… actually more like 48. We had been friends with the manager of the venue for 15 years.
  • Speaking of the venue owners, the wife of the manager and their daughter offered to be our wedding planners and day of coordinators for FREE.
  • Bear and I had wedding decorations gifted to us throughout the process.
  • Many of our friends volunteered to help set up for the big wedding.
  • During our small wedding, none of Bear and I’s mutual friends could make it because it was on a week day and it was short notice. But my old roommate and a family friend who were both still in college came and served food, drinks, cake, played music, and helped set up and clean up after the wedding.
  • My father being a Preacher had the church to borrow white chairs from for both our big wedding and our small 20-person wedding.
  • My dad being a Preacher officiated our wedding for FREE.
  • My old roommate was great at makeup and did my makeup for FREE.

Tip #5: Grocery Store Florists

My custom grocery store florist bridal bouquet. Photo Credit: Tauni Joy Photography

In Texas, grocery store florists are nothing to be sneezed at. I don’t know what it’s like in other states, but my bouquet was gorgeous and our flowers only cost around $250. They came from a grocery store called HEB.

Now I’m not saying I bought the flowers next to the check out – most grocery stores have a floral department in our state with licensed florists that can make custom arrangements that are perfectly wonderful. Check with your local grocery store to see if this is plausible for you.

Tip #6: Gentle DIY

At my house wedding, all the decor was DIY. My big wedding was going to have DIY decor too from the prepackaged Craigslist decorations.

What I really want to stress here is that I had light DIY invitations – I bought these wedding invitations from Hobby Lobby for $7.99 at the time. I also used Canva to create menus, signs to put in frames, and styling to decoupage on wood for my big wedding’s rustic theme. Canva provides prepackaged free templates for all of these things. You can change the colors of the designs to fit your theme.

I say gentle DIY because you don’t want to go too overboard and stress yourself out. I was a grad student with a chronic illness. You may be that too, or you may have a demanding job and still want to have a life outside wedding planning.

Tip #4: Buy the remainder of what you don’t have from the previous tips online.

  • Did you know you can make lists on Amazon? Make an Amazon list for your wedding to get organized, and share it with your party. Add things to it, and slowly eliminate what you already have or is out of budget.
  • I ordered send-off bubbles, fake succulent table decorations, napkins, picture frames… not a whole lot because I already had enough. But Amazon has pretty much everything.
  • Buy in bulk from DollarTree.com. They even have a wedding blog!

Tip #5: Know EXACTLY What YOU Want

…and don’t let anyone scare you out of it or change your mind!

Not your groom.

Not your mom.

Not your MIL.
The biggest takeaway here is before you start planning or buying a dress, know your theme, know how you want the wedding to look like. Make that Pinterest board proudly. You can make that classiness happen on a low budget, girl. You can make anything happen if you stick to what you want. Your vision will guide your choices so your wedding won’t end up a huge mess – or over budget from making mistakes because you didn’t know what you wanted. Ultimately though, it’s really about marrying the love of your life.

Even if your wedding gets derailed by everyone in the whole universe, you will have your person. Remember that.

To get the details of my nuptials, see here.

5 Most Comfortable Wedding Shoes for Brides With Chronic Pain (Or Anyone)

My wedding shoes, the Adrianna Papell kitten heels to be reviewed below.
Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.

Are you planning a wedding? Congratulations! Are you planning a wedding and have chronic pain? Congratulations! I was there a few short months ago – 2 days short of 3 months – and still suffer from the Postwedding Blues. The Postwedding Blues is a mix of anxiety and depression some brides experience after planning their wedding and walking down the aisle. I’ve got it bad. I still look at wedding dresses, write wedding articles for websites (to hopefully come out soon), and do my research. Then of course, there is the personal component of this blog. Much of my wedding advice for chronically ill brides comes from my own nightmare of a wedding planning experience. This is some solid, tested advice you can trust because I’ve been there.

Why write about comfort shoes?

The shoe is the most important part of your day followed by the dress because of comfort. If your feet aren’t walking on clouds, then you will be in excruciating pain. I tried to wear Adrianna Papell kitten heels for my ceremony and went total bridezilla by the time the reception rolled around because I was in so much pain.

My first suggestion for brides with chronic pain? Don’t even think about kitten heels!

This list is in descending order, with the best, or most comfortable, being first, to least comfortable, being last.

1.Crocs Women’s Flat Sandal in Oyster

I’ll say it. I wore Crocs at my indoor wedding in December. Yes. White dress Crocs. These. I came out in my kitten heels because I was too embarrassed to with my guests, but you know what? No one could tell when I changed into these! These were by far the most comfortable shoes I tried.

My Pick: Crocs Women’s Flat Sandal in Oyster

2.Converse Unisex Chuck Taylor Perforated Stars High Top Sneaker

Everyone knows the popularity of Converse in weddings. It’s more than about hipsters – they’re comfortable for your big day! These converse are extremely bridal and almost look lace-like with perforated stars. Delicate and a little rock-and-roll, the best of both worlds for a bride with chronic illness.

My Pick: Converse Unisex Chuck Taylor Perforated Stars High Top Sneaker

3.Converse Women’s Chuck Taylor All Star Sparkle Trim Low Top Sneaker

A dressed-down, lower profile version of the shoe above, these Converse Chuck Taylors are great for brides with edemas or swelling. A high top shoe can make it difficult to get your foot out of the wedding shoe if your legs and feet are swollen.

My Pick: Converse Women’s Chuck Taylor All Star Sparkle Trim Low Top Sneaker

4.Converse Unisex Chuck Taylor Hi Top Sneaker

This one’s my favorite shoe of all time, my dream shoe, the shoe that would have been my wedding shoe if I could have found it in time. This shoe, this beautiful, comfy shoe, is for my LGBTQ+ brides and grooms, my chronic illness brides who love rainbows all over the spectrum, and brides who want a little color under their dress. You just want to have color and love comfort for this to be your wedding shoe.

My pick: Converse Unisex Chuck Taylor Hi Top Sneaker

5.Adrianna Papell Women’s Tonya Ballet Flat

When it comes to wedding shoes, brides love Adrianna Papell because of her delicate, fairytale designs. She even has Cinderella-like shoes to go with her theme. However, when you suffer from chronic pain, I don’t recommend harsh, firm plastic to encapsulate your feet in for a day. There is only one shoe by Adrianna Papell that I can recommend for a bride with chronic pain, and it is this one. It only covers your toe and heel, giving room for foot swelling, and is flat, allowing yourself to be free of the pain any kind of heel gives you, the bride.

My Pick: Adrianna Papell Women’s Tonya Ballet Flat

Don’t put yourself through any kind of pain just to be pretty for one day of your life! It’s better to enjoy it!

Wedding Regrets

With the onset of COVID-19, I’ve seen many distressed brides grieving the loss of their wedding dates. Some brides have been planning for over two years only to have their hard work and dreams wiped away. To you, I apologize for this post, and take consolation in my disappointments in my own wedding.

It’s hard to look at my wedding photos anymore because of wedding regrets. I have many, and my biggest golden kernel of advice to couples is this:

Never, never EVER let someone else pay for your wedding. Not if you’re marrying a trust funder, not if your parents are insisting, not if you can’t pay yourself. Save up your dollars and have an extended engagement, then use those cold hard Benjamins to have the wedding YOU want.

Why am I saying this?

When you pay for your own wedding, you have complete control over how the wedding goes on. If your mother or your in-laws are calling the shots because you’re too broke or you’re used to taking hand-outs from your rich parents, guess what, it’s technically their show.

My wedding was a nightmare. It was thrown together in 48 hours after my parents decided I was getting married a day early in their house, not at our friend’s venue, and our guest list was going from 80 to 20. Because of the short notice and that it was being held on a week night, none of my friends could get off work so they couldn’t come. It was me and my husband’s family, who I had issues with. There was no music, no dancing, no fun. This was the opposite of how I wanted it.

The door bell even rang as we had our first kiss.

Additionally, I was in pain the whole time, and my face looks horrible in pictures. It’s in a huge frown because of the physical and emotional discomfort I felt.

So, my parents insisted on paying for my wedding, and they forced me to jump ship on my already planned one for an emergency Bridezilla catastrophe because they held the purse strings.

So, what did I originally want?

I wanted to get married at Cinderella’s Castle in Disney World in the summer. My husband vetoed, saying his parents wouldn’t come to a theme park for a wedding. So my next step was to go the traditional route for my parent’s religion, and get married at our friend’s children’s camp. I tried to order catering from Freebirds, also vetoed by in-laws. I quickly realized I was going to have to miraculously turn beer into champagne on my meager budget.

I planned a country wedding at my parent’s behest and with their dollar. But I had been dreaming about a Disney wedding ever since I learned about them at age 13.

The Lesson?

Bear and I should have saved up money to go to Disney World, or some other place nearby. That way, we would have been in control.

If you’re unable to wait to get married on champagne tastes, or even beer tastes, please consider a court house. Halfway through wedding planning you’ll be dying to run to one anyhow.

But really, is there any such thing as being in complete control of your wedding?

Remember, wedding regrets are normal. But there’s a big way to avoid catastrophe wedding regrets: take the reins.

The best way to not have wedding regrets in the midst of COVID-19? Focus on the love of your life.

All in all, I do not regret getting married. There is a big difference between wedding and married. I had wanted to get weddinged in the summer, however, we all know this crazy coronavirus mess is going on right now and we don’t know when it’s going to end. I’m currently riding out the coronapocalypse with my sexy awesome husband who I love very much, and am extremely glad to have married! I just wish he could have been my official Prince Charming in Cinderella’s Castle, possibly in December when we had wed.