A Wheelchair User and her Search for the Right Wedding Dress
In an intimate ceremony at Greater St. Stephen United Church Of God in Brooklyn with family and friends, including my lovely daughter, Trinity, I married the love of my life, Datwan Cullins, on June 30. I will admit, it was an extremely hot day, and being in the middle of a pandemic limited our options, including the number of guests who could attend and the venue we wanted. Despite this, it was a wonderful day I will never forget.
What made it so, in part, was having the perfect wedding dress, which is one of the most important parts of a wedding for the bride.
Finding the right wedding dress
I had no clue that Datwan and I were even going to get engaged. It was a huge surprise. I’ve never been one of those women who, when they’re young, envision their wedding. I used to play basketball for the National Wheelchair Basketball Association. I was sports oriented. The last thing on my mind was a wedding dress.
But reality set in, and I now knew I needed one. I started my search in December 2020. I was taking photos of dresses. I did a deep dive, did my research and hoped for the best.
Concerns with sizing
What concerned me most was my manual wheelchair matching our wedding colors—red and white. I also knew I’d have to fit myself in a wedding dress in a small frame, and be able to move in the dress while sitting properly.
There are some disadvantages for wheelchair users searching for that perfect dress. For one, you can look online, but wonder whether it will fit properly. And, will that image match what it really is? If in-person, discussions need to be had about the size and fit of the dress and whether it can work for wheelchair users.
After searching around, I landed in David’s Bridal. Many places were not open during the pandemic, so that very much limited my options and provided little flexibility. I was shown the biggest and most beautiful dresses. My seating arrangement is 15 inches in width, so we had to be very specific. We needed to go skinny, and it made the representative’s wheels turn a little. No one anticipates a wheelchair user going to a store and saying, “I’m getting married, I need to make sure my dress is not too big.”
My wheelchair is lightweight titanium, 15 pounds, and is slender and fit to the body.
I found the dress! But it came with some costs
In the end, I tried three dresses, and the first one I tried on was the one for me.
I’m not tall. I’m 4’11. In Total, my dress was $199, but alterations were $225! It’s crazy. They definitely make sure they make the money up in other areas. It was a great price for the dress, but the alterations were, in my opinion, outrageous. Add your shoes and accessories to the mix, too. Thankfully, I have small feet so the cost of shoes were only $50.
Advice on the big day
In searching for my dress, I learned quite a lot about the difficulties women with disabilities face when looking for that perfect gown. But I also, like many, learned a great deal when preparing for the big day overall.
When getting married, you are preparing for a lifetime together. For myself, it’s about creating and blending our families together.
A lot of the time in the disability community, many tend not to marry. That is because we face many government-related risks, from losing health care benefits to other benefits that support our well-being (from Medicaid, Social Security, SSI incomes just to name a few). For me, it isn’t fair, or easy, and makes the decision to marry a big one.
It’s important to do what’s best for you, and what fulfills you and your partner the most. There is a lot that goes into deciding whether marriage is for you. Take your time, talk it through, and you’ll know what’s best. For Datwan and I, we are very excited about the next chapter of our lives, together as one.
I’m happy I finally got to say yes to the dress.
About The Independent
The Independent is ICS’ official newsletter, featuring the latest stories around ICS, its members and staff, as well as news on what’s happening in the disability community at large.