We have asked the one of our recent brides, Nina Muehleman to write a guest blog for us. Nina and her husband Bob were married at One Great George Street this summer. Nina uses a wheelchair and we were so proud of our accessibility facilities when her and Bob chose us as her wedding venue. Nina is a PhD student writing about Disability Culture and loves to blog and tweet!
As a bride, there are so many things you are anxious about: Will the dress be ready on time, and will it fit? Who will cancel last minute? And don’t even get me started on the seating plan… When you are a disabled bride, there are additional issues you need to think about, and choosing a wedding venue can be a daunting and complicated process.
My now-husband Bob and I went to see about nine different venues, armed with a huge checklist and many questions. Although all the venues ensured to me over the phone that they are wheelchair accessible, some of them clearly were not suitable for a bride in a wheelchair and a wedding where several guests are also disabled. Other venues had good access, but did not quite fit in with the magical, romantic vision Bob and I had in mind.
On our last day of venue hunting, we came to see One Great George Street. At first, the steps at the entrance confused me, since I had been assured over the phone that the main entrance is accessible. I was then more than delighted when we saw how those stairs can recede to reveal a platform lift. From that first day of visiting One Great George Street, both Bob and I were completely enchanted with this venue: Edwardian architecture, the fireplaces, the sparkling chandeliers, the intricate decorations on ceilings and walls are perfectly completed by a practical layout (no narrow, dark corridors here), wonderful lighting options and of course great disabled access. Furthermore, we loved One Great George Street’s location: Many guests from my side of the family travelled in from Switzerland for the wedding, and the venue’s location in the heart of Westminster meant that they would pass many of London’s beautiful landmarks on their way to the wedding.
Like most disabled people, I am all too familiar how being a graded building is constantly used by venues as an excuse for insufficient access, for a ‘disabled entrance’ through the goods lift or for dusty disabled bathrooms that can only be accessed via the kitchen –scenarios I really do not want to imagine myself in while wearing a wedding dress. One Great George Street shows that great disabled access is possible, even for listed buildings, and also that great access goes beyond the bare minimum and means more than the basic infrastructure. Through every step of the planning of our wedding, our venue co-ordinator listened carefully and kept working with us until the right solution was found, whether that meant testing ramps with us in advance to make sure I would feel comfortable and safe during the day, making sure the bar would be a height suitable for wheelchair users, or making sure the meat will be served perfectly done and the cheese platter would be presented beautifully (I come from a family of gourmands with abysmal stomachs).
Due to Tracey’s diligent planning and her great ability to think of and remember even the smallest details, I felt calm and relaxed on our wedding day – we finished the seating plan in time, did have some short notice cancellations but the dress fitted, thank God! – And I did not feel that access was a worry, at all. Just to make sure, I sent my trusty bridesmaid Christina, who is also in a wheelchair, ahead in the morning of our wedding day to make sure there would be ample space to pass through everywhere in a wheelchair, and generally to check whether everything was going as planned. I would be lying to say that Christina arrived to a perfectly styled venue, with all the cakes, flowers and equipment at the ready – there were small hiccups she had to deal with, but none of them had anything to do with access or One Great George Street.
The day itself was absolutely wonderful and magical – nothing can really describe the feeling when you enter a beautiful, gorgeous room where everyone you love is present. Walking down the aisle with my dad, I was overwhelmed with the joy and happiness that vibrated through the air, and to see my best friend waiting for me to become his wife. The rest of the day passed by in a blur: After the ceremony, Bob and I snuck out together with our photographers Cara and Nye, the wife-and-husband team behind Lillian and Leonard photography, to take some pictures outside: The weather held up and the area’s gorgeous architecture was the perfect backdrop for a fun, romantic photo shoot.
Although I was too excited and giddy to eat and drink much, and Bob felt the same, all of our guests loved the canapés, drinks and the 4-course meal the wonderful chefs from One Great George Street prepared for us. We then had a great time during the speeches and eating cake. When it came to the first dance, another of One Great George Street’s advantages made itself felt: The great hall has a beautiful wooden floor that not only looks lovely but is also perfect to twirl and spin around on both in a wheelchair and in dancing shoes. We had a blast dancing the night away with our friends, and it made the perfect ending to a day that was more wonderful and magical than I would have ever expected.
Both my husband and I feel the deepest gratitude towards Tracey and everyone else who worked so tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure we would have our fairy-tale day. Every time we are in the Westminster area and we spot those striking round lamps in front of the entrance of One Great George Street, with the magical platform lift concealed between them (which looks as if it has been designed by James Bond’s technical genius Q, as one of our wedding guests remarked!), we get giddy with excitement and happiness all over again. For us, One Great George Street will always be a happier, more magical place than Disneyland and Hogwarts combined.