Planning a wedding is a big task for anyone. For someone with ME/CFS it poses its own challenge, namely ‘how am I going to get through the biggest day of my life without completely breaking myself’? As much as I wanted the perfect wedding, it wasn’t at all costs. Given how far I have come since the worst times of my illness, not even my wedding was worth risking a relapse. And so an ME/CFS friendly wedding became central to our planning and arrangements.
As I know coping with big life events, be it your own or attending a friend’s, is a concern for many suffering with chronic illness, I thought I’d put together a list of how we made our wedding as ME/CFS friendly as possible. As it’s a pretty long list, I’ve split it into two posts, so stay tuned for the second installment. I hope these points will help future ME/CFS brides/chronic illness suffering party guests/ concerned loved ones as much as they helped me.
I had huge support with the wedding prep from my parents, sister and Mr B’s Mum and sister. On the day itself my sister was in charge and ran the show like a dream.
I still did a lot of the planning and prep but I did it very gradually. Leave as little to the last minute as possible. My last week was a lot of rest and a little prep. People teased me that ‘I had done it all already’ early on and this annoyed me. I had to do things seemingly obsessively early. I knew my body wouldn’t cope with having it all to do in the last few months and weeks. Listen to your body and do what you know will help you.
We chose a 12 noon ceremony so that I could have a slow morning getting ready without having to get up early but equally a ceremony time early enough in the day to allow a break late afternoon between the wedding breakfast and the evening party. By 5 pm I was really flagging and was so glad we’d planned in a break until 7 pm. During that down time I laid down (propped up on many pillows so as not to squash my hair!) and did a yoga nidra relaxation track for 45 minutes which really refreshed me ready for the evening.
Making myself stop and rest was hard but necessary. I wanted to stay at the meal and not miss a second. It is so much easier to push on and keep going at the time but much harder for your body in the long run.
If you have a long event to attend factor in some downtime, even if it’s just sitting in a quiet corner for a few minutes. It will help your nervous system reset and refresh you. My time out definitely helped me survive and, dare I say thrive, during the evening.
We had a Registry Office civil ceremony partly because we’re not particularly religious, but mainly so that it was short, so that I wasn’t exhausted from a long ceremony before the party started. Even though it was short, it was so incredibly special. I loved every minute of it and can’t wait to see the video.
Our day time venue was the Cambridge college where we had met. In addition to the function spaces, we also reserved a bedroom close to the drinks reception location so that I had somewhere quiet to go off to and rest if needed. I didn’t actually use it on the day but it took a stress away knowing the option was there should I need it.
And finally our evening reception was held at a boutique hotel, where we also spent our wedding night (and mini-moon). This worked perfectly because it meant we were able to go straight to our bedroom to rest after our wedding breakfast before the evening party. It also meant I was able to escape from the festivities for a time-out as and when I needed it throughout the party.
Chatting and socializing, especially if you’re the bride and groom and the centre of attention, is exhausting. We deliberately kept our daytime event small with only 39 guests so that I wasn’t exhausted early on from too much talking! Our evening reception was larger at 90 but still not massive, which again helped me to circulate without it being too draining.
We were open with all our vendors about my illness and explained about the extra requirements this meant and they all took this on board without issue. Get people who understand your needs and will listen to you. That’s good advice for anyone but especially when dealing with chronic illness. This was particularly important with the photographer, who understood that I couldn’t do as many photos as perhaps he’d have liked. The hair and make-up girls were brilliant and adjusted their usual practices to meet my rest needs when getting ready.
With numerous food intolerances at the heart of my ME/CFS, catering to my dietary requirements was very important. I have been to too many events where I had to take my own food or worse, eaten food that has then made me sick. I didn’t want either at my own wedding. We had many meetings about the food with our venues and settled on menus that largely catered to my needs and where it was too hard or costly to do it all Jess Friendly (canapés for example) I had my own separate plate so I knew what was safe for me to eat. That said, on the day, I barely ate. I picked at most things, but I was just too happy and on cloud nine to eat! I never felt hungry. Mr B said the same, which is very out of character for both of us, we always eat!
And as I said in my wedding cake recipe post, we had two cakes, one normal as the stunning centre piece and the second a smaller gluten and dairy free cake, primarily for me! My cake was chocolate flavoured whilst the main cake was a vanilla Victoria sponge so it was crystal clear which was which and cross contamination was kept to a minimum.
If you have dietary requirements as a guest, then my advice is to let the bride/event organiser know as early as possible. With advance warning, it is an easy issue to deal with.
Stay tuned for the second installment of how we managed a wedding with ME/CFS without breaking me. The second post will cover outfits and hair styling, flowers, pre-emptive action, chairs, transport, wedding day supplies, Lightning Process and relaxation.
ME/CFS was a big factor in our wedding planning but it didn’t detract from the day one iota. Rather it enhanced the day, by making it personal and extra special that I was well enough now to cope with such a celebration. The planning decisions and modifications with ME/CFS in mind made that possible and we wouldn’t have had it any other way.
If you want to read more about our wedding, and how we raised money for the ME Association, check out this post.