How To: An ME/CFS Friendly Wedding Part 1

7 Oct
© Jess Bruce 2015

© Jess Bruce 2015

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.

Delegation

Our ring cushion made by Mr B's Mum. © Jess Bruce 2015

Our ring cushion made by Mr B’s Mum. © Jess Bruce 2015

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.

Timings

Our Drinks Reception outside on the lawns by the River Cam © Jess Bruce 2015

Our Drinks Reception outside on the lawns by the River Cam © Jess Bruce 2015

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.

Venues

St John's College was our day time venue © Jess Bruce 2015

St John’s College was our day time venue © Jess Bruce 2015

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.

Guest Numbers

Our Table Plan for our Wedding Breakfast with just 39 guests. © Jess Bruce 2015

Our Table Plan for our Wedding Breakfast with just 39 guests. © Jess Bruce 2015

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.

Vendors

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.

Food

We had a hot buffet as food at our Evening Party © Jess Bruce 2015

We had a hot buffet as food at our Evening Party © Jess Bruce 2015

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!

Our main wedding cake © Jess Bruce 2015

Our main wedding cake © Jess Bruce 2015

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.

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20 Responses to “How To: An ME/CFS Friendly Wedding Part 1”

  1. Anna @ M.E. myself and I October 7, 2015 at 2:24 pm #

    Congratulations Jess! What beautiful photos. Thank you for sharing your day x

  2. silencekilledthedinosaurs October 8, 2015 at 2:28 am #

    Thank you for sharing this! It’s very helpful. I’ve also been trying to space out prep, and we have a rule where I will not be dealing with any of the last minute surprises. It’s great to hear that you found making these accommodations actually helped you have a more intimate and special wedding.

    • myjourneythrume October 8, 2015 at 8:40 pm #

      I think your rule is really sensible. That’s why my sister was in charge on the day and it helped so much, I genuinely didn’t feel stressed cos I felt safe in her hands. I think it’s all about attitude. Yes it’s rubbish we had to accommodate the illness but that’s life so we made the very best of the situation. I hope your prep is going well, spacing it out and doing as much in advance really helped me. I’m going to post the rest of our plans next week, as soon as I finish the post.

      • silencekilledthedinosaurs October 9, 2015 at 1:50 am #

        I look forward to the next post! Yes, my plans are going well so far. Trying to keep it nicely spaced out. I really want to do some craft things for the decorations, so I’ve made sure to start that early and I’ll just chip away at it.

      • myjourneythrume October 9, 2015 at 8:26 am #

        Glad to hear things are going well. I really had to limit my crafty ideas but I (with a lot of help from others) I did things slowly like you and had some personal homemade touches which I loved.

  3. Rose October 8, 2015 at 4:24 pm #

    You planned everything so thoroughly that the day seemed to go like clockwork. I was constantly amazed throughout the day at how you had anticipated – and planned for – every eventuality. Well done, Jess.

    • myjourneythrume October 8, 2015 at 9:07 pm #

      Thank you Rose, a lot of work went into it but it was all worth it for the special day we had and that afterwards I didn’t have a huge spike in symptoms. Thank you again for everything you did, it really helped me 😊 Jess x

  4. Lindsay October 10, 2015 at 3:29 am #

    such great advice! wish there was already a post like this back in may when i got married!

    • myjourneythrume October 10, 2015 at 8:29 am #

      Thanks Lindsay! Hopefully it will help others in the future. Hope married life is treating you well 😊

  5. thehomeschoolingdoctor October 11, 2015 at 2:02 pm #

    Hi, Jess! Great! Can you explain “daytime” and “evening” venues. Usually here, we have the wedding then one “reception.” How does that equate to what you do?

    • myjourneythrume October 11, 2015 at 5:26 pm #

      Hey! Here the daytime is the more formal smaller reception, usually a sit down meal and then the evening is the less formal with more guests, the party, music, drinking and dancing. Sometimes it’s all at the same venue with more guests just arriving for the evening once the formal meal is over or you move from one smaller venue to another bigger one in the evening like we did. In the US there’s cocktail hour before the meal isn’t there?

      • thehomeschoolingdoctor October 12, 2015 at 1:45 am #

        I think it depends on where you are in the States (Northeast, South, Midwest, West, etc.) and the formality of the wedding. Seems like in the Midwest (where I am), it’s more like you go to the reception and there are drinks until the bride and groom arrive. I guess you could call that cocktail hour?! But it doesn’t seem that defined. Then, dinner is served and dancing and more cocktail hour (LOL). Maybe I can make it over for your 50th wedding anniversary venue. 🙂 I liked learning about you you all do weddings a bit! Fun!

      • myjourneythrume October 12, 2015 at 10:17 am #

        Lol, you are most welcome to any anniversary party you can come to! I always think the Midwest sounds cool, it’s on my bucket list! I only know about cocktail hour from shows like Four Weddings! It’s incredible how much people spend on their weddings on that show. Possibly not the best source of reference 😉

      • thehomeschoolingdoctor October 12, 2015 at 1:53 pm #

        Haha! I’ve not seen that show! The Midwest is like bread and butter. Plain, simple, reliable, a staple, gets the job done, etc. (Never mind I can’t eat them…)

      • myjourneythrume October 14, 2015 at 7:10 am #

        Sounds idyllic 😊

      • thehomeschoolingdoctor October 12, 2015 at 1:46 am #

        Oh, and I like best that you were able to keep symptoms in line!

  6. Miss P October 16, 2015 at 5:16 pm #

    My ME head has only allowed me to look at the photos today so thank you so much for taking such lovely photos – they are a joy to look at. I’m so glad your big day was such a success =) x

    • myjourneythrume October 16, 2015 at 8:36 pm #

      I’m sorry to hear your head is bad today but very glad that the photos brought you a little joy. Hope tomorrow is a little better for you x

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. How To: An ME/CFS Friendly Wedding Part 2 | my journey thru M.E. - October 20, 2015

    […] Here is the second half of my post about how we made our wedding Jess and ME/CFS friendly. If you missed part one, you can find it here. […]

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