By Mary Ann Alexander and Will Grignon
If it’s okay with you, I’ll begin this story by telling you about the proposal.
I was away for one of my long weekends up north to visit with my daughters. Upon my return, I was greeted by my significant other in the usual way: the house was clean, there were red roses on the table and dinner was waiting, along with a bottle of wine. After enjoying just being there with my honey, eating a quiet and peaceful meal, I sighed with contentment, wondering out loud, “what more could a girl want?” My honey, oh, for those of you who don’t know, is Will Grignon, someone I met while in business enterprise training. Anyway, in answer to my musing, he instructed me just to sit tight. He left the table to hurry upstairs. When he came back to the table, I was gone, cleaning up the dishes. He very sternly instructed me to sit back down. He then got on one knee and asked me to marry him. Of course I said yes and he placed a lovely pearl and diamond ring on my finger. Amazingly, he was actually surprised that I said yes. Ah, such a wonderful memory. Oh, yes, to continue with the story.
So now, what kind of wedding shall we plan? This is not the first marriage for either of us. So, our first thought was no muss no fuss. We tossed around many ideas from going up north to have the wedding closer to family to marrying on the beach. What we finally decided was to be married right in our own home, the home where we are so happy.
I’m writing this not only to share with you what is the happiest time in my life, but also because I realized throughout the process of planning this wedding that my focus had changed from the past. Will and I are both totally blind and in reviewing our plans, in comparing them to other weddings in which I was either the bride or a participant, I realized that this time it would be different.
First, let’s look at the fact that we are being married in our home. When considering other options like a restaurant or the beach, we felt that home would afford us the best means by which to mingle with each of our guests, each precious friend or family member in attendance. At a restaurant or on the beach, we would have had to rely on others to help us navigate this intimate part of our celebration.
We will have about twenty-five guests, at least six of whom are blind or visually impaired, not counting Will and myself. So what kind of meal should we serve? A buffet without servers would be the least expensive way to go but, considering that this would be awkward and difficult for the bride and groom and many of our guests, we opted for a sit-down lunch.
The next thing we did was to look for someone to perform the ceremony. Did you know that in Florida you can be married by a Notary Public? Yes, quite amazing. Well we met with one and we both had the same negative opinion of her in the first thirty seconds. She was so clearly uncomfortable with our blindness and while it’s not the whole of who we are, we did want her to be comfortable with us and with our guests. So, back to square one. We learned that a new acquaintance of ours, a warm and jolly man, who is a notary, had performed weddings in the past. He graciously agreed to perform our ceremony.
Next, we needed to consider how best to preserve memories from our precious day. We decided that we would concentrate our efforts and funds in finding a videographer, not a photographer. Will and I want to be able to look back on our special day with clarity. Having a video with special commentary from those we invited, the actual spoken vows, my daughter’s singing, and all that the day will entail will be so meaningful. Our videographer will even allow us to come to her office to insert a separate descriptive track, so, yes, we’ll have descriptive video for our wedding day. Now that’s not to say that we won’t have photos as well. We are going to purchase a few disposable cameras and have our guests get candid pictures and probably some posed shots, too.
If it’s okay with you, I’d like to get a bit more personal at this point. When planning my wedding outfit, hair style and accessories in the past, it was just important that it all looked good. Now, not to say that looking good isn’t important, but there’s another element to consider. When I decide on a dress, it will have to meet certain other criteria, so that my fiancé can appreciate my appearance. The fabric will have to be something nice to the touch, it should allow my shoulders to be exposed, and it should be flowing or flirty. My hair style should not only look good, but Will should be able to touch it without getting his fingers caught in sticky hairspray. And I’ll be sure to remember to wear his favorite perfume and the jewelry he bought me.
And now a word from the groom. As Mary Ann has indicated, this is not my first marriage. My first wife was sighted and I must confess that I, like many grooms, was pretty much a bystander at my first wedding, deferring to the choices made by others and pretty much wearing what I was told to wear, showing up where I was told to show up, and doing what I was told to do. But this time it’s been different. Mary Ann and I are much more a partnership and our wedding will be a product of our combined efforts. I had first thought of a beach wedding, marrying Mary Ann with her bare feet in the surf, but the fact that the beaches around here, during season and spring break, would be something less than intimate and idyllic, made a home wedding seem both practical and quite lovely. Once we decided on having both the ceremony and the reception at home, things fell into place, with each of us doing research into local businesses and both of us shaping the ceremony to come – thank goodness for the Internet! To my mind, non-visual elements will play a larger part than if we were both sighted; e.g., live and recorded music to be heard and enjoyed as a supplement to the ceremony and an accompaniment to happy conversation (as opposed to the typical reception fare and blare that makes talking almost an impossibility), flowers chosen more for their fragrance than their appearance, food and drink servers trained to assist persons with vision loss, and, as Mary Ann highlighted, a wedding video with an added audio description track so we will not only be able to hear the sounds of our wedding but also have the added benefit of someone, probably her daughters, providing descriptive commentary to both deepen the experience of the day and provide a lasting commentary on the happy event.
Stay tuned for the next installment about how the event turned out.