Planning a Wedding with Chronic Illness

Somewhere around age 14, I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease. At 26, I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease. Along the way, I've had a handful of major surgeries including colostomy surgery and a total colectomy and ileostomy formation. The year after ileocecal resection surgery, and the same year as my Coeliac diagnosis, I planned my wedding.  

It was a big wedding. I took on all of the planning myself and DIY-ed most of it. It was too much. A few days after the wedding, my Crohn's flared up in dramatic fashion. 

Don't be like me. 

Now, look, I know the limitations of my chronic illness, but only you are an expert on how yours affects you. I've tried to bear that in mind in this post, but obviously, some of this might not apply to you. Please delete as appropriate.

Here are some tips I wish I'd followed.

Pace your planning

Between now and your wedding day, there's a lot to do. The wedding guides would have you do a huge amount of it in the final weeks and months before the big day. That might not work for you. Grab a planner or a wall calendar and plan out the tasks as evenly as you can. If there's a certain time of month or year that you know you'll have less energy, or your symptoms are worse, plan around that.

Consider hiring a wedding coordinator. They'll take a lot of the pressure off you. If the budget doesn't allow one during the entire planning process, find one that offers on-the-day or week-before coordination to take some stress away as your wedding looms closer.

Gather your people

Your wedding party is important at the best of times, but when you're chronically ill, they'll be your support squad as well as your entourage. Make sure they understand how your condition might affect you during your wedding day and how they can help. 

On the day, ask them to recognise the signs that you need a break, to sit down or take your medication. Ask them to have a snack ready to keep your blood sugar steady. Whatever you'll need, make sure somebody in your squad has it.

This is advice that I actually took, though too late. My housemates, best friends and sister-in-law-to-be all stepped in on the week before the wedding and rescued me. Be wiser than I was: get your support squad in place early.

A wedding entourage shine phone lights and hold up sunflowers at a couple as they kiss on their wedding day

If you've hired a coordinator, make sure they know about your illness. This isn't the time to be coy. Likewise, your venue. Ask if they have a quiet place you can retreat to if you need one.

Your Celebrant (hi!) will write your ceremony with your needs in mind. If it's too exhausting to stand for the entire ceremony, I'll make sure to add breaks or keep the ceremony short. If you have nausea from your meds, reading your vows aloud might not be for you (nerves + nausea = potential wedding chunder). I can write your vows into a different format if you'd prefer. 

While we're on the subject of Celebrants (when am I not?), all of your meetings with me can be done via video call or phone, whichever uses the fewest spoons.

Delegate tasks

Don't do it all yourself. Sit down with your partner, your families and your friends and ask for help. Assign jobs to anyone who's willing. If everybody takes just one task from your list, you'll feel significantly lighter! Remind your loved ones that your health is a priority and ask them to assist you in protecting it during your wedding planning process.

One of my favourite weddings included a groom who had planned the day to the minute; every stage was assigned to somebody in the wedding party. Yes, I teased him for it, but it was brilliant. Knowing what needed to happen, when, and who should be doing it made the whole day run smoothly. You don't need a colour-coded Excel spreadsheet to do something similar — a list handed to each member of your entourage will work too.  

Yeet the unimportant stuff

Make a list of everything you definitely want for your wedding and focus on that. Don't forget, this is your wedding day, you get to decide what you want it to be. If you don't want something, don't do it. Between yourselves, decide what the most important things are for you and ignore the rest.

Two chairs are decorated with flowers. Sings on the backs read "forever" and "always".

If your family want a ceilidh and you use mobility aids that mean you'll be unable to dance, ask yourself if that's really what you want. You might be happy to watch your guests whirl around, or you might feel left out — only you know. A receiving line involves a lot of standing, smiling and small talk, potentially for up to an hour if you have a lot of guests. Do you have the energy for one? Do you absolutely need one? Can you find another way to greet your guests? 

Dress for comfort

I'm not suggesting you wear your pyjamas for the ceremony (although, that would be so cosy), but there's nothing more miserable than feeling uncomfortable in your clothes all day. Consider your comfort when you choose your wedding day outfit: you'll likely be wearing it for the entire day so ask yourself how that might feel. I know that, for example, a corseted top would cause issues with my ileostomy if I wore it all day. 

If you'll need quick bathroom access, bear that in mind. A dozen skirts or trousers that lace up will impede your progress at a vital moment. If you'll be sitting for a majority of the day, make sure you sit when you try on your wedding day gear. Is it comfortable?

Look after yourself

If you ignore the rest of my advice, please listen to this one. Your wedding day is a significant moment, but so is the rest of your life with the person you've chosen. Don't let the wedding become so stressful that you can't enjoy what comes next. Take time out of planning to rest, find respite from the busyness. On the day, snatch every moment you can to step back and catch your breath. 

If you're planning a wedding and you have a chronic illness, let's talk about how I can take some of the organisational stress away by creating a memorable wedding ceremony just for you.