Planning a wedding when you’re hearing impaired: My experience

From the moment you get engaged it’s a whirlwind of celebrations, congratulatory messages and reading tons of bridal magazines. But what happens when you’re actually not THAT excited about the whole process because you can’t hear?

I wanted to share my experience with you all as I know everyone tells you it’s the most special time and it’s all meant to be hearts and flowers but I actually didn’t enjoy it all that much.

I’ll be honest, my engagement was a complete shock to me having just lost my hearing to Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss just 6 weeks before. It is, however, a wonderful memory in the middle of a lot of angst and sadness but there are parts of it I missed out on because I am hearing impaired.

I remember my husband down on one knee with my beautiful engagement ring in his hand, saying some lovely words about me but I haven’t a clue what those words are because I couldn’t hear him! That made me a little sad to think I’ll never really experience that moment again and although he could tell me later on what he said, the there and then is when it counts most.

There were other times during our engagement where I didn’t feel like a real bride to be, I felt a little like a fraud and incredibly sad. Three particular memories instantly come to mind;

  • When one of my bridesmaids excitedly rang me the same evening we got engaged, I had to pass the phone to the other half to talk to her because I struggled with hearing anything on the phone. I had no idea what they were saying to her and I felt like I was missing out on a wonderful conversation.
  • When I couldn’t hear my guests at our engagement party. We initially planned a small engagement party for just our families so they could get to know each other but got a bit carried away and invited far more people than planned so it turned into a party for about 50 people in a busy, crowded pub on a Saturday night – not the ideal environment when you’re deaf. I found myself feeling not part of the celebrations, and a bit side-lined. I spent a lot of the evening just popping to the ladies’ room so I could get a bit of space from it all.
  • When we set about planning the music for our ceremony, reception and evening party I just couldn’t get excited. Music, especially live music, had always been something I enjoyed and I knew we both wanted a live band for our wedding but not being able to listen to demos and having to rely on reading lyrics to determine what song I wanted to walk down the aisle to wasn’t quite how I thought I would be planning my wedding. I got really sad when my other half found a band he thought was perfect for us as I couldn’t hear much of the music at all.

I was lucky that I had been planning my wedding during a time where emails are an accepted, if not preferred, method of communication – this made contacting suppliers easier and less stressful. We only met with a handful of suppliers in person – our photographer, florist and of course, venue co-ordinators who were all wonderful and incredibly patient with me.

Dress shopping was a mixed experience for me. I had decided that I would only take my mum with me, partly because I think it is an experience that only a mum and daughter should experience (even more so when you’re an only child) and partly because I didn’t want too many people to be there because I would have felt drained trying to keep up with several conversations happening at once.

Movies and TV shows always over glamorise wedding dress shopping – glasses of champagne, every dress looking beautiful on the bride to be and fitting perfectly and everyone crying. That really isn’t the case. At least it wasn’t for me.

I had a particular designer in mind as they specialised in tea length wedding dress which was what I wanted so that limited the suppliers to a whopping two shops – one in central London and one in Bexley, a three-hour round journey from my home. The first shop, the one in London was a Goth shop with the wedding ‘boutique’ downstairs. We didn’t get a particularly friendly welcome when we arrived and were quickly ushered downstairs to an inexperienced shop girl who flung all manner of dresses at me despite me clearly stating I only wanted to see dresses by one designer.

The dressing room experience was frightening; there I was half naked standing in front of a full-length mirror with unflattering lighting and a shop girl trying to shove me into a too big or too small dress. There wasn’t blood but there was definitely sweat and tears. There were issues with communication, mainly because the shop assistant kept talking to my back or I was trying to lip-read through a mirror which NEVER works. I think I felt intimidated by it all and came out of there definitely feeling deflated.

I also found it difficult attending wedding fairs, seeing venues and generally trying to communicate with vendors, but having my partner there with me meant that I didn’t have to struggle on my own. Weddings are generally seen as a bride’s event but our experience definitely made the wedding ours instead of mine, in fact there were times when the groom was fussier than the bride!

At the time of planning our wedding I was going through the Cochlear Implant process for the first time which meant a lot of hospital appointments, stress and assessments; not knowing what the outcome would be. I spent a lot of the time wondering whether I would be able to hear my husband say his wedding vows to me, and wondering what would happen if I couldn’t.

As many of you know, I was initially refused for a Cochlear Implant in September 2014. This broke my heart, along with my families. Not only was I sad about living without my hearing on a day to day basis, which I was already struggling with, but I was also incredibly worried that on what is supposed to be the most special day of my life, I wouldn’t feel a part of it and would forever remember not being able to hear the song I walked down the aisle to, my husband say his vows, my dad’s father of the bride speech or our first dance song.

Thankfully, the second implant centre accepted me onto the programme and, in fact, it worked out for the best as their waiting list was much shorter than the first hospital so I had the implant and was activated three months before the first hospital even had availability for surgery. This meant I had 7 months before my wedding to get used to the implant and receive speech and language therapy.

Having gone through my hearing loss journey when I did meant that our wedding day was that extra bit special because our family and friends had been there every step of the way, for us both and knew the struggles we had faced together to get to that point. We had a wonderful day, filled with love, laughter and lots of wine (well, we did get married at a vineyard!).

I just wanted to share my experience with you all to say, it’s okay. It’s okay not to be really excited during the lead up, it’s okay to communicate on your terms with vendors in a way that suits you best, it’s okay to hand over responsibility to your bridesmaids/groom/mother etc. It will all be worth it on the day – YOUR day.

Here’s a few snaps of our special day from the wonderful Hayley Rose Photography

 

 

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