Petite Weddings supports diversity and inclusion at every level and in every way, so it was super-exciting to hear from Peter, owner of our venue partner Little Silver in Devon when he suggested a blog on neurodiversity. Little Silver works with celebrant Sue of Sue By Your Side and together they have the expertise and facilities to help couples with neurodiversity needs to consider make their wedding day really special and tailored to individual requirement. We caught up with Peter and Sue to find out more.
Q: Could you please start by explaining a bit about what Neurodiversity is?
A: The word “neurodiversity” describes the idea that there are many ways for a human to think, learn, and behave and that these neurological differences are recognised and respected just like any other human variation. It describes the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in many different ways; there is no one “right” way of thinking, learning, and behaving, and differences should be embraced and treated as typical.
The word neurodiversity refers to the diversity of all people, but it is often used in the context of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as well as other neurological or developmental conditions such as ADHD, PTSD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, and Tourette’s.
The word “neurotypical” is an informal term used to describe a person who thinks, perceives, and behaves in ways that are considered the norm by the general population. However, neurotypical does not mean “normal.” It simply means that the behaviours fall within expected boundaries, which can differ from one culture to another. (Direct eye contact, for example, is considered rude in some cultures and expected in others.)
The term "neurodivergent" is used to describe someone who isn't neurotypical, meaning that their brain works in a way that is not expected. It is commonly used when the behaviour or response diverges from what is expected socially, physically, or verbally.
According to a 2020 research article published in the British Medical Bulletin, between 15% and 20% of all the people living in the world are thought to have a neuro-difference. No two people will be affected in the same way. Many famous people have neuro-differences, including Lewis Capaldi, who has been raising awareness about his experience with Tourette's.
Q: Why can this be a concern for anyone arranging a ceremony of some kind?
A: We are all individuals and if you or one of your guests are part of the neurodivergent community, planning for any special occasion can be difficult and will often need extra considerations and thought.
For those that want to celebrate something, whether a joining together of two people, a renewal of vows, or to celebrate someone’s life in passing: for those with neurodiversity these occasions can lead to overwhelming feelings, sensory overload and increased anxiety.
For example, a person with ASD may experience either a very muted or heightened sense of the world - everything may be louder, brighter, and more intense than it is for most people. Sensitivity to lights or sounds or smells can be very overwhelming and make getting through a particular day like a wedding, very challenging. Couples and their families need help to find the best ways to have a beautiful ceremony which meets their sensory needs and reduce their anxiety, meaning everyone enjoys the event and has special memories to cherish.
Q: Can you explain why a celebrant has more flexibility to accommodate the neurodiverse than a registrar?
A: Registrars are professional, kind and considerate but they are constrained by law over what they can and cannot do or say.
Celebrants have much greater flexibility and can create a personal ceremony that very much more suits the needs of any group, from specific exclusions for, for example: considering the visual impact of the ceremony space and content; thoughtful ideas and solutions to the audio impact of the ceremony; the structure of the ceremony content and involvement of people, nothing is off the table, and there is always a way.
A celebrant will work closely with any couple, including those with neurodiverse considerations to identify their ideal celebration, as well as identifying any potential barriers and how these can be worked around. These will be carefully thought about, worked through and overcome, leading to the most wonderful celebration for everyone.
Couples have the reassurance of getting to know their celebrant and Peter and Lisa, the owners of Little Silver very well before their wedding, which helps provide a calm and comfortable day. If meeting with a guest or showing them around Little Silver where the ceremony will be held is deemed useful then of course this is possible. They will meet as many times as in necessary and be open and honest to ensure the ceremony is exactly what the couple desire.
Q: So, what is a celebrant and how are they trained and regulated? What is your personal history Sue?
A: A celebrant can officiate at any ceremony you require, ceremonies of love, life and loss, from a wedding to a funeral ceremony celebrating the life of those that have died, to a naming ceremony to wedding vow renewals. However, at this moment in time (although this hopefully will be changing in the near future), couples have to register their marriage at a registry office service to make it a legal marriage. Either before of after completing the legal paper work at a statutory meeting at their local registry office they then can enjoy the wedding of their dreams with a celebrant leading the ceremony.
I have been privileged to work in inclusive, mainstream schools for 35 years as a teacher and for the last 15 years as a headteacher. This has given me many wonderful experiences of supporting children and families with a wide variety of differences and needs. I am passionate about inclusivity, equality and equity and I always say we are all wonderfully different and amazingly the same. If you are planning a ceremony, I can help support and guide you with suggestions and ideas to make your ceremony as inclusive as possible.
Q: What sort of things do you need to consider to create a suitable ceremony, Sue?
A: I always meet my couples several times before their wedding day so we know each other well, have talked through their ceremony in detail and have explored their love story. We will have talked through all the different options a ceremony can offer, crafting and creating a personalised ceremony. With the venue, we will pay a huge attention to detail of the ceremony and day. A venue and the celebrant need to work together to give the couple permission to do whatever they need to do to make it work for them. At Little Silver this is a priority too.
We can plan a wedding rehearsal if it helps allay any concerns and worries so everyone knows the plan and timings of the ceremony.
The couple will see their entirely personalised ceremony script in the weeks leading up to the wedding, to ensure the script is exactly as they wish it to be. There will be no surprises unless of course, the couple wishes to add them!
Little Silver offers the perfect venue for all types of smaller ceremonies with a choice of indoor and outdoor ceremony locations. Owners Peter and Lisa are supportive and helpful in making any needed adjustments to accommodation special circumstances or wishes. There can be a lot of stimuli at a wedding ceremony which need to be considered, eg maintaining a comfortable wedding ceremony temperature, use of lighting and audio to allow those with neurodivergent considerations to feel as comfortable as possible by reducing the stress these changes might otherwise induce.
Q: Sue can you give examples of how you’ve created ceremonies to suit the neurodiverse?
A: My role as a celebrant, alongside the venue, is to help create a ceremony that suits the couple’s needs. This can happen in a number of ways, by for example:
· providing a calm, quiet, people-free space before and after the ceremony to help the couple decompress. The celebrant can include this in their ‘housekeeping announcements’ or in the directions to guests after the ceremony, to make sure the couple get the time they need.
· encouraging the use of personal sensory-regulation items such as headphones or tinted glasses for those who experience the world more intensely than others, or use fidget toys to reduce anxiety
· minimising sensory distractions in the environment such as bright lights, food smells, background noise
For example, I stayed on at the wedding breakfast to read groom’s speech as had Tourette’s and too overwhelmed to speak in public; the whole wedding party walked down the aisle together so no one was in direct spotlight; we used blackout tents for two grandchildren with ASD providing them with a secure safe place so they could be part of the ceremony; no overhead bright lights used – only fairy lights; one couple loved dancing but couldn’t cope with loud noises so had a silent disco; one bride held a sensory toy in her pocket and interacted with it during the ceremony to help her stay focused; bride carried dried flowers as the scent of fresh flowers was too overpowering…the point is, nothing is off-limits and my role is to explore the potential issues with each couple and support them in creating simple solutions that help them enjoy a fabulous wedding day, their way.
Q: Peter, why is Little Silver so suitable for neurodivergent-friendly weddings?
A: For two reasons. Firstly, Little Silver is a perfect, beautiful, flexible wedding venue to meet all couples needs but especially those who may have neurodiverse needs. The location is stunning, being so open with calming views across the countryside. We offer a choice of outdoor ceremony, and even indoors it is spacious, beautifully decorated but not too big.
Secondly, owners, we are passionate about providing a glorious wedding for their couples through providing support ahead of their wedding and on the day, f and pride ourselves in being flexible and accommodating to the needs of the neurodiverse community. You can rely on us to focus on all the necessary details, adjustments and planning to ensure needs are met.
Uncertainty can be anxiety-inducing because routines and sameness provide security when the world can be unpredictable and scary. Planning closely with the venue and celebrant is a real advantage. The couple will know exactly what the day and the ceremony will be like, precisely when and where everything will be happening, what food they are going to eat, and so many other things in precise detail because they will have meticulously planned them beforehand. The day can be as simple and stripped back or extravagant and intricate as they wish. With a flexible venue and a celebrant led ceremony, there is no such thing as a standard wedding - all of the ‘stuff’ that a couple might feel they are ‘supposed’ to do, doesn’t matter. It’s their day, their way
Q: And finally, is there anything else that would you like people to be aware of?
A: Those with a neurodiversity, or who have loved ones with a neurodiversity, may fear any ceremony. You have permission to do whatever’s necessary to reduce that fear and be fully supported in making a beautiful ceremony work for you.
To explore your bespoke small wedding at Little Silver in more detail take a look here or contact Peter and Lisa:
T: 01769 615040
To find out more about working with Sue of Sue By You Side you can see more here or contact her:
T: 07837 988120
If you’d like to hear more from Little Silver and Sue by Your Side, they have put together this helpful and informative video designed to help those considering a ceremony that can accommodate neurodivergent needs.
First two images:
Flowers Sandy Blossoms & Butterflies https://blossomsandbutterflies.co.uk/
Chairs Do me a favour event hire @domeafavouruk www.domeafavouruk.co.uk
Cake Jax’s Cakes’n’Bakes https://jaxscakesnbakes.com/ Styling Lisa, Little Silver
Photographer @freeformimages www.freeformimages.co.uk Celebrant @hestiaandIrisCeremonies https://hestiaandirisceremonies.co.uk Dress @bridalrelovedbarnstaple https://bridalreloved.co.uk Suits @mensdevonbridal https://devonbridal.co.uk Hair @adoreweddinghair Makeup @ewairacka.mua Stationery Laura Likes www.lauralikes.co.uk Confetti @candlesandpearlsweddingshop Catering @chefduetcatering www.chefduet.co.uk Cake @peboryon www.peboryon.com Drinks trolley and cocktails @gatehousetrailerbar Styling, props and garden games @chefdueteventhire www.chefdueteventhire.co.uk and @domeafavouruk www.domeafavouruk.co.uk Rings @moltenweddingring www.moltenweddingringcompany.com Accessories @heyjulesbridal www.heyjules.co.uk
Models Paul, Helen, Jasper and Zachary!