With technology advancing, cultures crossing, and social myths being debunked, the wedding landscape has never been so dynamic or diverse – or evolved so rapidly.
But what does that mean for wedding planning?
Wedding Planning Is About the “Wow” Moment
Back in the day, traditional weddings were pretty straightforward. There is plenty of food, flower decorations, and cheer for all. But, for the new generation of brides and grooms, it’s about standing out and wowing everyone with an unexpected feature, be it hot air balloon rides or music shows.
The Brides and Grooms of Today
It would seem couples take their time in deciding to tie the knot. Research shows the average marriage age for both men and women continues to climb. It is 34 for the gentlemen and 30 for the ladies, as opposed to 31 and 28 a decade ago.
The Guest Experience Is No Longer the Same
Today, there are fewer guests at wedding receptions, but the cost per guest has gone up. It’s because of various factors like higher premium vendors, “wow” effects, and inflation. There’s also the shift in making weddings an entire weekend or two-day experience, as opposed to a one-day celebration.
Wedding Styles Have Changed
The reigning attire style has always been predominantly semi-formal, and that hasn’t changed. However, fast fashion and fashion, in general, allow people to find decent retail options and focus more on the accessories. It’s normal to see a groom in a well-fitted suit and stylish sneakers.
A New Wedding Season
The summer of 2010 set many new trends, one of which made fall weddings popular again. Almost a third of all weddings now take place in the days between September and November. The reason behind this transition is because outdoor weddings have also enjoyed increased popularity, and mid-fall provides the perfect period for a wedding out in the open.
Elizabeth Shoesmith decided to do something extra special for her groom as she walked down the aisle, and his reaction turned their wedding video into a viral hit.
Boy Meets Girl
Elizabeth, 41, and Scott, 38, were both looking for love. Elizabeth already had two children; Scott had been a bachelor for many years. After both tried and failed at several relationships, they knew they were ready to find “The One.” Little did they know, their dreams would soon be fulfilled…
The two were both using the dating app Tinder, and when each saw the photo of the other, they both had a good feeling and swiped right. Scott was captivated by Elizabeth’s beautiful photos, and Elizabeth was attracted to Scott’s rugged yet boyish good looks. It was an exciting prospect for them both when they matched, but there was one detail about Scott that would make Elizabeth pause and consider whether she actually wanted to go out on a date with this man.
Elizabeth had become intrigued by Scott’s profile, and so she decided to do some research on him online. She searched his name on the internet, and then she saw that he was on a rugby team. Great, what could be better? He was both good looking and athletic, and Elizabeth couldn’t believe her good luck, as he was exactly her type. But then she realized that the name of the team he was playing for was the Australian Deaf Wallabies…
An Immediate Connection
At first, the prospect of going out on a date with a deaf person was intimidating for Elizabeth, as she had no idea how she would be able to communicate with him. “Throughout the day, I started to panic, I was wondering if he was profoundly deaf. But then I told myself to stop being judgemental and go on the date,” she recalls. And she definitely didn’t regret her decision, because the date went great and she and Scott had “an immediate connection.”
The chemistry between them was so great, in fact, that the pair continued dating for 18 months. Communication is key in any successful relationship, and as Elizabeth learned, being with someone who had significant hearing loss came with its own unique set of challenges. Although Scott, who had lost his hearing when he was a child, was very skilled at lip-reading, communicating while not face-to-face was a bit of an issue, as she explained, “I can’t run out of toilet paper and call out to him… I can’t pick up the phone and call him.”
60% Isn’t Enough
Elizabeth and Scott learned to navigate around the phone call problems by using texting and FaceTime. But even when they were face to face, the lip reading couldn’t catch everything – only about 60% of what Elizabeth said would get through. But she was beginning to realize that what she and Scott had was special, and she wasn’t about to give up on him so easily. As the relationship progressed, she discovered that Scott’s deafness wasn’t all challenges – it came with some benefits too.
It might seem that people who can hear speech have a communication advantage over those who are hearing impaired. But since people who can hear take this ability for granted, more often than not, they can hear without really listening. According to Elizabeth, Scott’s deafness is actually what made their communication the best she has ever had: “These are the challenges but on the flip side, our communication has heightened because when we’re communicating, we’re looking into each other’s eyes… I know I’m being heard,” she explains.
He May Not Hear, But He Does See
This aspect of their relationship was central to its success, and Scott knew it as well. He was incredibly appreciative of Elizabeth’s efforts to be with him when he knew it would have been easier for her to be with someone who could hear. After 18 months of dating, Scott popped the question and asked Elizabeth to marry him, offering her a beautiful diamond ring engraved with three words that reflected the exact thing she loved about him so much: “I see you.”
Planning A Surprise
Once they set the wedding date, Elizabeth began to think of ways that she could show just how much she loved and appreciated her fiance. Then, she had an idea. Instead of just simply walking down the aisle, she would do something special to show Scott how much he meant to her. “Even though Scott is deaf, I have never felt more heard in my life. For every joy he has brought into my life over the last two years, I wanted to surprise him with my entrance.”
Motivated To Learn
The surprise she had planned for Scott wasn’t going to be easy. In order to pull off this special surprise, she would need to learn Australian sign language, or Auslan. But she was determined to get it right, so she practiced in secret every day for the months leading up to the wedding. “I didn’t know any sign language before we met. I only knew the Auslan alphabet when I was seven years old. So I taught myself sign language by using the internet, off apps and videos,” she recalls.
Bundle Of Nerves
Finally, the big day arrived. As Elizabeth slipped into her elegant form-fitting dress and got her hair and makeup ready for the event, all she could think about was that she wanted to amaze Scott in every way possible. At the same time as being overjoyed to be marrying the love of her life, she was also really nervous about the surprise she had been working on for months. She recalls, “I really wanted to get it right, so there was this extra level of stress walking in.”
The 40 wedding guests had finally all arrived for the intimate ceremony, and at last, Elizabeth’s big moment had arrived. As she waited on the other side of the door with her son, Dominic, her stress levels were through the roof. “Before I went in, I was freaking out,” she says. “Not only did I want to get it right, but I knew he had friends there who were also deaf, so they would know exactly what I’m saying or not be able to say.”
Pause On The Aisle
Jittery with nerves but full of love, she walked through the door with Dominic and began to make her way down the aisle. Everyone turned around and admired the picture-perfect bride, and nobody had any idea that this would be much more than just a standard walk down the aisle. Arm in arm, they approached the center of the aisle, but then Dominic kept walking and Elizabeth stayed where she was. The guests and Scott were mildly confused – was there something wrong?
She Started To Sign
Scott’s moment of confusion wouldn’t last for long. He was aware that Elizabeth had limited knowledge of sign language, but he couldn’t have possibly expected what happened next. Elizabeth braced herself, and then the music changed and a special song began to play – “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri. And there, in front of all the guests and gazing straight down the aisle at her husband-to-be, Elizabeth began to flawlessly “sing” the words of the song using sign language…
How To Be Brave
“As soon as I locked eyes with Scott, I was signing to him like we were the only ones in the room,” she remembers, as she proceeded to sign the lyrics, which couldn’t have hit closer to home: “How to be brave? How can I love when I’m afraid to fall? But watching you stand alone, all of my doubt suddenly goes away somehow.” Elizabeth was taking this very special song and translating it to a language that Scott could ‘hear’ – and his reaction was priceless…
He Burst Into Tears
Elizabeth remembers, “I honestly felt like we were the only ones in the room. The moment I began signing the words to the song he burst into tears—apparently the rest of the guests did too, but because I was focused on Scott I had no idea.” Scott is seen in the video with tears rolling down his cheeks. He was so touched that Elizabeth had made all the effort to do this for him, and he must have been sure at that moment that there was no doubt he was marrying his soulmate.
One Step Closer
Elizabeth incorporated the lyrics into her walk down the aisle – each time the line “One step closer” was sung, she took one step down the aisle and continued to sign the emotional lyrics flawlessly. “I have died every day waiting for you / Darling don’t be afraid I have loved you / For a thousand years / I’ll love you for a thousand more…” Elizabeth even included her own personal touch in the song – every time the song said “darling,” Elizabeth signed “Scott.”
Not A Dry Eye In The Room
As soon as the song was over, there wasn’t a dry eye left in the room. The only one who stayed composed was Elizabeth, who explains that even if she had wanted to cry, she had no choice. “I’m not a happy crier. If I broke down too, we would have been a bundle of mess.” Once the song was over, she continued the rest of the way down the aisle to the tear-stained Scott, who was overwhelmed with emotion, and gave him a kiss “to reassure him everything was okay.”
An Unforgettable Memory
The ceremony continued and the two said their vows, and one can be sure that after that performance, they meant them with all their hearts. Nobody would ever forget that moment – neither the audience nor the couple – and soon the video footage would go viral, with Scott crying his eyes out and Elizabeth lovingly signing the lyrics to a love song to her deaf husband. The gesture made him feel included in a personal way, and showed him how much Elizabeth loves and accepts him as he is…
The Video Gave Hope
Elizabeth’s tribute didn’t only have an impact on Scott and her guests. The viral video of her walk down the aisle, which has amassed over 300 million views to date, had Elizabeth receiving messages from people all over the world telling her just how much the video impacted them. “My favorites have been from parents of children with disabilities, saying I have given them hope that one day they will find love,” Elizabeth says. “They are even sending me photos of their beautiful children.”
A New Perspective
Elizabeth always believed that all humans deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. But her experiences with falling in love with a deaf person, as well as the overwhelming response she got from people from all over the world who were inspired by her video, really gave her a new perspective on people who have unique needs or differences. “When you are dating someone with what is perceived as a disability, you end up experiencing that disability, too,” she explains. She’s taken her knowledge to the world…
The Inclusive Foundation
At a conference, Scott communicated his feelings of isolation – all the other attendees sat together at discussion tables, while Scott sat alone with his interpreter, unable to participate. This inspired Elizabeth to start the Inclusive Foundation, which works with organizations to help them improve their inclusivity of people with different needs. Her staff is made up of people from underrepresented groups, from cerebral palsy to immigrants, whose experiences play a vital role in the work that they do.
Love Can Change The World
Elizabeth left her lucrative career as a management consultant in order to start the foundation, with hopes of launching a movement that takes diversity and inclusion to a new level. She says of people with perceived ‘special needs,’ “We need to recognize that we each have specific needs. They are not special. They are just needs.” Elizabeth and Scott’s inspiring love story and touching tribute gave Elizabeth a new life purpose – one which will end up helping many people for years to come.