How Deaf Weddings are Different

It was an absolutely stunning day for a wedding on Saturday. The colorful mums were in full bloom and the sun began a slow descent when Ron and Meredith exchanged their vows in American Sign Language. About half of the guests were deaf or hard of hearing. There were supposed to be two interpreters there, one for the audience and one for the couple, but one interpreter did not show. It was difficult to view the interpreter from where I was sitting but I caught as much as I could. Standing on either side of the couple was the groom’s two young sons with the cutest smiles on their faces.

I especially enjoy deaf/hard of hearing weddings because at those weddings, communication is often a breeze at the dinner table and on the dance floor. When the hubby and I are seated at a wedding where all the guests at my table are hearing, we are often left out of conversations that simply flow too fast for us to follow. Sometimes we’ll gamely attempt to join in the conversation and let everyone know what they need to do to include us. The conversation will slow, we’ll toss in some banter, but it usually ends up going back to the same fast pace at some point. Then we end up talking to each other.

Deaf/hard of hearing weddings are a whole different ball game. Conversations zip back and forth visually while the bread gets passed around. Shoulders are tapped, arms are waved and the energy in the air takes on a different vibe. I catch the eye of a friend two tables down and we catch up on news while we wait for the salad to arrive.

It’s not long before the first napkin pops up in the air. Then another joins, and another– until the air in the whole room is pulsating with the napkins that are being whipped around and around. The usual tradition for a bride and groom to kiss is the sound of a spoon tapping against a water glass. That tradition doesn’t serve well at deaf and hard of hearing weddings where the couple may not hear the tinking sound. Instead, it is a tradition to whip the napkins around in the air to signal the couple that it is time for a kiss.

On the way home from the wedding, the hubby and I reflected on the evening. “I always like going to deaf weddings,” he commented. “We can just kick back and not have to struggle to understand everyone, ya know?”

Yes, I know.

17 replies
  1. Karen Swim
    Karen Swim says:

    Congratulations to the happy couple! Wow, Karen, you do such a wonderful job of allowing us to see the world from your perspective. Your description of the wedding had me signing with pleasure as I pictured this couple’s special day. We can all relate to being in situations where we don’t communicate the same way but for many of us it is a matter of style, or accents and not hearing vs deaf or hard of hearing. It really illuminates the difficulties in a new way and how we all like to fall back to our natural communication patterns.

  2. Rox
    Rox says:

    A couple of other Deaf wedding tidbits…
    -Many Deaf couples will face the audience, with the priest/minister/officiant’s back to the audience. It seems awkward, but if he isn’t signing, why does he need to face the audience?
    -Signing officiant with voicing interpreters. I’ve only seen this at one wedding, but it’s nice to see it done this way.
    -No wedding music. Seems awkward for the hearing people, but it’s even more awkward for deaf people to try to walk to a tune they can’t even hear!

  3. Sam
    Sam says:

    that does sound quite lovely – it has been a while since I was at a wedding, but I know exactly what you mean. I was at my cousin’s wedding in Adelaide last year and was the only deaf person there and yes I did feel a bit left out and not comfortable talking with veritable strangers! hey ho – I had a good time in Australia anyway!

  4. Coretta
    Coretta says:

    I saw a link to this article over at Spirited Moms Blog. I’m a wedding and events planner and this is a perspective that I may have missed in the past. Your post and the comments are very helpful and really give great insight for me to think about. Thank you.

  5. Rachel Powers
    Rachel Powers says:

    I really would like to share your website with the Deaf students I work with–especially about jobs and real life after h.s.
    Thanks so much for putting this blog together. I’m deafinatly wanting to visit again.

  6. Karen Putz
    Karen Putz says:

    Sam, one of these days, I want to go to Australia! It can be tough at times to be the only deaf/hard of hearing person at a wedding– I experienced that a few years ago when I stood up for a close friend who has a deaf daughter so technically, there were two of us and not just me and we both missed out on a quite a bit but still had fun.

  7. Larry@ Detroit Limo
    Larry@ Detroit Limo says:

    I think this post is very exciting because its so interesting to learn what it is like at a deaf wedding and I think that more people should try to understand what it is like to not have the luxurys of life that some of us are blessed with and not to take it for granted.

    Thanks for sharing.


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