Ask a Psychologist: Autism and Wedding Planning


Planning a wedding, as an autistic person

by Shara M. Brofman, Psy.D.

Q: Dear APW,

I’m getting married in just under a year. Planning has been going fantastically so far, but there are some tricky things that I am trying to work out, because I am autistic. I was only recently diagnosed, and the past year has been a year of answers and explanations, and finding out reasons why my brain works this way. Finding out why things that have always been so painful are that way. I’ve been finding ways to work around solutions, and realizing that my differences are okay.

But a lot of the challenges I have are things that complicate wedding planning. I don’t do well in loud crowded places. I get overloaded quickly. Sometimes I can’t talk. I express my emotions in nontypical ways. (I flap my hands when I am happy. I rock when I am stressed.) I have difficulty with loud noises. I generally don’t make eye contact. I have a small pool of people who I enjoy making physical contact with. I don’t do well with change. I don’t do well with new things. And googling “autistic wedding planning,” because google is the first place to find resources, only tells you how to handle taking your children with autism to a wedding, not how to plan a wedding if you are autistic.

The challenge here is to plan an autistic-friendly, big, Catholic wedding. At the end of the day, I want to be married. I want to enjoy my wedding without being overwhelmed by the people, the noise, the change. This would be easier if I could have a very small wedding, but I also have a large family who I love very much and want all to be there. Of course, he also has a large family that he cares about a lot. I want to spend my wedding day with my giant family and a few close friends. That is the most important part to me. There’s so few occasions where everyone can get together, that I want everyone.

The people are the most important part, but the people are probably also going to be the most difficult aspect. The few things that we’ve planned have taken this into consideration. When picking a venue, we made sure it was one that had small quiet rooms, for hiding. I picked it in a residential neighborhood, because that way there is a sound limit, to help keep it quiet.

Weddings are changes and transitions. They are out of my ordinary, day-to-day routine. Those are things that make me panic. I have never been married—and have only been to a few weddings, because we are the first few of our friends to get married, so it is something new for me. It’s a Catholic wedding, so at least the ceremony part should be very structured. Catholic Mass with specific guidelines and structures. That structure has been there since before I was born and will be there after. I find the tradition and structure reassuring. I’ll be getting married the same way my parents were and his parents were and their parents were, so it isn’t really something new.

There’s definitely a lot of things we haven’t worked out yet. We started this planning early and we will have time to address these issues as they come up, but there’s a lot of ways things can go wrong. I can’t plan for everything, but what can I do to minimize any problems that show up?

Anon

A: Dear Anon,

In planning a wedding, we all learn a lot about our strengths, as well as our areas of vulnerability. You have significant strengths. First, you have terrific self-awareness, including a strong sense of your own needs and how to anticipate what they’ll be in the future. A lot of couples put their own needs on the back burner during wedding planning, and it’s great that you’ve already realized that that won’t work. There are aspects of the wedding about which you’re concerned, which makes total sense, given your experience and fairly recent diagnosis. You’re already thinking preventatively of solutions to possible problems, and you have an awesome partner who is doing the same.

People with Autism Spectrum Disorder experience symptoms on a very wide continuum, but most people experience differences in social interaction and communication, as well as sensitivity to environmental and sensory stimuli, including sound, light, and certain tastes, smells, or textures, and changes in routine. Some people with autism also experience repetitive or restricted behaviors or interests, or cognitive, language, or learning differences. An important thing to remember about autism is that it is a spectrum disorder, meaning that people experience autism in different ways. So, it’s key for people with autism and their families to understand individual strengths and differences, and to work with skilled therapists to improve coping skills and communication.

Even if you were only recently diagnosed with autism and are now seeing things within this framework, you’ve known yourself for a long time. Your family and friends also know you and will support you, and they may already have a sense of what you need during your wedding. You’ve already anticipated a lot of these things in choosing your venue and having people help out. This is a great start.

I will advocate here the importance of designating a friend or family member as a Wedding Stage Manager, as outlined by Meg in her book (more details in this post), and possibly also having a professional Day-Of Coordinator there to run things. Choose someone who Gets You (and Gets It) to orchestrate things to go the way you’d like them to go. This person could be a venue staff member or another wedding industry professional. You might even consider hiring, or consulting with, an occupational therapist (OT). OTs troubleshoot around sensory, physical, or cognitive differences, and their work often involves adapting environments to accommodate special sensory needs. A Stage Manager or Day-Of Coordinator’s job is to keep your needs in mind and Makes Things Happen (e.g., coordinating the timing of parts the day with vendors or the caterer, whisking you away if you need it, making sure that you’re eating and drinking, etc.) according to what’s important to you.

In August, I responded to a bride-to-be’s question about how to manage her sibling’s substance abuse problem on her wedding day. I talked about creating a Safety Plan with some ideas for how to proceed if certain scenarios play out. Similarly, you, your fiancé, friends, and family can set formal parameters in advance to plan for potentially challenging situations on the wedding day. You can examine possible scenarios ahead of time, and create different narratives for how things might proceed in ways that make you comfortable, keeping in mind who/what often helps to ground you. Brainstorm ideas, write them out on paper, come up with different solutions, and see how they feel. If they’re not quite right, you can re-work them. This process should help you to gain a sense of agency over things like potential logistical challenges, changes in routine, or environmental or interpersonal situations that you’d otherwise predict to cause stress. I’d also recommend working with a supportive psychotherapist or counselor during this time, to build on your strengths, plan ahead, and reduce anxiety.

Naturally weaving in opportunities for alone time, quiet, and less stimulation throughout the wedding day will be important. Discussing with your venue things like timing (i.e., to reduce the possibility of an unexpected change in routine), lighting, seating, noise level, music/no music, and dancing/no dancing, should help to ease the flow of the day and organize guests’ activities. Your wedding may involve a lot of people, but it does not need to be overwhelming. In the Jewish tradition, the period of yichud allows the newlyweds to steal away immediately after the ceremony for some time alone in a private room. (Also recommended during this time: drinking water and eating something!) In fact, this intimate period is considered so important and sacred, that the couple traditionally chooses two people to guard the door of the room to ensure that no one interrupts the couple’s privacy. Although you’re having a Catholic wedding, you could consider implementing something similar after the ceremony, or as often as needed throughout the celebration. Just like the Jewish tradition provides guards for the couple’s privacy, you need to find people to similarly guard your space and mental well-being as needed.

Importantly, I’d like to point out that discomfort with big parties, noise, and change of routine is not uncommon for many couples. There are a lot of things about weddings that people don’t like and that cause undue stress. As you mentioned, your journey has been about realizing that, indeed, your differences are okay. APW has a fabulous toolkit to help people create the wedding they want, however many traditional or alternative aspects they’d like to include. For you, the tradition, significance, and structure of the Catholic wedding ceremony, and the presence of family and friends, will provide meaning and guidance throughout the day. So, try to keep those aspects in mind throughout the planning and celebration itself, and try not to get too swept away by what a wedding “should” be. Your family and friends will be so thrilled to celebrate you and your fiancé in whatever way you choose—remember that. Use what’s important to you to inform decisions about the structure and environment of the day. If tradition is helpful, include it; if it’s not, don’t. Make sure to enlist a Wedding Stage Manager and other people to lend a hand. Keep your needs in mind. They, and you, are important. And have an incredible, meaningful wedding.

More information on support and resources for people with autism can be found at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

The information provided in Ask a Psychologist is intended by Dr. Brofman and APW to serve as general advice and guidance for all readers. The advice herein does not constitute a clinical recommendation or relationship, and Dr. Brofman and quoted mental health professionals do not take clinical responsibility for this information. Ask a Psychologist does not take the place of a confidential clinical consultation with a trained mental health professional. 

Shara M. Brofman, Psy.D.

Shara Marrero Brofman, Psy.D., is a psychologist who values all things practical. She studied Child Development at Tufts University and worked in case management and clinical research before earning her master’s and doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology from Rutgers University. Dr. Brofman practices in New York City and has special interests in women’s and reproductive mental health. She can be contacted at drsharabrofman at gmail dot com. Photo by Smitten Chickens.

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  • CH

    Every Catholic wedding I’ve ever attended has been in the early afternoon, and then everyone meets 3-4 hours later for dinner/dancing. I hope the letter writer can have a similar break in her wedding day to relax and regroup.

    • sleepwakehopeandthen

      I really should get on this. Our wedding ceremony is at 2pm and there really is no reason we need to start the reception right away. It’s right by the beach in Southern California in a beautiful area. I bet it wouldn’t be too hard at all for people to amuse themselves in the time between. Fiancé is worried about having a gap because of all his out of town relatives, but really there are so many beautiful things to do (for free!) by the reception that maybe this is something I really should try and work on.

      • Ella

        I think it’s actually better for out-of-town relatives with the gap…my friend had a Catholic wedding at 2pm, and reception was at 6. We drove up that morning and got to chill/relax/take showers between the ceremony and reception. It was actually a really nice recharge, and I was kind of unsure how it would go. I would definitely recommend the break!

      • CH

        I personally love the gap, especially as an out-of-towner…it gives me time to relax, take a nap, eat a little something, or start pregaming. :)

        • Guest

          “pregaming” <3

  • Another Meg

    One of the nice things about getting married in a Catholic church is that there will be a coordinator who is at the rehearsal and there on the day of the ceremony to help make sure things go smoothly. And since this person is a member of your church, you might already know them.
    The resources on this site are incredibly helpful for any bride, and I hope they help you plan a wedding that is both joyous and comfortable for you. Congratulations!

    • Aine

      That sounds excellent, but I got married in a Catholic church and didn’t hear of this at all, so it probably depends on your parish.

      • Another Meg

        Well dang. I guess so.

  • Natalie

    My husband has Asperger’s, and it sounds like many of the things that stress him out in social situations also stress you out. We also had a large wedding (140 guests), so we planned the wedding day to give him and us time away from the crowd. We each got ready with a small group of our closest friends/wedding party members. Following the ceremony and the post-ceremony photos, we hid out in a small room, just taking in the fact that we were married. During dinner, we went outside with just our photographer for sunset photos. We love our photographer’s personality, so that time was a fun break from the stress. He took his dinner plate outside and ate with his best friend while I ate with all our other guests inside. And during the giant dance party that I desperately wanted at our wedding, he occasionally sneaked outside with a friend or two for a breather from the crowd. He said afterwards that the wedding was more fun and less stressful than he expected. I highly recommend planning your day in great detail, and structuring in time to yourself throughout the day. It’s ok to sneak away in the middle of your reception to give yourself a break.

    I don’t know if you have much sensory sensitivity besides noise, but my husband is very sensitive to light quality, smells, and clothing. So we planned to make those things as comfortable as possible to him, so they did not increase his stress level. We tested the lighting in our venue, and then decided we had to rent cafe lights to make the lighting bearable for him. He was very picky with his clothing and shoes purchases, so they didn’t add discomfort to the day. Since you’re sensitive to noise, maybe you don’t want a dance party? I’ve been to wedding receptions without dancing, and they’ve been lovely and fun. I’ve seen people hire a small band or string quartet to play quietly in the background throughout the reception instead of having dancing.

    Since change and new situations cause so much stress, maybe you could spend some time at your venue regularly between now and the wedding, so that it’s not a foreign place to you. If you don’t already know your FH’s family well, spending time with them before the wedding might help – they won’t be unknowns when the wedding rolls around.

    • sleepwakehopeandthen

      Yeah, my fiancé really wants a dance party… Although I’m not super sure why, but i think we’ve compromised with a small part that people CAN dance in, but not with super loud music ( because I intentionally picked a venue in a residential area with strict noise levels) and then people who want to dance can dance, but people who don’t want to can wander into the other areas and do talking things or whatever. Luckily our reception venue does have lots of separate areas(it’s in a house with lots of walled gardens), so I think that this will be feasible to plan, but it will definitely take some planning and smart use of space.

      • Natalie

        Sounds like that’s a good plan.

  • What a great letter! I agree w/ Dr. Brofman, it sounds like you’re very self-aware which is a definite strength.
    I don’t have personal experience with autism, but after my wedding there were a couple of things that I wish I had done differently to make it less stressful for myself.
    – Timing: I was very clear and detailed about the timeline for the reception and shared that timeline with lots of people (both sets of parents, bridal party, etc), partly because we didn’t really have a wedding planner or a DJ to make things happen at the reception. HOWEVER, I wish I would have given more general time ranges rather than specific times (for example: toasts about an hour after dinner starts, rather than dinner at 5:30 and toasts at 6:30). Some things got rushed because we were trying to stick to “the schedule,” when the schedule itself didn’t really matter (we had lots of time at the reception site). If you think it will make you uncomfortable to know that you were supposed to start dinner at 5, but it’s 5:03 and not everyone is seated, perhaps try to make a flexible timeline of the evening for yourself so that small changes don’t throw you off.
    – I was nervous about trying to greet all 200 guests at my reception, and unsurprisingly, we didn’t get to everyone during our planned “visit all the tables after dinner” time. I wish I would have talked to my parents about their role as hosts as well. I think I would’ve felt better about “missing” guests if I would’ve known that at least my parents talked to them. (Actually, I haven’t really asked my parents how the cocktail hour went — maybe they were greeting everyone, but we didn’t discuss it in advance so I’m not sure.) If you think you’ll be overwhelmed by the number of people, maybe your parents (and your partner’s parents) could form a “receiving line” and thank people for coming on your behalf.

  • A.

    Dear Anon, congratulations on your upcoming wedding! I think Dr. Brofman gave you some really good advice, and I hope you’ll be able to work with family and friends to plan and enjoy a wonderful day. I don’t have any experience with autism and wedding planning, but I was also married in a Catholic ceremony, and I also found the structure very helpful. However, don’t forget that even within this structure you can “tweak” things to make it more comfortable and/or meaningful for you. You mention loud noises are stressful for you, so you might request piano or violin music at your wedding, instead of an organ. The responsorial psalm can also be spoken rather than sung if you wish, and your music can be mostly instrumental if you would find being surrounded by singing friends and family members to be overwhelming. (You may already know all of these things, but since a lot of Catholic churches have certain things that they “always do” for weddings, please remember that you CAN change things so that they are less stressful for you.) Finally, in addition to Dr. Brofman’s suggestion to spend some time alone after the ceremony (which is great advice!), another option for increasing your quiet time on that very busy day is to travel to or from the ceremony or reception only with your partner. We traveled to our reception separately from our families and our wedding party and it was a lovely way to spend some time alone together before the big party started. Congratulations again and best wishes for your planning!

    • kcaudad

      You could also consider minimizing your wedding party (bridesmaids and groomsman and ushers) to only a few people. I found that to be very helpful in limiting the stress and craziness leading up to the wedding and on the actual wedding day. You could also consider not having a lot of people around during your ‘getting ready’ time. I told my photographer not to worry about taking pictures of the bride and wedding party getting ready. That way, I was able to spend that time with just a few close friends and family members, and not stress about having pictures of me ugly-crying or in my undies. I also did a ‘first look’, which was helpful to eliminate my stress from havnig the build-up to seeing my husband for the first time at the alter. I would echo what the above commenter said: nothing is ‘set in stone’ about weddings. You can make it your own and only do things that are important to you. If you find something stressful or see it as a potential problem for you, then just don’t do it! Most people won’t notice or wont care! (for example, do you find the bouquet toss as intimidating to you because of having many screaming women circled around you? Then, you can just cut it out of your reception plan (tell the DJ and photographer that your’ e notplanning to do that.) Hope this is helpful to you!

      • A.

        Agree completely on your suggestions re: wedding party and first look. What I mostly wanted to point out was that even in the context of a very structured ceremony (which most Catholic weddings are) and at a venue like a Catholic church (which probably does a lot of weddings) the letter writer should feel free to make requests and choices which make her more comfortable, especially since she clearly knows what makes her uncomfortable. It can very easily look like they have made a lot of choices for you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask for or suggest alternatives.

  • Anon for this

    One thing that jumped out at me was when you said “I have a small pool of people who I enjoy making physical contact with.” I’m on the spectrum as well, and this is VERY true for me. I am not a hugger (except with my own small pool of people who I’m comfortable with), but that DOESN’T mean I don’t love/like/care for the person who’s coming at me for a hug; it just means that I am almost painfully uncomfortable with that level of physical contact with most people.

    What I experienced at my wedding is that EVERYONE wants to hug (and kiss) the bride. Not just wants to, but some people feel *entitled* to it, and get offended when I tried to decline and offer a handshake or my compromise of putting my hand on their arm or shoulder while saying goodbye. (I heard more than once “It’s GOOD LUCK to kiss the bride!” As if I were condemning them to a life of bad luck by not being comfortable with their desired level of physical contact with me.)

    I didn’t actually find a good way around this — when I offered a handshake, it was met with “It’s your WEDDING!” and swooping in for a hug (as if I was depriving myself of the full wedding experience by not hugging everyone). If I tried to explain that I wasn’t a hugger, it was met with “Well, *I* am!” and swooping in for a hug. Honestly, the only way I could deal with this was to keep refilling my wine glass. Sure, not the healthiest way to deal, but it kept me more or less relaxed enough that I didn’t run screaming every time someone swooped in for a hug.

    I understand how that sounds to people who don’t share these issues — a hug is a gesture of affection. I get that. I don’t begrudge or dismiss people’s genuine affection. Not at all. These are all people I care about, or else they wouldn’t have been invited to our wedding. But their comfort level with physical contact is very different from mine, and I think that the conventions that surround weddings (“it’s good luck to kiss the bride,” etc.) altered expectations even further.

    I wish I had advice to give you on this, but if this might be an issue for you, all I can suggest is to try to brainstorm ahead of time with your fiancé (and possibly family/friends) ways to deal with/circumvent the parade of wedding hugs.

    • sleepwakehopeandthen

      Yes. This is exactly what I am worried about. Not so much with my mom’s side of the family because they are very formal and hugs are informal. But especially with his side of the family. I don’t want to seem rude, but really… Why do people think it is ok to hug you after you say that you aren’t a hugger? There’s two people involved! And hugs involve so much physical contact. Honestly, I’d prefer that air-kissing-on-cheek think because then you don’t actually have to touch the other person.

      • Anon for this

        (I’m the same anon as above, just so you know.) It’s a LOT easier for me in a more casual setting to reply to “Well, *I’m* a hugger!” with “Well, that’s too bad.” It probably comes off as rude, but I think it’s ALSO rude to reply to someone stating their boundaries by immediately lunging at you to trample all over those boundaries. I’ve even (with only one person) stuck one arm straight out at chest height to keep a person from lunging at me. (Not at the wedding.) The hugger was annoyed, but, you know, so was I. My physical boundary might not be the norm for any given social group, but it’s still my physical boundary.

        For the wedding, can you talk with your fiancé about the best way to convey to his family that you’re happy to see them and honored they’re celebrating with you, but you’d rather not hug? Is there any physical gesture that might work as a compromise? What I try to do sometimes, while saying goodbye (since that’s when people like to hug), is put a hand on the other person’s arm or shoulder. It’s less contact than a hug (and kind of lets you use that arm as a barrier if need be), but seems to be enough contact to satisfy many people.

      • Lawyerette510

        This may involve sharing more than you’re comfortable with, but I remember reading on off beat bride about a woman with a condition that made high volumes of hugs etc very painful for her, who put a friendly blurb on the wedding website and notes to the guests in the programs or menus or something saying something along the line of “while the bride and the groom are equally happy you’re here bride’s situation is such that hugs hurt. so the groom will gladly give an receive all the hugs an kisses on behalf of the couple.”

        It might be over sharing, but I recall the bride said it worked well.

      • emmers

        As Lawyerette mentions below, it really depends on how much you feel like sharing, but you could have your officiant mention (perhaps toward the end of the ceremony) that the couple is so excited to celebrate with everyone, but due to medical concerns would prefer to receive high fives, fist bumps, and handshakes instead of hugs and kisses. It’s hokey, but he or she could then ask the congregation/crowd to take a moment to practice their favorite high five, fistbump, or handshake with those around them (to really drive home the point). It would actually be super cute if they did this after you’ve recessed, but before the bridal party has– I can totally see some awesome high-five/fistbump bridal party/congregation photos!

        • Natalie

          That’s a very cute idea that might solve the problem without offending anyone.

    • K.

      “If I tried to explain that I wasn’t a hugger, it was met with “Well, *I* am!””

      :( I’m so sorry, that sounds awful. I’m not on the spectrum, but I’m definitely not a touchy-feely person except with a few people as well and I’ve definitely dealt with people feeling like this is an essential dismissal of them as people who care about me. I’m probably much more willing to grin-and-bear unwanted hugs in general, but I firmly believe that no one should ever feel entitled to physical contact, even if there are cultural elements at play.

    • Claire

      As a suggestion for this- instead of a traditional receiving line in the church, we “dismissed the pews.” Basically our priest (also a Catholic wedding) asked everyone to remain in the pews, and it basically worked like backwards Communion- first row we went to first (family, bridal party) and it was practiced at the rehearsal. With my new husband on my side, and a bouquet in hand, I was restricted to quick contact and air kisses, unintentionally. We did this in the interest of speed vs. a traditional receiving line, but people linger much less with rows and rows of people behind them.

      • MTM

        We skipped all of this…we took a group picture with us at the front and all of our guests, and left the area once we walked down the aisle together to have 15-20 minutes by ourselves. Then during dinner, we went around to the tables to say hi to folks. They were much less likely to all get up to hug you when they were seated at the tables.

    • EF

      I AM SO TERRIFIED OF WEDDING HUGS

      to be honest it helps a little hearing someone else was there and lived through it. thank you for sharing.

      • Anon for this

        It wasn’t fantastic, but I got through it. Like I said, wine helps if that’s something you enjoy from time to time. And I also knew going in to it that I would probably have to hug basically everyone, and knowing ahead of time does help me to mentally prepare.

        We did have a small guest list (just under 60), and it was all family and our close friends, so it was less fraught than a bigger guest list could have been, where there might be extended family/co-workers/parents’ friends/less close friends, all of whom I have a much harder time hugging. (Not to mention how having more-close and less-close people there raises the issue of “What do you mean, you’re not a hugger??? I just SAW YOU hug [Person A.]! You can hug me! Or am I NOT GOOD ENOUGH for a hug?!?” [That’s also a for-real scenario I’ve experienced. People are dicks, man.])

    • Bethany

      I am so sorry. I definitely am a big hugger, but becoming friends with a girl who really is made uncomfortable by hugs taught me to ask “So, hug, handshake, or wave?” unless I know for damn sure that the person is a hugger. I did have a few oops moments early on in our friendship where I’d open my arms and then stop myself before hugging and sort of jump back. Thankfully my friend laughed about it, but I always apologized. I cannot imagine someone saying “I’m not a hugger” and still going in for the hug because it was what I wanted. Not after the age of like 5. I know adults who do that shit and it irritates me because it ignores a person’s right to choose their level of physical contact with others.

      I think my friend did “well, so’s a punch. Would you like a punch?” in response to “it’s good luck to kiss the bride.” She’s a bit fiesty though..

      • Emily

        “So, hug, handshake, or wave?” unless I know for damn sure that the person is a hugger.

        BRAVA! This needs to be spread widely. Good for you!

      • oftenoverseas

        Could you hold hands with your husband through parts of the night where people would be most inclined to hug you and tell him in no uncertain terms that he was not allowed to let go of your hand? (Or ask him to keep his arm around you?) It might appear that you are just a sweet couple and not that you were intentionally trying to be rude to others.

        • oftenoverseas

          whoops, I meant to say “intentionally trying to not touch others”. That was a definite foot-in-mouth, Sagittarius moment there. So sorry!

      • Can I just say this is also a WONDERFUL practice to start with children? I’m a speech-language pathologist working with littles and I get *super* uncomfortable with parents who force their kids to hug me goodbye. I really believe kids should learn to be self-advocates for bodily contact and physical boundaries ASAP (due to my own personal history) so I strictly enforce the– “Hug, bumps [knuckle bumps] or high five?” rule at the end of visits/sessions. I have kiddos that want all three, I have kiddos that are on strict “bumps” basis… whatever’s clever. Anyway. My two cents.

        Also– MAJOR props to APW for raising visibility of adults on the spectrum and to the entire community for such compassionate, sensitive responses. Major lurker– this post really touched my heart.

    • Nope.

      A friend of mine who’s not a hugger defended herself by holding a glass for most of the night (whether it was alcohol or just coke, I’m not sure). When people came up to hug her, she pretended not to be able to hug them with a glass in hand for fear of spilling on her beautiful white dress, so she did a side hug/lean towards the person combo instead. This might be a good back-up for you to practice, if the person absolutely won’t be deterred?

      You might also want to consider having something like a modified receiving line — give people an official place and time to greet you. Especially if you’ve given them a head’s up about not being a hugger, it might remind them that this is the time to high five you! This is totally a personal thing — depending on whether you think you’ll do better with sustained, concentrated greeting/excitement, versus feeling like people are coming up to you at random during the rest of the reception.

      • Anon for this

        Oh yeah, side hug! I can handle the side hug, too.

        My friends who get it and offer me a fist bump are the BEST EVER. (They, however, are people I’m comfortable hugging, largely because they get me. Funny how that works.)

      • Ooh. I can do a side hug much better!

    • Carrie

      I know someone else said this, but definitely skip the receiving line. I avoided masses of hugs at my wedding by going around to all of the tables and talking to people that way. It’s difficult to get up to hug when you’re trying to eat dinner. It also gives you an excuse to leave the reception / go sit down quietly by yourselves for a few minutes because, after all, you haven’t eaten yet. However, it would be good to gently spread the news to people that you don’t want hugs, especially to relatives that you don’t see often.

      • Cathi

        If you do skip the receiving line, make sure everyone knows and that you have people shooing your guests out if necessary.

        We didn’t want one, didn’t plan for one, has my pastor say “they’ll see you at the reception!” and we still ended up having to do the whole receiving line thing because no one left. They all stood around outside of the sanctuary waiting for us to come back so they could congratulate us and give us hugs.

        Like, it wasn’t awful and it was really sweet that people wanted to do that but OMG JUST LEAVE LIKE WE TOLD YOU. It would have really helped if our parents were more clear on the whole “no seriously, make them leave” thing.

    • Captain Awkward has a post about avoiding hugs in general (not specifically on your wedding day), which you may find useful:
      http://captainawkward.com/2013/02/08/444-do-we-hug-because-my-feeling-is-that-no-we-dont/

  • SChaLA

    Thank you for contributing to the visibility of autistic adults :)

  • Sarah

    I really liked what Shana said about a coordinator/manager making things happen for the bride (whisking you away, feeding you, etc). I think everyone could use this function at their wedding!

  • Alaina Bos

    I LOVE that you shared this Q & A today. Not only am I photographer, but I’m also a speech pathologist who has worked with many kids on the spectrum to develop communication skills. I just felt so glad to see awareness brought regarding ASD on APW today. Particularly because when we were kids, people with ASD were underrepresented. Being diagnosed as an adult would probably be very overwhelming, and also liberating at the same time. Finally having an explanation for why your brain works a certain way, how you process information, or how you deal with social situations and relationships would answer a lot of questions. In addition to seeking the help of an OT, you could also look to a Speech Language Pathologist for help with executive functioning tasks such as planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering details, and managing time and space. (Basically all the things about wedding planning that make us stressed) A SLP will give you the tools and strategies you need to plan and complete tasks with the least amount of stress.

    ANON- Thank you so much for being brave and sharing your thoughts, concerns, and fears about wedding planning, and also bringing attention to ASD. You’re a total rock star and I know you’ll have an amazing celebration.

  • Allison

    I’m a school psychologist and spend lots of time working with children with autism. I went to a training focused on autism and technology this summer. The keynote speak was a college student with high functioning autism who talked about how video-taping himself doing things has helped ease his anxiety about doing things he’s not typically comfortable or successful with. The example he gave was that he was going down-hill skiing for the first time. His sister recorded him going down the little hill and then played it for him before he went down the big hill.
    Consider doing something similar for situations you’re nervous about? Maybe video and view the rehearsal if you’re doing one?
    I don’t know you and don’t know you’re specific needs or anxieties, but video supports can easily be saved on a cell phone and viewed whenever uncertainty or panic is setting in.

  • Rosalie Kitchen

    I feel your pain, as an autistic adult there is NO help for me to deal with the stress of wedding planning. Or dealing with the wedding itself and meeting a whole bunch of new people.