Brides is committed to guiding ALL couples through not only their wedding planning journey, but through relationship milestones and ups and downs. Every love story is beautiful, has its own distinct history, and its own trials—there's no relationship that looks the same. To celebrate that uniqueness, we're asking couples to open up about their love story, for our latest column, "Love Looks Like This." Below, Samantha Mannis tells her love story.
After over five years together, I knew I wanted to get married quickly. My medical condition was worsening, and I told [my partner] I wanted a reminder he would be there for me on my swollen little sausage finger. A few months later, he surprised me on the beach with the ring I had been lusting over: a vintage, '80s Cartier pink sapphire. It was unlike anything I had seen and reminded me of our first chats online: talking about our love of corny '80s music.
My love story doesn’t necessarily look like the ones you see in bridal magazines: all sepia-toned, rose-petaled, and gold-foil pressed. Most of the time, my fiancé and I roll out of bed and start the day with some sharp pains. But, we get through it—usually with leftover takeout, a laugh, a tennis match, and looking forward to our next weekend activity or getaway. While it may not be picture-perfect bridal paradise, it’s a marriage. And, it’s undeniably two people madly in love.
To be perfectly frank, my experience in romance—and the world in general—hasn’t exactly encouraged me to be myself with all my bumps and bruises. As I started dating, the idea of me, a woman with chronic health conditions and disability playing the romantic lead, was mostly met with skepticism, anger, ableism, and a lot of rejection.
Yes, that’s right. I am planning a wedding while living with disability and medical conditions—some diagnosed and some TBD. With that comes tremendous joy, privilege, and fear all at once. I’ll be the first to admit, it’s not all tulle and inspirational quotes. There is still marriage inequality for disabled people in the U.S., and I’m constantly grappling with the fact that if my health conditions progress, I may not be able to afford the care that I need. It can be hard to have that in the back of your mind when attempting to plan the one of the best days of your life.
But, we get by. Like many disabled people, my fiancé helps me with a lot more than wedding planning. He takes me to doctor’s appointments, picks up my medications, and his butt has been in way too many hard doctor’s office chairs and filthy ERs than the average pre-30-something. He also can be a huge pain in my butt, but what’s a little peach pain between two souls in love?
We had talked in the past about doing something small abroad in Sicily (We both have Sicilian heritage). But after a long and isolated pandemic, that dream started to change. He wanted to share this moment with his large family and even larger group of friends. I didn’t want to have to worry about a destination wedding with a very long flight, far away from my home base and doctor’s office (at least not for a higher stress event like a wedding, one that I was planning myself).
So, when my fiancé suggested we get married in Vegas, I instantly laughed and swatted the idea away. It could never happen there, could it? Vegas? The place where we go a few times a year to escape, see our favorite musicians and comedians, return to cherished restaurants, and play in poker tournaments together. How could we possibly have a serious life event like a wedding in our beloved Vegas?
To our shock, most of our friends and family were thrilled to receive our Vegas save the dates! They understood why it is a great place for us to have our wedding: the catalogs of Elvis officiants, accessible to us and our friends and family by plane or car, a plethora of hotel options, and most importantly, a place that my fiancé and I love to spend time together.
My fiancé and I are planning this wedding as we do a lot of things in our lives: together, with shared responsibilities, combining our strengths, and infusing a lot of ourselves and our passions into the process. No, unfortunately, there will be no quick-change shows or piano acrobats…but Elvis is still up for discussion.
Lots of things come up during the planning process: what music we want during the reception (lots of pop punk, oldies, eighties, and an overall mix of great jams), if the hotel we stay at is accessible to me (someone with variable physical disability), and if there is room in the budget for designer shoes to go with the dress I picked out, which can be specially altered if I gain or lose weight during the planning process. When I spoke about this with my non-disabled friends who have recently planned weddings, they said they had similar conversations with their fiancés. Funny how a disabled bride’s requests don’t stray that far from any other person getting married: we all have things that we need and want on our wedding day!
While there may be some fear for the future surrounding my moment of joy, I certainly feel lucky to be able to roll the dice while pressing forward for myself, disability representation in media, and marriage equality for the disability community. Hopefully, my story can encourage others to take a chance on someone different from themselves in life or love, be it with a relationship, an opportunity, or speaking up about a worthwhile cause. To me, that’s what love looks like. No doubt about it.