What to Do If You or an Important Wedding Party Member Breaks a Bone Ahead of the Big Day

Here’s how to handle this pre-wedding dilemma, according to the experts.

A person’s leg in a cast propped up on an ottoman with crutches lying on a blue couch in the background

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Most couples spend months (if not a year or more) planning every detail of their wedding to ensure that their big day is as perfect as can be. So, when something unexpected or beyond their control happens before saying “I do,” like they themselves or another attendee breaks a bone and ends up in a cast, a sling, or even a wheelchair, it might feel like a wrench is thrown in their carefully-crafted plans. However, this pre-wedding health scare doesn’t automatically mean that the celebration is ruined. Yes, a fractured bone is less than ideal, but it doesn’t have to detract from the couple’s love story, which is the real purpose of a wedding.

If you’re a bride, groom, member of the wedding party, parent of the couple, or officiant who has broken a bone ahead of the festivities, there are steps you can take to ensure that the event still goes off without a hitch. We talked to the experts about the best ways each attendee can proceed despite the unforeseen situation, from logistical details to wardrobe alternatives. That being said, it’s always important to be extra careful and avoid any reckless behavior before the special day to ensure that you show up looking and feeling your best, whether you’re the star of the show or a supporting character.

Meet the Expert

  • Tracy Taylor Ward is the owner and creative director of Tracy Taylor Ward Design, an award-winning event planning and design firm located in New York and South Florida.
  • Erica Estrada is the owner and lead producer and designer of Erica Estrada Design, a full-service event planning and design company in California.
  • Beth Helmstetter is a destination wedding planner and the owner of Beth Helmstetter Events, a full-service event design and planning studio.

Read on for expert-approved tips if you’ve broken a bone or are in a cast on the wedding day.

What to Do If the Bride or Groom Breaks a Bone Ahead of the Wedding

If you’re a bride or groom who’s ended up in a cast, sling, or wheelchair before your nuptials, there’s no need to panic. Below, award-winning wedding planner Tracy Taylor Ward of Tracy Taylor Ward Design shares her advice for the best course of action to take, so your wedding is left unscathed.

Assess Whether You’ll Need to Postpone

The first question you’ll need to ask yourself is whether you’re capable of hosting and attending the celebration as planned. If your broken bone is severe and painful enough and if you have a long recovery road ahead, you might need to reschedule. Another likely reason to push back your wedding date is if you’re trying the knot abroad, as a fractured ligament limits your range of motion and ability to travel. Regardless, Ward suggests reaching out to your vendor team to discuss the possibility of postponing your nuptials and talking through the pros and cons of all options. If you decide to proceed with the event, ask your vendors about adjustments you can make to accommodate the injury.

Communicate With Your Guests

No matter what decision you’ve made, whether it’s postponing or continuing with your original plans, having an open line of communication with your guests is key. If you’re rescheduling, let them know the new wedding date and location. If you’re following through with your initial agenda, inform your loved ones about any changes to the time of the event, the venue, and other important details that they’ll need to prepare for, according to Ward. “It’s in everyone’s best interest to be transparent about the injury–with however much or little detail you’d like to share—in an effort to ensure that your guests are well informed and are able to adapt to any changes that might arise,” the planner says. 

Wondering the best way to inform your friends and family about the shift? Ward recommends updating your wedding website or sending a card in the mail with a personal message explaining the situation and noting any changes to the schedule. As you recover and make additional adjustments, continue to update your website. On the other hand, if being responsible for the communication is too stressful or draining, Ward advises enlisting a spokesperson, whether it’s a member of your wedding party or a family member, to take care of it. For those who are continuing with the affair, install signage throughout your venue that coordinates with your aesthetic to let guests know about any amended details. 

Rethink Your Attire

It might be difficult to fit into your outfit of the day, depending on where the broken bone is. For instance, if you had planned to wear a long-sleeved wedding dress or a slim-fit suit but your arm is now in a cast, you may have to think about alternatives that are just as upscale and flattering but more comfortable. To resolve this issue, Ward encourages you to reach out to the designer of your ensemble or the store from which you bought it as soon as possible to inquire about alterations. If they don’t have enough time to alter the garment, ask about sample dresses or other backup options you can purchase. As an alternative route that your timeline won’t affect, Ward suggests borrowing an outfit from a friend or family member or renting one.

If you can fit into your outfit but you don’t want your cast, sling, or wheelchair to clash with your look, you can embellish it in a more aesthetically pleasing way. Try wrapping your cast in a piece of fabric that coordinates with your wedding colors or attach fresh flowers to your wheelchair, Ward says.

Get Creative With Photo Ops

Your wedding photos are a huge focus on the day of, and they function as a keepsake that you’ll look back on for years to come. You probably never envisioned yourself in a cast in those special images, but embracing it will lend to authentic shots and will make a funny story later on. So, the first option would be to continue taking all of the normal photos on your photographer’s shot list

If you really can’t stand the thought of documenting your injury on your wedding day, schedule a photoshoot with your photographer at a later date after you’ve fully recovered. “It’ll be another fun and unique experience the couple will have to look forward to post-wedding, and they’ll be able to cherish the memories from both their wedding day and this additional experience for years to come,” Ward summarizes.

Adjust Your Walk Down the Aisle

Making a grand entrance at your ceremony is arguably one of the most memorable parts of the event, but with a broken bone, walking down the aisle might not be so feasible. If you have to use crutches, Ward suggests practicing ahead of the service to nail your descent. “Work on your pace and balance, ensuring you have a smooth rhythm and even consider putting your wedding day attire on if you’re worried about the crutches being impacted by the size of your attire—particularly attire with lots of volume, like a ball gown,” she says. If you’re in a wheelchair due to your physical impairment, Ward advises talking to your planner about widening the aisle and making sure to ditch a fabric runner, so your device doesn’t get caught on it. Regardless of the type of injury, lean on a parent or another close relative to guide you to the altar.

Consider Alternatives to Dancing

With a broken foot, ankle, or another part of your leg, you probably won’t be able to dance at your reception. Instead of sitting solemnly in a corner or ditching the dance floor altogether, talk to your planner about additional activities to incorporate. Karaoke is a fun and interactive way to spend time with your loved ones, and you can easily pull it off at the last minute. If your schedule allows for it, consider hiring a live painter to create the reception scene, or better yet, ask an artist within your inner circle. Whatever you decide, make sure it’s something that resonates with you and is something you’d actually enjoy participating in.

Find Effective Ways to Cope

A broken bone can be physically and mentally draining. To keep the pain at bay, ice the affected area to reduce swelling or take an over-the-counter drug, like Advil, to reduce inflammation. To address the emotional repercussions, whether it’s stress and anxiety or frustration and disappointment, it’s important to talk through and process these feelings with a trusted friend, a family member, or a licensed professional. Make sure to take some time for yourself and do things that bring you joy during this time, whether it’s reading a book or getting a facial.

Woman holding her broken left arm, which is covered in a purple cast

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A Wedding Party Member

Members of the wedding party, including bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls, and ring bearers, play a special role in the festivities, but a broken bone can interfere with your ability to do the honors. Read on for expert-approved ways to navigate a physical impairment on the couple’s wedding day.

Have an Honest Conversation With the Couple

First and foremost, disclose your injury to the couple. “They do not want to be surprised to find you in a cast on their wedding day,” planner Erica Estrada of Erica Estrada Design notes. During your conversation, let them know about your physical limitations that might affect your responsibilities and ask for their preferences on wedding party photos. Chances are, the bride and groom will be very understanding and sympathetic of your situation, and they’ll be more than willing to walk through alternatives. However, if the injury takes place close enough to the wedding date, Estrada advises asking the couple to put you in touch with their planner, so the professional can come up with a plan that doesn’t involve the couple. Plus, their planner will most likely have all of the information you’ll need, like accessible entrances to the venue.

Dress Comfortably

Whether you’re a bridesmaid or a ring bearer, the bride and groom have probably prescribed a certain uniform for you, but if you’re struggling to dress yourself in the said outfit given your injury, you might have to wear another option. If the pair has asked you and the rest of the wedding party to wear a certain hue, find a more comfortable or loosely-fitting choice that won’t obstruct your cast or sling but that’s still formal enough for a wedding. Consider browsing your closet, borrowing from a friend, or renting a garment. Whatever you do, just remember to get permission from the couple first. If there’s a specific dress or suit you’re supposed to wear, get in touch with the duo or their planner as soon as possible to explore a substitute.

Opt Out of Walking Down the Aisle

During the ceremony, everyone in the wedding party usually has a turn at walking down the aisle. However, if you’re using crutches or a wheelchair, entering with the rest of the group shouldn’t be a requirement. Planner Beth Helmstetter of Beth Helmstetter Events recommends skipping the processional and finding your seat before the ceremony starts (after checking that it’s okay with the couple, of course). If you’re a bridesmaid or groomsman and sitting out means the couple is left with an uneven wedding party, ask the couple if they’d be willing to have one groomsman walk two bridesmaids or vice versa. If the ring bearer isn’t able to carry the wedding bands to the altar or the flower girl can’t toss the petals, run a few replacements by the couple. The couple’s planner will most likely have a solution to every scenario, too.

Evaluate Whether You’ll Need to Retire Your Role

If you’re in too much pain or your movement is too restricted, you may have to resign as a wedding party member. Estrada says one option is to attend as a regular guest and leave early if you’re not up to it. For severe physical discomfort, you might not be able to attend the function at all. Either way, explain your decision to the couple. They’ll probably be very understanding and accommodating. “It will likely make others uncomfortable, especially the couple, if they see you suffering on such a monumental day,” Estrada mentions. 

A Parent of the Bride or Groom

Mothers and fathers of the bride and groom are particularly important wedding party members. If you’ve broken a bone before the big day, these tips will help you decide how to respond.

Talk Through the Situation With Your Child

As a parent of the bride or groom, you’ve probably been waiting for the moment your child says “I do” your whole life, so having a broken bone probably impedes that vision. Although it’s natural to feel worried about letting your daughter or son down, communicating the situation with them is absolutely necessary. Immediately after the injury, get in contact with your daughter or son to fill them in on the status of your health. If you’re having trouble moving or you’re in a lot of pain, chat about ways to modify your role in a way that best supports you. Although it probably pains you to ask your child to make adjustments, trust that they will be empathetic of your situation. After all, you did raise them!

Determine Whether You Can Walk Down the Aisle

One of the biggest roles of the mother or father of the bride or groom is accompanying the couple of the honor down the aisle. However, a broken bone makes this a difficult feat. With an impaired hand, wrist, or another part of your arm, a simple shift is to use your healthy arm to lead your daughter or son to the altar. If you’re using crutches, make sure you practice enough until you’re confident enough to guide your child. If you’ll be sitting in a wheelchair, ask your child or another close relative to wheel you down the aisle. Perhaps the pain is too difficult to bear or maybe your range of motion is too restricted. Then, brainstorm replacements and run them by the couple.

Modify Your Outfit If Needed

Luckily, as a parent of the couple, you can choose your own attire. So, if your initial garment won’t accommodate your broken bone, finding a replacement outfit shouldn’t get in the way of the couple’s plans. Of course, it’s important to pick a substitute that matches the formality of the occasion, but opting for comfort is what matters most, according to Helmstetter.

The Officiant

If you’re a friend or family member who is officiating a couple’s wedding ceremony, follow these below steps to figure out the best way to proceed with a broken bone.

Let the Couple Know

Just like the above groups, talking to the couple about your broken bone is the most important step. Since it’s their day and they get to finalize all decisions, you’ll want to inform them about your injury and ask them how to best proceed. They’ll especially want to know if the fracture will affect your ability to fulfill your role as the one guiding the service.

Make a Decision About Continuing Your Role

After informing the couple, consider whether your broken bone will prevent you from presiding over their vows. Only you will intuitively know the best course of action to take, but the obvious reasons to forgo the obligation are pain and limited mobility. If retiring from your role is the best option for you and your health, have a backup option in mind. “Be proactive and have a solution as to who may be able to take your place in the instance you aren’t able to attend,” Estrada states.

Request an Accommodating Setup

If you’re fully able to fulfill your officiant duties, ask the bride and groom if they can make the setup more comfortable and convenient for you. For instance, if you’re using crutches, inquire about sitting down on lounge furniture while you lead the service. If you’re in a wheelchair, talk to the duo ahead of time if their planner is willing to make the altar wider to fit the apparatus.

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