A bride wore a custom wedding dress with a detachable skirt designed with her wheelchair in mind
- Chelsie Hill and Jay Bloomfield got married on September 24, 2021.
- Hill wore a custom Galia Lahav dress with removable straps and a transforming skirt.
- The skirt allowed Hill to walk down the aisle with leg braces and use her wheelchair during the event.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
Chelsie Hill remembers the moment she first locked eyes with Jay Bloomfield.
Hill, 29, and Bloomfield, 35, first saw each other at an assistive technology event in 2014, as she told Insider.
Bloomfield builds wheelchairs for a living, and Hill is the CEO and founder of Rollettes, an LA-based wheelchair dance team. Hill has been paralyzed from the waist down since 2010, as she shared in an Instagram post in January.
Hill remembers making eye contact with Bloomfield, but they didn't actually talk to each other for another six months when they crossed paths at another event.
"He came up to my booth and started asking questions, and little did I know he already knew all the answers to the questions," Hill said. "He was like, 'Oh, I just wanted to meet you.'"
They haven't left each other's sides since.
Bloomfield popped the question in February 2020.
The couple planned their wedding for September 24, 2021.
They didn't rush into planning, but at the beginning of 2021, Hill started thinking about shopping for her wedding dress.
She knew she didn't want anything too trendy, asking herself, "Am I going to always like this style when I'm 40 years old looking back at my photos?" as she tried on gowns.
Hill also wanted a dress that would work whether she was sitting down or standing up, as she planned to walk down the aisle using leg braces in addition to using a wheelchair throughout the event.
Hill told Insider she ended up trying on 35 to 40 dresses before she found the one for her.
"I always go into things really excited because it gives me an opportunity to teach the people that I'm working with," Hill said of shopping for a dress as someone who uses a wheelchair. "Because of my situation, I'm not going to go into a place and be like, 'OK, help me get dressed.'"
"I went into all of the dress shopping stores with friends that were there to physically help me," she said. "I made sure that I was prepared."
She documented her wedding dress shopping process in a series of videos on her YouTube channel.
Hill fell in love with a custom Galia Lahav gown with a mermaid skirt.
The Galia Lahav dress had a sweetheart neckline with a deep V neckline, removable off-the-shoulder sleeves, and a mermaid skirt made of tulle.
The bodice was covered in delicate lace and crystal embellishments.
"I put it on, and I never thought I would feel this way, but I cried," Hill said. "I just started crying. I was like, 'This is it. This is what I wanted.'"
She said the dress had all the details she hadn't even realised she was looking for.
"This dress just makes me feel so beautiful," she said.
The custom skirt was removable, so it worked both when Hill was sitting and standing.
"The bottom tulle part of my dress was detachable, so we could flip it around," she said.
The original dress had a column skirt, so Hill's tulle addition was totally custom.
Galia Lahav designed the removable skirt to work both when Hill was standing and sitting.
"If the dress was fit for me in my chair, then if I stand up, it would be too long for me to take a step and I would trip," Hill told Insider of why the custom skirt was necessary.
When she sat, the skirt was longer in the front, and when she was standing, she could spin the skirt around to create a train instead.
"When I was sitting down the train was in the front of my dress, but it wouldn't hit my wheels," Hill said. "The train was long enough to where I could also use it for both."
Hill also had a shorter version of the skirt she attached to the dress for her reception.
Hill loved the detailing on the top of the dress.
"I really liked the beading of the top of it," Hill said of her dress. "I loved the sweetheart neckline at the top."
Hill also had tulle, off-the-shoulder sleeves added to her gown. They gave the dress a romantic feel.
Hill's sleeves were removable as well.
Hill took the sleeves off during her reception, making it easier for her to dance.
Hill's dress had an open back, showing off the custom sleeves.
Lace detailing framed the open back, giving the gown a dynamic look.
Hill also used a custom wheelchair backrest for the event that said "wifey."
"I had this guy make a custom wheelchair backrest, and then I went on Etsy and bought the letters for 'wifey,'" Hill said.
She said when she shared photos of the backrest, she got positive feedback from her followers.
"Our whole community is like, 'Where did you get that backrest? I want to get one,'" she said. "It was really, really cool, and I'm so glad that I did that."
"I was never really nervous to go in as a disabled bride," Hill said of wedding dress shopping.
"A lot of the brides out there that are disabled that I've talked to, they're like, 'How was dress shopping? Was it hard? Was it scary? I'm so nervous. What should I expect?'" Hill said. "And I'm like, 'No, it was actually good. Just bring someone with you and communicate to them and then it'll be easy.'"
She went on to say that she thinks it's natural for people who use wheelchairs to feel intimidated by wedding dress shopping.
"I feel like a lot of people with disabilities, we've all been just kind of pushed to the side," she said. "They've become accustomed to being like, 'Oh, well it's just a lot.'"
"But it doesn't have to be a lot if we know what we need and advocate for ourselves," she said. "It's about communicating. I think that's the biggest thing."
Hill paired a long veil with the one-of-a-kind dress.
She chose a Galia Lahav veil that flowed just past her knees.
"I loved the length of it," she said. But the veil didn't work as she thought it would on her wedding day.
"I would say as a wheelchair user, I would have changed that to be a little bit shorter because it did kind of get caught in my wheels when I was pushing," she said.
Hill showed Bloomfield her dress during a first look.
Ahead of the ceremony, Hill put on the leg braces that would allow her to walk down the aisle.
Hill told Insider it was important to her that she walked down the aisle on her wedding day because she had always imagined doing so.
"I want to stress that there's nothing wrong with sitting down in your chair," she said. "But for me growing up, I always imagined myself walking down the aisle."
"And I just wanted to feel that — not that my disability has taken anything away from me — but I just wanted to feel that heart to heart and stand up there eye to eye with him," Hill went on to say. "That was just really something really important to me personally."
Bloomfield was shocked when he saw Hill walking toward him with her father.
Bloomfield had his back to the aisle until it was Hill's turn to walk.
He turned around to see his soon-to-be wife walking with the aid of a walker.
"As soon as I saw Jay, his jaw dropped," she said. "He was just in shock that I was walking because he had no idea."
"I just felt like that whole time our souls were locked in on each other," Hill said of how she felt walking down the aisle. "I didn't see anybody else around me. I just saw him."
"That was one of my favorite moments that I will never forget," she said.
Hill shared more about why she wanted to walk down the aisle in her vows to Bloomfield.
Hill shared a section of her vows on Instagram.
"My whole life I had imagined standing eye-to-eye with my husband on my wedding day," she said.
"After my accident, I wasn't sure if I would ever find someone who truly loved all of me. You have accepted me fully, honored me, and adored all the parts of me," Hill went on to say.
"For this moment today, I wanted to do something I had always dreamed of. Stand eye-to-eye with you as we promise our lives to each other," she said.
"It's something that I don't take for granted," Hill said of standing during her wedding.
Hill was also happy she was able to pull off the surprise for Bloomfield.
"Jay hates secrets. He also hates surprises," she said. "So I really surprised him the day of our wedding."
Hill had more surprises for Bloomfield and her guests at their wedding reception.
Because of her dance background, Hill planned multiple surprise dances for her reception.
First, Hill and Bloomfield shared a first dance.
"We did the grand entrance, and we went straight to the dance floor and we did our first dance," she said.
"I got to stand up, so that was so amazing," Hill said. "It was just really special."
Later in the evening, Hill and her dad surprised guests with a choreographed number.
"My dad is such a trooper and always down to have a good time," Hill said.
She said they practiced their dance for two months ahead of the wedding.
"We did a regular father-daughter dance with the song 'Butterfly Kisses,'" she said. "And then the DJ skipped and it went straight into Soulja Boy, and everyone in the room lost their minds."
"I'm so proud of my dad," Hill said. "He was so nervous, and he killed it."
"I know for a fact I get my dancing skills from my father now," she added.
Hill was grateful she got quality time with both of her parents on her wedding day, as she spent the morning getting ready with her mom.
"We had a beautiful morning," Hill said.
Hill also surprised Bloomfield with a dance she choreographed just for him.
Hill had Bloomfield blindfolded while she changed into her shorter skirt to perform.
"When they took off the blindfold, I had all of my bridesmaids up there dancing, and then all of a sudden I was like, 'Wait, hold up, girls. I gotta bring in the professionals for this one,'" she said.
"I ripped my skirt off, and my friends that are professional dancers, we just started doing this bad-ass mix," Hill went on to say of the choreographed dance.
"Jay was losing his mind," she added. "It was so amazing. He was very surprised."
Hill loved that her dress worked for her throughout her wedding day.
The transforming skirt was exactly what Hill wanted, though it did present some logistical challenges.
"I didn't think about the timing or the moving around or sitting and standing," Hill said.
For instance, when she sat in her wheelchair after she said her vows, the train of her skirt got stuck in the wheels of her wheelchair.
"But other than those little things, I wouldn't change anything about the dress," Hill said. "Even though it was hard for me to move around in some spots, I really wouldn't change anything because those moments are why I had it that way."
"My biggest suggestion is to stay true to what your vision is going into it," Hill advised other brides shopping for their wedding dresses.
"I feel like that's something that really helped me," she said of her wedding in general. "I knew what colors I wanted. I knew what kind of flowers I wanted."
"I really didn't take a lot of people's opinion on what I wanted the wedding to look like," she added. "I didn't want it to be what everyone else thought that I should have."
"I was very clear on when I asked people for their opinions and when I didn't, so I think that would be a big suggestion," Hill said. "Just be very clear on when you want to open that door to people."
"I love that no matter how hectic my life can feel, Jay will always make me feel like I have time to still stop and smell the flowers," Hill said of Bloomfield.
"That is something that I've always said from the beginning that I love about him," Hill said.
She said she and Bloomfield make each other want to be better.
"I also love that we both are wanting to better ourselves together," she said.
"I love how he's able to sacrifice things for the better of our relationship," she added. "I think that's really important in a relationship, no matter how hard it is. Just always staying true to what's best for the other person.
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