Eric Turning loves bacon. He loves it so much and eats it so often that when his mom responded to his cousin’s wedding invitation, she RSVP’d for one beef entree, two chicken entrees and one bacon entree. The last request wasn’t an option, but Eric got his bacon entree all the same.
In a post on mom Jo-Ann Turning’s Facebook page for the family blog, Bacon and Juiceboxes: Our Life With Autism, she shares the experience at her nephew’s wedding and writes, “Eric was a happy customer.”
It seems that despite all the chaos that surrounds wedding preparations, Jo-Ann’s family still made a point to accommodate Eric’s special needs, and she couldn’t have been happier.
“I kept the RSVP cards from my wedding and I thought it would be a funny keepsake for the bride and groom to have one with ‘bacon entree’ written on it,” Jo-Ann said to Global News. “But the mother of the bride received it and contacted my brother [the father of the groom] and she said that they were on it. On that day, it hit me that even with all the things they had going on with the wedding, they took the time to make things easier for us. It made me emotional and it was so sweet.”
In addition to accommodating their special dinner request, Jo-Ann’s sister-in-law also made sure to seat them in an area just outside the permanent tent so that it wouldn’t be too loud for Eric, who wears headphones for occasions like these. (People on the autism spectrum can be highly sensitive to sound.)
“We were in the perfect location,” Jo-Ann says. “He was able to walk around and not be in anyone’s way or disrupt anyone’s dinner. It made me so warm and fuzzy that they thought so much about us and our needs.”
Katelyn Hipson, CEO and creative director of Elegant Productions Planning & Design, says when a couple invites a guest who’s on the autism spectrum, she encourages them to go the extra mile.
“Have a place where the person can go if they’re feeling overwhelmed,” she says. “Most indoor venues have a boardroom or a preparation room where someone can go for some quiet time, or if it’s outdoors, arrange a designated place with a couple of chairs, some water and some snacks.”
By reaching out ahead of time and speaking to the person or their family members, and letting them know there will be a quiet area, you’re showing that you really welcome that person to your wedding and you’re open to making any arrangements to make their day go smoothly.
Hipson recalls a past wedding where the bride’s sister was on the autism spectrum.
“Her sister was 17 years old and we included her in the wedding as a flower girl. She was older than your typical flower girl but she had the time of her life. We paid special attention to her all day and everyone was happy.”
In a similar vein, Anita Lesko and Abraham Nieslon, a husband and wife who are both on the autism spectrum, were married in 2015 at the Love & Autism conference in San Diego. And their entire wedding party, from the ring bearer to the harpist and wedding cake baker, had special needs.
“People on the spectrum tend to not get invited to parties or weddings or anything,” Lesko said to PEOPLE. “I figured our wedding could give folks on the spectrum an opportunity to get to attend a wedding and be part of something like that.”
She was also eager to use her special day to dispel any misgivings about people on the autism spectrum and how they process emotions.
“I want people to know that people with autism have real emotions, and that I’m going to cry on my wedding day. We may not tend to show emotions like other people do, but inside, we’re feeling the same thing — sometimes even more.”