In August 2010, Rachelle Friedman Chapman’s world changed forever. At her bachelorette party, one of her friends playfully pushed her into the pool and caused a freak accident. Rachelle hit her head on the bottom of the shallow pool and injured her spine. She hasn’t been able to walk since. A year later, the paralyzed bride married the love of her life, Chris Chapman, in a wheelchair. 
The Story of the Paralyzed Bride
Their story went public, and alongside all of the praise and encouragement were hurtful comments. Some people were certain their marriage wouldn’t last. The Chapmans proved them all wrong. A decade later, the couple renewed their vows in a small but fancy affair. Surrounded by their loved ones, including their 6-year-old daughter Kaylee, they expressed their love and commitment to each other.
“When we first got married, we wanted to show the world true love did exist,” Rachelle said. “We did this one for us, to celebrate our love 10 years after a lot of people doubted that it could last forever.”
Chriss added, “I would put our marriage up against anybody else. Life has been tough, but the marriage hasn’t. That’s what’s held us together.”
Their marriage isn’t the only thing that strengthened over the years. “Ten years later my body and my mental state are so much stronger,” said Rachelle. “My arms are bigger, I look healthier, I’m driving now and getting in and out of bed on my own now. It’s such a stark difference.”
However, despite all of the work Rachelle put into improving herself, many people credit her husband for all of her progress, still thinking of her as the ‘poor, paralyzed bride.’
“People will come up to him and thank him for taking care of me and say he’s an amazing person,” said Rachelle. “I’m not like a charity case after 10 years. We’re in this together for a reason, we just want people to stop looking at it like it’s this public service. He’s a great guy, but if he wasn’t in love, he wouldn’t be here.”
Not only that, but Chris explained that his wife’s growth inspires him. “She continues to grow as an individual and get stronger with her physical ability and to grow as a mother as far as what she figures out she’s able to do with Kaylee. She’s found a way to find her own path for success.” 
The Renewal of Vows Ceremony
The couple got the idea to renew their vows after the original diamond engagement ring went missing. Rachelle also wanted to celebrate their enduring love that people thought would end after the media’s paralyzed bride story subsided.
“We didn’t do it to prove everyone wrong, but at the same time, my advocacy is to break stereotypes,” Rachelle said. “People automatically assumed he’s gone now that we’re not in the media spotlight like when we first got married. I would hope more people had a love that if their significant other was hurt, they wouldn’t leave.”
One stark difference between the first wedding and the renewal was the guests. For instance, none of the bridesmaids back when Rachelle was ‘the paralyzed bride’ were present. “To be honest, I did lose a lot of friends after the accident,” she said. “The girl who pushed me in the pool came out and explained that she just wasn’t about staying friends.
“For the first year, it was about the girl who pushed me in, and we just cared about her being OK. I think I worked her through that, but once she was done getting support from me, and I needed the support after the first year, I was left alone with my injury. I had another friend who blames me for the accident for how I chose to go into the pool. It was really bad for my mental health to continue to be friends, and it was really toxic for a while, so it was really sad because these were two childhood friends.” 
Fortunately, the guests of the renewal ceremony were only happy for the couple. Kaylee was their flower girl and joined her parent’s first dance. “We exchanged rings and we also got a special ring for Kaylee, with all of our birthstones together. We put that on her finger, so there was a whole little moment for her that felt more special.”
However, many people had doubted Rachelle’s abilities as a mother because of her wheelchair. They deemed her ‘selfish’ and ‘irresponsible’. Therefore, every success of Rachelle helps dispel the many negative stereotypes.
“I do need help, I’m not 100% independent, but there are so many ways [Chris] needs help, as well. He has more anxiety than I do and gets a little overwhelmed, and I’m a very chill person, so I’m able to counteract that for him. People see disabilities and automatically assume the able-bodied person is doing more than the person in the chair. It’s a totally equal relationship between what I give him and he gives me.”
Rachelle has gone a long way from being ‘the paralyzed bride.’ In fact, she has dispelled so many stereotypes by becoming a mother, going sky-diving, and even posing for a racy photoshoot. “I think sometimes people see a wheelchair and there’s a perception that someone is not attractive. I really think if people would look past the wheels, they would see someone who is attractive.”
“We all have flaws,” she said in an interview about the photoshoot, in which her catheter is exposed for the first time. “We all have things going for us, and for the first time, I’m not hiding my catheter. I’m not hiding anymore.” 
- “Woman to Marry Year After Being Paralyzed at Bachelorette Party.” ABC News. Emily Friedman. July 18, 2011
- “Wife Renews Vows with Husband 11 Years After Bachelorette Party Accident Left Her Paralyzed.” People. Joelle Goldstein. August 9, 2021
- “’Paralyzed bride’ renews vows with husband, shares update 11 years after accident.” Today. Scott Stump. August 9, 2021
- “Paralyzed Bride Rachelle Friedman Chapman Poses in Lingerie to Prove Disabled People Can Be Sexy Too.” People. Michelle Boudin. July 27, 2015