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Five tips for a dementia-friendly wedding

Your wedding is not only a special day for you to enjoy, it's also a highlight moment in the lives of your guests!

Have you thought about how to make your wedding as inclusive as possible for those who are less mobile, or living with conditions that makes it more difficult to engage with the world around them than others?

In this blog I am sharing five tips to make your wedding dementia-friendly. Dementia is affecting more and more people and you may have family members or friends who are living with this disease. If you're not sure if and how to include them, the below five tips on how to have a dementia-friendly wedding may help.

Tip 1: Be guided by the person living with dementia

Dementia affects every person in a different way. It is a disease of the brain and can affect any function operated by this wondrous part of our body. Memory loss is a well known effect, but dementia can also affect our sight, motor skills, cognitive abilities, ability to put words in the right order and even our personality.

Someone with dementia may feel less confident to engage in large gatherings in an environment they don't know.

Not sure where to start? Ask the person with dementia. What are their potential concerns? What do they need to feel comfortable and supported? If they find it difficult to express this themselves, ask their carer or someone else who knows them well. Identify the things that are likely to cause stress or anxiety, and, more importantly, the things that help them feel comfortable and at ease.

Be creative and flexible on the day. People with dementia may respond differently than expected but if everyone responds with understanding everyone can have a great day. However, if you feel it may be too overwhelming for them to be present on the day you could find an alternative way to celebrate this milestone moment with them. See tip 5 for suggestions.

Tip 2: Visit the wedding venue with them

It is helpful to visit the wedding venue ahead of the day. It helps the person with dementia understand how to get there, if there is parking, and where the main facilities are. If needed, improve the signposting on site. It not only helps them, but everyone else too to find their way!

Talk to them about what happens on the day so they know what to expect. You could even create a story book with photos and details of the venue, the people they will meet and a programme of the day. It will help them prepare for the day.

Tip 3: Be mindful where they are seated

Large crowds, lots of noise and loud music may be overwhelming for people with dementia. Consider to have them seated before everyone else enters the ceremony, reception or party space so they can adjust to the environment in their own time. At the wedding ceremony you may seat them at the front so they can see and hear the ceremony ok, or you may consider to have them seated on the side so they can easily move to a different room, or outdoors, if needed.

Make sure they have someone by their side to support them if needed. Their buddy can also help them in conversations with others, help repeat words, prompt joyful memories and keep a relaxed pace. It's also helpful to have memory supports in place, such as table setting chart with names of people who are sitting near the person. Alzheimer's Society sell beautiful wedding table cards.

It may be helpful to organise a quiet place for them to go to when they need a private moment.

Table card sold by Alzheimer's Society (c) Alzheimer's Society.

Tip 4: Include music they relate to

Many people with dementia may forget facts, but they will remember for longer how you made them feel.

Music has this amazing power of taking people back to special, happy moments in our lives. You could consider including music that they know. If it's one of your parents or grandparents, you could chose a song that was played at their wedding. It not only helps them connect to that happy day, it also is a lovely tribute to acknowledge what your parents mean to you.

Singing and dancing together is another positive way to include people with dementia. Choose a sing-along to a song they know (you can practice beforehand too to get in the mood!).

Tip 5: Organise a private wedding ceremony

If attending the wedding is not the best option for the person with dementia you can create a special moment with them on a separate day. Hannah and James this just this for Hannah's grandmother Ruby, who was unable to travel to their overseas wedding.

Hannah and James organised a wedding ceremony at Ruby's care home. They added some very special touches: the flower arrangements included fuchsias, Ruby’s favourite flowers, and they played music that would remind Ruby of her past as a ballet school pianist. Very thoughtful touches and beautiful examples of how to include someone with dementia on your special day.

Read the full story, including photos and a video, here.

Further learning

Have you included guests with dementia in your wedding ceremony? Please share your experiences so others can benefit from your story too.!

Together we can create a more supportive environment for people of all abilities.

If you are keen to learn more about how to support people with dementia in a ceremony setting please check the blog posts I wrote about dementia-friendly funerals, the Guide I wrote, as well as an online training I developed. Although aimed at funerals these articles provide you with insights and practical tips that you can apply in any setting, including weddings.


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