Including your dog in your weddingTo so many people, our pets are a legitimate extension of our family.  Some might even prefer the company of their furry friends to most other humans, and I don’t see anything wrong with that!  This does often lead to an important planning issue to handle, how do we include our dog, cat, llama, or pot-bellied pig into our wedding day?

Over the years, we’ve seen quite a few different attempts at this, and some work better than others.  So here are a few things to keep in mind when trying to decide on the best way to incorporate your pet into the big day:

Rules of the Venue  The first question you should be asking is to your various venue coordinators.  Many venues will allow a quick visit for photos with your pet, but might restrict the animals to being outside, or only for a few minutes.  Most churches are strict about this, so if you are having your ceremony at a church, you’ll most likely not be allowed to have them there.  It can’t hurt to ask though!  Reach out to your contact at the church or venue and ask if there are any restrictions to bringing in your little guy or gal. 

Personality & Temperament  The next thing to think about is how will your pet react to the craziness of the day.  If you’re hoping to have them walk down the aisle, but they are nervous around groups of people, it’s probably not a great idea to put them in that situation.  On the flip side, if they get SO EXCITED to see people, it’s probably asking for a very chaotic and stressful moment right before your big moment. 

Serve as a ring bearer or flower girl  If your pet passes the personality and temperament part of this quiz, it’s often tempting to include them as a flower girl or ring bearer, which is absolutely adorable!  My HUGE suggestion is to avoid the temptation of tying the wedding bands to the collar, or having them carry them on a pillow to bring to the Best Man.  Your little guy could have just taken home Best in Show at Westminster, I’m still going to recommend you put fake rings on that collar or pillow!  I actually give the same advice when we’re talking about little kids having the real rings.  Once those church doors open, or everyone stands and the music starts to play, the eyes of the audience on them can make them act out of character.  Previously cooperative little boys might sit down and refuse to go down the aisle, and well behaved golden retrievers might run for that squirrel in the distance.  It’s definitely not worth the risk, so make sure a responsible member of the wedding party is hanging onto the real rings before the ceremony begins. 

Logistics of the venue  Another big consideration you’ll have to make is regarding the logistics of the space.  Is there an outside space suitable for potty breaks?  Where will your cuddly buddy go after the photos or ceremony?  Make sure the venue has a safe and comfortable space for them, or better yet, arrange for someone to take them home where they will probably be happier.  If they will be staying onsite, or if you will be at a hotel and they can stay in the room, make sure to bring some familiar toys and/or blankets with you so they have something familiar, and are less tempted to “explore” the new space!

Will you have a sitter available?  This seems like a simple one, but a lot of our couples get stuck with this because most of their “go to” pet sitters will be attending the wedding, and are most likely close friends/family that you don’t want to be absent because they are taking care of Fido.  If you need to bring in someone new to help on the wedding day, I always recommend that you have them come by to meet your pet(s) a couple of times before the wedding day.  That way everyone will be familiar and comfortable with each other beforehand. 

What will they wear? It’s tempting to think that you’ll be able to dress your little one up in an adorable tux, or cute tutu dress, but if your pet doesn’t let you put so much as a festive bandana on at Halloween, it’s probably unlikely that you’ll succeed with this one.  Test it out though.  Sometimes they just need to get used to something new, so don’t wait until the wedding day to dress them up.  If the full outfit isn’t going to work, you can always add a bow or a bowtie to their collar, or dress up their leash with some lace or to match the wedding colors.  We’ve also had floral collars made for them, and they are so adorable!  Make sure to snap some pics right away though, they often get curious about them pretty quickly!

What will YOU be wearing? It’s important to not forget that you won’t be in your normal wears on the big day either.  Whether you’ll be in a tux, suit or fancy white ball gown, your little guy has the opportunity to do some damage.  If you know he/she is a jumper, avoid taking photos outside where their paws will get dirty.  You can also bring a white sheet with you to use as a barrier between the elements, and the photographer can help arrange it so it’s not visible.  Make sure to also have several lint rollers around so that those tux jackets will be pet hair free afterwards!

What if your pet can’t be at the wedding? If, for whatever reason, your pet can’t actually be present at the wedding, there are still plenty of ways to incorporate them into the big day!

  • Take them with you to your engagement photos and display those at the reception
  • Use images for stationery items like table numbers, favor tags, or welcome bag stickers
  • Have a custom cake topper made of them, there are lots of sources on Etsy!
  • Have a “doggie bag” table with dog treats for the guests to take home at the end of the night
  • In lieu of favors, make a donation to a rescue or shelter

How will you be involving your pet in the wedding day/plans?  Share your ideas on the Collective Forum!