Best Practices to Include Your Dog at Your Wedding
Updated: Jan 20
Our furry friends are more than just pets, they are family! So, it is understandable that you want them to be a part of your wedding. Many outdoor venues allow dogs for the ceremony portion if you agree to follow their rules. This can be very exciting for those of us who couldn't image getting married without them there, whether it’s just attending or joining the wedding party. No matter what their role is, here are four best practices to make sure having "humans’ best friend" by your side on your big day goes smoothly.
1. Triple check that pets are allowed at your venue!
Do not assume that all outdoor venues allow pets. Enough said.
2. Decide on a specific role for them to play.
Example roles: grooms’ dog, brides’ pup, flower dog, ring bearer, furry dog of honor, or VIP front row family.
Although they are in your heart, it is important to consider your guests when choosing what role your pup will be involved in. Not everyone is a dog person... which we might find hard to understand, but it is valid that others might feel uncomfortable. Think about who will be walking your grooms’ dog or flower dog down the aisle. Think about who they will sit with and where they will sit? Is it in the front row with your parents? Are all of these people "dog people"? Will they have allergies and be sneezing the whole time? Are they going to look relaxed in photos or be on edge that Toby might bite them? Although you know that scenario is unlikely because your dog is the absolute sweetest, they could still be nervous and diminish the intent of including your dog.
3. Have a Dedicated Dog Handler
This is probably the most important best practice of this whole blog! Make sure that you, the wedding couple, are not the ones tending to your pup. You need to hire or nominate a dedicated person to be your dog handler. Preferably someone who has dogs of their own, already knows your dog, and is comfortable taking care of it. I would also recommend that this person is not a part of your wedding party. Even if a groomsman is escorting your dog down the aisle, their handler should be someone else who does not need to be involved in photos etc. They need to keep a constant watch on the dog, make sure that they are cleaning up poop, not interrupting photos, or not running off to explore the new setting. If your wedding is on a rooftop or in a field in the hot afternoon of July, make sure the handler can provide your dog water and somewhere to cool off. Your handler also needs to be the person to take the dog offsite, back home, to a cabin, pet-friendly hotel, doggy day care, etc. for the rest of the night. You do not want them there during the whole wedding. It will cause you stress to want to be checking in on them rather than celebrating with friends and family. Once your pup has done their part, have the handler secure them in a safe place until you can see them the next day.
4. Consider How a Pet Effects Your Vendors
Your vendors will have conflicting opinions of an animal onsite. Your planner and venue coordinator will need to know ahead since it will impact the ceremony. They will need to be in constant communication with the dog handler and know when they arrive onsite and head offsite.
Your photographer and videographer will likely LOVE having your pet included. It can make such cute photos and video memories. However, the vendors that might be less inclined to jump up and down about the idea of a pet on the premise, will be your food vendors. I am not saying they’re cat people, just that they have food safety guidelines to keep in mind. It is in their best interest as a business to follow the rules set by the state. We all have that image of the famous dog Beethoven running through Christmas dinner going after the turkey. Can you image if that was your dog and your wedding cake... not good! Consider all your vendors when planning the timeline and role of your dog and give them a heads up.
5. Clear Communication
Many family members talk. “So, your mom told your aunt Susan that you’re having a flower dog. Your mom is excited and wishes that was trendy when she got married. Aunt Susan is such a dog person, she brings her pups everywhere (yes, I am talking legally blonde style, tote bag and everything) so expect to see her dog there too.” The word is out and it’s time to make sure that you are communicating your intentions to your guests. I would recommend only having YOUR dog there, this isn't the end of 101 Dalmatians... Be clear on your wedding website that your dog is involved. But while you are so excited to be surrounded by furry friends, for the good of the venue and ease of the day, it would be best that other dogs and pets stay at home. Perhaps they can have a playdate later where you and their owner can have a little celebration of your own.
I absolutely love when my clients include their dogs or pets of any kind into their wedding. It adds even more of their personality into their special day, which I am all about! However, I think that there is a RIGHT way to do it. Follow these best practices to make sure that your furry friend is happy, you’re less stressed, and your guests and vendors are comfortable on your wedding day.
Images provided by @lovelenscapesphotography, @lisasmootphoto, & @rachbeckwithphoto