So you want your dog to be part of your big day. Here are some tips and things to consider before having your fur babies join you down the aisle.
Check With Your Venue First
Before going any further, make sure your venue will allow you to bring your favorite furry friend and if there are any restrictions. If they do not allow pets: do not pass go, do not collect $200. I cannot emphasize this enough: DO NOT FALSELY REPRESENT YOUR DOG AS A SERVICE ANIMAL to get around this! There are other ways you can honor your pup at your wedding that I will list at the end of this article.
Know your dog
Some dogs are really great at sitting for long periods of time… others, not so much. That’s not to say that you will not be able to have your pup at your wedding, but you will need to train them and find ways to work with your dog’s abilities. Depending on how easily distracted your dog is, you should consider getting outside help in the form of a professional dog trainer, ideally one very familiar with positive reinforcement techniques.
Sure your dog is the best doggo on the face of the planet. He can sit, lay down, roll over, make you a pot of coffee. But being in a new environment can alter a dog’s behavior, and having your dog in your wedding can be asking them to step outside their comfort zone. Even if your wedding is in your backyard, you are now surrounding your pup with unfamiliar faces, the smell of deliciously tempting food, and unusual noises (howling might sound beautiful accompanied with a string quartet but you probably don’t want to find out). This means you need to start desensitizing your dog to all these different factors. Make sure your pup is well socialized and can handle crowds of unfamiliar faces. Outdoor malls and art fairs are a great way to start exposing your dog to these environments if your dog is ready to handle larger crowds. I recommend picking a day and time when it will be slightly less busy to gradually get them used to groups of strangers. You do not want to hypothetically throw your dog into the deep end before they are ready to swim.
Be Flexible With Your Wedding Vision
You have trained your dog and are ready to have your furry BFF in your wedding. You have visions of them walking perfectly down the aisle as your flower girl or ring bearer, followed by sitting calmly up at the alter by your side. But what if Aunt Tessie is wearing a particularly appealing smelling perfume, or a squirrel runs behind the alter, or your officiant suddenly looks terrifying to your well-trained pup who then continues to bark at them to warn you of danger. There’s no way you can predict every possible distraction that may occur during your wedding, and something unexpected may likely happen. Therefore it is important to be flexible in your vision for your wedding day and to have a good sense of humor. If you are someone who is easily stressed about the slightest thing going wrong then, as much as you love your doggo, you may want to reconsider having your pet in your wedding.
Puppies, Puppies, Puppies!
A somewhat recent series of photos making their rounds are pictures of bridesmaids holding adorable puppies instead of bouquets. I’m going to key you in on a secret: those photos were from a staged shoot, not part of a wedding ceremony. And here’s why: puppies make terrible bouquets. Puppies are cute, but they also love to chew on whatever is closest to them, are extremely wiggly, will whine and, most importantly, don’t have full control of when they go to the bathroom. Getting a puppy to sit still for an entire ceremony is a daunting task that, in the end, may not be in the best interest of the young pup. Maybe you and your future spouse just got a new puppy and want to have them in your wedding walking down the aisle. Of course this seems like a cute idea, but for the same reasons listed above, I would strongly advise against using puppies in your wedding. If you would like to support your local rescue, opt for making a donation to them in lieu of favors.
“Parking” Your Dog
While training guide dogs, we used to use the term “park” as a polite way to say having your dog go to the bathroom. This is often an overlooked detail to having your dog in your ceremony. Definitely make sure you “park” your dog and that they are “on empty” before the start of the ceremony. When dogs are nervous they have been known to empty their bowels and you don’t want your wedding party to be avoiding little landmines as they make their way down the aisle. PRO TIP: Make sure whomever will be the dog handler for the ceremony has a spare waste bag or two in their pockets, in case of a potty emergency.
Assign Your Dog a Handler For the Day
You are going to be very, VERY busy on your wedding day, and as much as you would like to be the one responsible for your four-legged friend, it just may not be feasible. Instead pick a trusted friend or someone the dog knows (such as a familiar pet sitter/dog walker) to be in charge of your pup on your wedding day. That’s not to say that you will not get to spend time with your furbaby as you get ready, but during chaotic times such as bridal party photos and the start of the ceremony, someone has their hands on your dog and is giving them the undivided attention they deserve. This person should also be responsible for taking your dog to wherever you have arranged for them to stay after the ceremony. Which brings me to….
Make Arrangements For Housing Your Pup
Whether you decide to have your dog in your ceremony or not, you will want to make sure you have arranged ahead of time where your dog will be staying during your wedding. Whether it’s a doggie day care, local boarding facility or at your house with a sitter, you will want to have a plan in place. Be sure all shots and medical information are up to date.
Other Ways To Incorporate Your Dog
If you have weighed your options and decided it would be in your dog’s best interest if you did not have them in attendance the day of your wedding, then here are some other great ways to incorporate your furry loved one into your big day:
- Include them in the engagement photo session
- Incorporate photos of them in the table decor
- Have “doggie bag” station with dog-friendly treats for guests to take home to their pet
- Wear custom made socks (such as these from DivvyUp) with your pups picture on them
- Personalized cookies/cupcakes modeled after your pet
- Custom cake toppers featuring your dog
Did you incorporate your four-legged friend in your wedding day? Tell us all about it in the comment section below!