6 Tips for Including Your Dog in Your Wedding
The wedding reception at the Loews Hotel in Philadelphia was in full swing when the bandleader announced the arrival of a surprise groomsman who wasn’t allowed to attend the earlier ceremony at a nearby church.
As the band played “Who Let the Dogs Out?” Joey, a yellow Labrador Retriever entered the reception hall with a dog walker. Joey was dressed in his own doggy tuxedo. Tail wagging furiously, the dog briefly mingled with guests before retiring to another room set aside just for him.
The groom, Russ Nelson of West Conshohocken, Pa., says the wedding planning included finding a pet-friendly venue for the reception so Joey could share the happy day with him and his bride, Natalie, in 2010. “That was our number one priority,” he says.
In a special day filled with family and friends, it doesn’t seem right to exclude a beloved pet. “People think of their pets as part of the family,” notes Holly Kline, a wedding officiant in Marlton, N.J., who’s often presides over pet-friendly ceremonies.
Having dogs at a wedding for photos or as part of the ceremony has become increasingly popular for pet parents. But bringing your four-legged friend along to your big day can come with its own set of challenges. Here are six of the most important issues to keep in mind when involving your pets in your wedding.
Consider the comfort level of those who will be around the dog
Are any of the guests or those in the wedding party afraid of dogs or allergic to them? Is your dog well trained and easy to handle? I know a bridesmaid who reported nearly having a wardrobe malfunction while walking the couple’s excited dog down the aisle! Also, be aware that not all officiants allow dogs at the ceremony.
Research venues that permit dogs
Churches and other places of worship often won’t let dogs inside, while secular locations may have no problem with it, particularly if the ceremony is outdoors. Before you book, make sure your venue can meet your needs. It’s also a good idea to ask about any restrictions imposed by local health regulations that don’t allow animals around food.
For example, Kline recalls officiating a ceremony held at a beachfront tiki bar. The couple’s two Golden Retrievers were decked out in sparkly blue leashes to match the wedding party and walked down the aisle like they were born to do it. However, says Kline, the dogs did not attend the reception due to local regulations.
Assign a trusted dog handler to care for the dog during the ceremony and/or reception
Couples should keep in mind they’ll have little time to interact with the dog on their big day. Make sure someone the dog knows, who isn’t a member of the wedding party or a guest, is charged with taking care of the dog for the day, says wedding coordinator Jutta Lammerts of San Mateo, Calif., author of Wedding Woof, a blog providing tips for how to incorporate dogs into wedding celebrations. In addition, don’t forget to arrange for transportation of your pet to and from the event.
Rehearse with the dog, at home and at the venue
A popular ceremonial role for a dog is to serve as the ring bearer. This may mean the dog has to wear a special accessory to carry the rings, so try it out beforehand to be sure he’s comfortable with it. Also, bring your dog to the venue so that the first time he sees it isn’t the day of the wedding. “I let people know they really have to plan ahead,” says Lammerts.
Look at the day from the dog’s point of view
The dog will be in a strange environment, around a lot of people, and will probably get bombarded with attention. Some dogs may be fine with that, but others will be stressed out. “You have to see the day from the dog’s perspective,” Lammerts cautions. Be sure to provide a quiet, separate area or room for the dog, and provide food, water, and regular bathroom breaks, she says.
Be flexible. Animals know nothing about wedding etiquette
It’s an exciting day for the dog, too, so be prepared for the unexpected. Nelson admits that while his dog Joey loved being the center of attention at the reception, he got a little too wound up. Joey departed the reception with his handler for his designated quiet room a bit earlier than planned, he says.