Perhaps you met at a dog park, riding at a horse farm or caring for animals at the SPCA. Or maybe you adopted a dog together and consider her your “fur baby.” Whatever the situation, there are plenty of reasons a couple might choose to have a pet at their wedding (this usually means dogs but we’ve seen goats, sheep, horses and even reptiles at weddings!) But before you buy that Labradoodle-sized tuxedo, allow us to offer some advice on how to throw a successful pet-friendly wedding.
1. Talk to your venue
Not all venues will allow animals on site, so before you book in your “flower pup” or “ring dog,” consult your site manager. Maybe you can have an outdoor ceremony with your pet present then send her back home with a pet sitter, or perhaps there’s somewhere on site where your dog can relax and nap during the reception. Communication is key at a pet-friendly wedding!
2. Consider your pet’s personality
Is your dog obedient and talented? Friendly and welcoming? More of a shy guy? Before assigning a starring role to your furry friend, consider your pet’s personality and the best place for him at your wedding. Maybe he’d be a great greeter, or if she’s a show-off, consider having her come down the aisle (with a bridesmaid or groomsman, of course!) with your rings attached to her collar. There are lots of ways to include your pet in your wedding, just be sure the animal will be comfortable enough to perform.
3. If a big-day role doesn’t seem quite right, consider having your pet in your engagement photos
If your pet’s personality (or size!) doesn’t lend itself to a role in your wedding, consider having him in your engagement photos instead. Engagement sessions are relatively short (compared to full-day weddings) and involve fewer people and less pressure for anxious or excitable animals. You’ll still get to share a special moment with your furry friend and have great photos to share before the wedding!
4. Choose a role for your pet
If you decide that your pet will do well at your wedding, now is the time to assign her a role. If you want to put him in a costume, be sure he tries it on several times in advance of the big day and doesn’t scratch at it, whine, or try to take it off. When choosing a role for your pet, consider the length of time your animal will be “on,” so to speak: If you want your pet with you at the altar, you might want to put a favorite nap pillow or chew toy (non-squeaky!) up where the bridal party will stand. If your pet is a bit more active, you may want to have him greeting guests in an open space before your “I dos.”
5. Talk to your photographer and other wedding professionals.
Your photographer will need to know that you’re having a pet at your wedding in order to plan shots accordingly, and your caterer, band, florist and other vendors will be grateful for the heads-up about your pet-friendly wedding. Communicate, communicate, communicate and your big day will go off without a hitch.
6. Alert your guests
Some of your guests may have animal allergies, so you’ll need to let them know you’re having a pet-friendly wedding on your invitation or at least on your wedding website. This is also a good time to decide whether or not you want other people’s pets at your wedding. If you’re open to having a dozen dogs at your big day, note that on your invite or wedding website. And if you’re not, mention it!
7. Hire a pet sitter
This is a must. You will not have time to tend to your pet’s every need on the big day (trust us, you’ll be busy!) so whether you hire a younger relative who knows your animal well or a professional pet sitter, be sure there’s someone assigned to care for Fido at your wedding. Your pet sitter can even be the one to take your animal home or to your pet-friendly hotel room after her starring moment has passed.
8. Practice, practice, practice
Take your pet to your venue, put him in his big-day outfit (whether it’s a full-on costume or just a stylish new leash) and let him get familiar with the space. If he’ll be walking down the aisle, go through the motions several times so your pet isn’t surprised on the big day.
9. Have plenty of food, water, treats and waste bags on hand
Your pet will have to have all of her usual needs accommodated on your wedding day, so be sure to have the essentials on hand, plus some extra treats and toys around to keep her happy and comfortable.
10. Remember that your pet will need naps and downtime
Participating in a wedding will be a big change for your pet: If you have a dog, consider the fact that on a typical day, she spends most of the afternoon napping. While the excitement of the wedding will keep your pet alert and energized for much of the day, she’ll still need downtime. Be sure there’s space at the venue where your pet and pet sitter can relax and unwind, and if necessary, arrange for your pet sitter to take your animal home at a designated time.