Strike up the band because you’re planning the happiest day of your life — your wedding day!
Everything is falling into place except one thing: What will your dog do while you take your vows?
Many couples have included their dog in their weddings, whether simply as an attendee or in a more active role. If you’re getting married and you want your faithful companion by your side, here are some thoughts to consider.
The Dog’s Temperament
First, think of what you’ll be asking of your dog — can he handle it? Some dogs love people, noise and events, and they do well in a crowded setting. Other dogs may struggle with all the excitement on the big day.
“Weddings can be stressful and overwhelming for a dog that does not adapt well to new environments or is uncomfortable around strangers,” dog trainer Victoria Stilwell tells Bridal Guide.
“Sociable dogs that are outgoing and friendly often cope better with the extra attention they are likely to receive. If your dog is shy and uncomfortable around people, leave him at home where he is safe and secure.”
The last thing you want is your canine ring bearer running off with the rings. If your dog is excitable and a jumper normally, take plenty of time for training before the ceremony, and if you think he just isn’t going to be able to contain himself, don’t worry — he can still attend as a guest and even be part of your wedding photos.
If your dog is anxious in new settings or can’t deal with crowds of people, it may be best to leave him home.
There is probably no worse feeling than planning everything perfectly and then finding out that the wedding venue has a strict “no pets” policy.
“Call ahead,” advise Maggie Daniels and Carrie Loveless in Wedding Planning and Management. “Find out if the venues will accept pets. Also, if you are having a destination wedding, look for hotels that are pet-friendly.”
Many outdoor wedding venues allow pets, but not all of them do. Indoor venues differ from company to company — some may allow your pet, but he’ll be restricted to certain areas.
Check with your venue early in the planning process. If you’re having a beach wedding, contact the local town hall and find out whether pets are allowed.
Your Dog’s Role
What role your dog performs in your wedding depends on not only his temperament but also your needs. Some of these roles are:
- Ring bearer
- Best dog
- Dog of honor
- “Dog of the Bride” (where the dog accompanies the bride down the aisle)
- Flower pooch
Depending on your dog’s size, he can perform other duties as well: Larger dogs can carry a sign around their necks that tells guests the ceremony is about to begin, and smaller dogs can fit into totes and be carried along with the bride as part of her bouquet.
This happy couple couldn’t imagine their wedding day without their dog, Murphy:
Preparation Is Key
Give your dog plenty of training well before the ceremony. He should be well versed in commands like “come” and “stay” and know not to jump on people. Wedding attendees run the gamut from the very young to the very old, and if your dog jumps on someone, he could accidentally cause serious injury to a young child or an elderly relative.
As a courtesy, let your guests know that your pet will be attending or performing in the ceremony. “Determine if anyone who will be interacting directly with the pet has an allergy,” say Daniels and Loveless. “Also, some wedding party members may get nervous around animals and should be notified in advance.”
This is great advice — it will put a real damper on your day if your human maid of honor needs to go to the hospital due to anaphylactic shock or if Aunt Ethel runs screaming at the sight of your bewildered pooch.
Dogs are such an important part of our families that it just makes sense to include them in big events like weddings. And no matter what size or age or temperament, your dog can be a part of it all.
Good luck, and happy planning!