In honor of our second wedding anniversary, I thought I’d share the best ways to incorporate your dog (or dogs) into your big day! Obviously, our dogs are family, they’re our kids, and we wanted them to be part of our wedding day because they mean the world to us. However, I learned quickly that it wasn’t going to be as easy as walking down the aisle to include one or more of the pups in our wedding. As an event planner by trade, I was excited to figure out the best ways to do this!
Here is what I learned and some of the many ways you can incorporate your dogs into the big day, or the days leading up to your wedding day.
Things to Consider First
1. Think long and hard about your dog’s personality and what they can handle
You know your dog the best and you know what they can and cannot handle. Don’t push them, even for your wedding day. It won’t be worth it if your dog has social anxiety or doesn’t like crowds – your pictures won’t come out the way you envisioned and ultimately your dog could get hurt emotionally or physically if you are trying to make them part of something they want nothing to do with. Your dog should be able to handle crowds, people, loud noises and stay calm if you want to include them as part of the ceremony.
2. Designate a place, person and dog bag for the wedding day
If your dog is going to participate in your ceremony or reception, designate a dog-friendly place they can always go to relax in (hotel room, small banquet room, etc.) and designate one person (not you or your significant other) who will stay responsible for your dog during the ceremony and reception. Pack a dog bag of essentials – food, water, water bowl, treats, poop bags, a blanket and anything else they need that the designated person is in charge of along with your pup. The last thing you want to do is worry where and what is happening to your dog.
3. Include your dog on your timeline and vendor list
If you or your event planner creates a timeline (which you should) for the day of, include your dog in there! Who is the dog walking down the aisle with? What is the dog doing before, during and after the ceremony and reception? Who is their designated person in the event of an emergency and can they easily get a hold of you or another family member? Where is the closest vet or pet store if there is an emergency or supplies are needed? Notify your vendors that your dog will be part of the wedding. Your photographer, videographer, onsite coordinator, etc. should all be aware in the event there are any restrictions and so they can be sure to capture the moments you want with your dog!
Determine in advance when you are planning your outfit and the bridal party’s outfits, what your dog will ‘wear’. New collar or leash? Bow in their hair? Bow tie? Also consider if your dog even likes these things and that they won’t be bothered by them in the ceremony or reception. Make sure to try on any accessories weeks in advance and have them wear them around the house to get used to them so you know if they will be ok with them on during the ceremony.
5. Get to know your surroundings
If you have a destination or out of town wedding, you have to research the area thoroughly to see if they will allow dogs. Hotels might have restrictions or be dog friendly. Towns and cities are the same way. If you have a pit bull type dog like I do, make sure there is no BSL in the area or surrounding areas so that you don’t have any trouble. Make sure your hotel doesn’t have any breed or weight restrictions, either. If you have a medical needs dog like I do, research and call the vets in the area to let them know who you are and who your dog is. Get to know their hours and where the closest emergency vet is.
We included Izzy in our ceremony because she is extremely social and probably would’ve been mad if we didn’t. We did not include her in the reception, however, because it was on a boat and we knew people would be drinking and being rambunctious. Her designated dog person took her back to the house after our ceremony where she was safe with the rest of the pups for the night. Drunk people and dogs don’t mix. So don’t put your dog in any danger if you know there will be a lot of drinking involved. Also, some people like getting married on the top of mountains or on cliffs – probably not the safest for dogs.
Ways to Include Your Dog in Your Wedding Festivities or Day of
1. Engagement pictures
We knew Mylah and Hudson would not do well in our wedding ceremony because Hudson gets bad social anxiety and Mylah’s diabetes needs to stay regulated and activity and stress affects all of that. So we did engagement pictures around our neighborhood with all three of the pups!
2. Save the date or invitation
Feature your dog on your save the date or invitation! They can shine in the spotlight of this important part of your wedding.
3. Make a weekend out of it
We made a weekend out of our wedding and had two days and three nights before the wedding day to be with friends, family and our dogs. They swam, hiked and had a blast with their favorite dog and human friends the entire weekend.
4. Wedding pictures
Schedule wedding pictures with just your significant other and your dogs. This can be after your first look but before the ceremony, or after the ceremony and before the reception. If your dog has anxiety, only have the couple, photographer and designated dog handler there for the moment.
5. Ring bearer or flower girl
If you need a ring bearer or flower girl, consider your dog! You can purchase flower crowns or a flower for the dog’s collar and even ring holders for your dog.
6. Bridesmaid or groomsman
I consider Izzy one of my best friends so I wanted her to walk down with the Maid of Honor and Best Man and sit right up front. Again, I knew she could handle being there for the whole ceremony and she did amazing.
Your dog can walk down the aisle, or not, or just be a guest and sit right in the front row! Maybe your dog needs a break halfway through – they can always sit in the back. As long and their designated person knows what they need, this shouldn’t be a problem.
8. Cake topper
There are so many options for cake toppers that can be made to look exactly like your dog or can be cute and chic silhouettes of your dog.
9. Table numbers
Looking for a unique way to display table numbers? Include framed photos of your dog with the table number. There are a plethora of ways to do this – get on Pinterest for some fun ideas.
10. Additional signage
Signs for your gift and card table, welcome sign, dessert sign, etc. can all include adorable photos or silhouettes of your pups.
I am so glad we had Izzy as part of our wedding day, and had all three pups as part of our engagement pictures and during the entire weekend leading up to the wedding. Utilizing all these tips definitely helped me so I hope it helps you!
Have you had your pup part of your wedding or engagement? Let me know, comment below!