6 Ways to Make Your Dog a Part of Your Wedding & Keep them Safe [the ultimate guide]
6 Ways to Make your Dog a Part of your Wedding & Keep them Safe doing it
If you've ever spent more than ten minutes with me in public, you'll know that I love dogs. One walks by and I'm instantly distracted. So, whenever someone mentions their dog might be coming to their wedding I am so excited.
I'm making an attempt at having this as an advice post, but, really, it's just an excuse to post pictures of dogs!
So, you're doing this big, significant thing and you want the furriest member of your family to be there. But, practicalities often get in the way, so, I've put together a list of some of the ways I've seen dogs get involved in weddings. And I've reached out to my friend Lisa Sinnott, founder of Albany Pet Services who has a whole lot of doggy qualifications including a Canine Coaching Diploma, to give us some advice on what to think about before bringing your dog to your big day.
Is your venue dog friendly?
This is most likely going to be the deciding factor. The majority of dogs I've seen at weddings have been outdoor(ish) weddings, in tipis or marquees, where they could easily wander outside. I imagine it would be a much harder sell in a hotel. That said, I have also seen them at a registry office. The moral of the story is, you don't know unless you ask. And if they're not allowed, some of the below suggestions will still work.
Let's assume that your venue have given you the thumbs up, what role is your dog going to play?
1. Ring Security
OK, I've stolen this idea straight from Rachel & Greg. They decided their dogs probably wouldn't enjoy their church ceremony, or reception. So, instead, they had a dog-sitter bring the dogs to the church as guests arrived. Then, once Rachel had arrived, they went home again. This is kind of perfect! I know my dog, Tilly, used to get overwhelmed around lots of people, so, wouldn't like the main festivities of a wedding, but, a steady stream of people doting on her as they go past would be perfect.
So your dog isn't quite ready to actually walk down the aisle? I've covered a few weddings where the dogs have sat in with the other guests. It's a bit more low key and kind of adorable seeing them watching from afar. They've obviously got to dress up for the occasion though.
3. Ring Bearer/Best Man
I'm not going to lie to you, I've not actually seen this pulled off in person. I guess most people are wary of entrusting a very small and expensive, swallowable object to a dog in an untested environment? Still, if your dog is super well-behaved, this is kind of the dream. If you're having a ring bearer dog, please book me for your wedding so I can watch it!!
That said, Basil up there, waited at the top of the aisle with Stuart waiting for the bride. Basically playing the best man role. And doing it so well.
4. Evening Guest
So, your dog might pee all over the ceremony? What if it pops along with an evening guest, once the formalities and food are out of the way? Added bonus that your dog doesn't have to be staring at the back of your heads confused as to why you won't pay it attention mid-ceremony.
5. Just here for the photos
Maybe this is cheating a little bit? But, if you can find someone to chauffeur your dog back and forth (or book a service just for this), this is the easiest way of having them involved without worrying about them making off with the wedding cake.
6. Dog Videographer
We've all seen the videos of dogs wearing Go-pros at weddings, right? If not, here's one for you. Adorable, no?
Things to think about when having your dog at your wedding...
I talked to the lovely Lisa at Albany Pet Services, who offers walking, training and wedding concierge services for dogs, about some of the things to keep in mind when bringing your dog to your wedding.
Safety first, right? We spend a lot of our lives making sure out dogs don't kill themselves or escape onto a main road. With so much going on at a wedding, it will likely be a lot harder to watch your dogs every move. So, plan ahead to keep them safe.
Is your flower girl going to be sneaking your dog chocolate, or are they going to be chowing down on your poisonous centrepieces?
When we got our dog, I mournfully had to throw away some of my much-loved house plants in case she got peckish and poisoned herself. Wedding flowers are no different.
"Be mindful of the plants you have at the wedding," says Lisa, "some are toxic to dogs including Angel Wings, Christmas Rose and Poinsettias’." A full list can be found on the Dogs Trust website.
There are other practicalities to consider, as Lisa outlines, "if you’re getting married away from home, where is the local vet? Ensure you have the numbers of vets on hand - including an out of hours one. Bring a first aid kit in case (this is a good idea for humans too!) In the event of an emergency who would take your dog to the vet? Lots of taxis won’t carry dogs. If your guests have been drinking then they won’t be able to, so consider hiring a pet care professional who will be dedicated to caring for your pet."
If your dog is anything like mine, she will know to the minute when she's supposed to be eating, even if that comes mid-speech. And sniffing around for scraps of food, toxic or not...
"Dogs will need their food as usual and access to water at all times. Alcohol, chocolate and grapes are all very toxic to dogs so these will need to be kept away from your dog and all guests need to know this including children."
My childhood videos are full of shots of our family dog, Ben, hiding under the dining room table looking troubled by the screaming children running around.
Some dogs just aren't into crowds and this is a whole lot of new stuff - new people, new locations, alcohol.
"Assess your pet – is a wedding the right environment for them? Will there be hundreds of people there? Is your dog socialised around a variety of people? Even the most sociable of dogs may find hundreds of people unsettling. Obviously if your dog shows shows clear discomfort, fear, or aggression around strangers all the time then a wedding environment won’t be right for them and it’s best that a pet care professional comes and visits them in their home."
Is your dog super mischievous? Are they likely to go peeing on the aisle runner, or chasing after a pigeon when they're supposed to be escorting you down the aisle? Or are they going to jump all over your super delicate dress and give your photographer some extra claw hole Photoshop work to do?
It might be that rather than having your dog partying with you all day, they pop in for some photos or just for the ceremony and you find someone to take them home afterwards and chill with them.
Get you dog cleaned, coiffed and chilled for your wedding. A long, exhausting walk will help them work of their energy before the wedding. Of course, it's likely you'll be getting an early start as it is, so designate someone to block out that time for the dog, or hire someone to give them a good run before the wedding.
"If your dog is getting groomed then do this a few days before the wedding as this can be a stressful experience for some dogs. Trigger stacking is defined as ‘stress accumulation due to exposure of multiple triggers, either simultaneously or close enough in time that the dog’s reactivity has not returned to normal.’ (Grisha Stewart BAT 2.0) Stress hormones can dump and build up in the dogs brain and mean they may find things overwhelming."
Will your dog be at your wedding?
There you have it. The ultimate guide to involving your dog in your wedding, without stressing them out, stealing the show or poisoning them.
Will your dog be at your wedding? How will you include them? And what adorable bowtie will they be wearing?
If you've got any questions, Lisa at Albany Pet Services is eager to help. She can give you advice on the best low stress way to include your dog and take care of them on the day - from big walks, to helping pose them for photos and taking them home to chill when the party gets going.
If you're involving your dog in your wedding, I 150% want to see it! Hit me up to chat about your wedding plans and send pictures of the dog! All the pictures of the dog!!!
Saint James Church, Gerrards Cross Wedding Photographer Hannah and Carl kicked off their wedding at Saint James Church in Gerrards Cross. They greeted guests together and processed down the aisle together, with their children following them. Saint James Church is a...
Oxleaze Barn Wedding Photographer Shiv and Phil were married at Oxleaze Barn in Lechlade. This was my first visit to Oxleaze Barn and wow, is it beautiful. With higldy-pigldy walled gardens, exposed stone everywhere and a gorgeous sunset over the fields. This wasn't...
Hannah Mia Photography
Wedding Photographer Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire wedding photographer, based in St Albans. Covering London, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire and all over the world!