Whether you are planning a micro-wedding or a lavish affair, there is one guest that needs to remain on the top of the list, your dog. He was there to celebrate the ups and downs, walk in the sun and rain, and dole out daily does of unconditional love. Edith Wharton captured the feeling perfectly when she wrote,”My little dog—a heartbeat at my feet.”
We checked in with Dr. Katy Nelson, Senior Veterinarian at Chewy for some insights about having your dog at your wedding. “First and foremost, know your dog. Some dogs will thrive in an environment like this, others will not. Keep in mind that many dogs will not do well with all the music, people, unusual sounds and sights, cameras, etc. f your dog has a personality type that will do well with the excitement surrounding a wedding, training far ahead of time will be key,” says Dr. Nelson.
Questions to ask yourself about having your dog at your wedding
- Will the wedding be indoor vs. outdoor?
- Will the venue allow pets?
- Will you have guests at the wedding with allergies or fear of dogs?
- Who will you have in charge of the pet for the day? You will need someone to be in charge of the dog before the ceremony, during the ceremony and will need to plan for someone to take the pet home afterwards.
- Are any of the flowers/plants that you’re using in your ceremony toxic to pets? The ASPCA has a great list here that goes into detail about toxic and non-toxic plants.
Vet the venue
Pet-friendly does not totally imply that the pet will be welcome in all areas of the venue, so have a discussion with the venue’s management team about their definition of pet-friendly. Dr. Nelson gives these four tips to vet the venue.
- Find out if the venue allows you to bring your pet for practice sessions so the pet can become accustomed to the place.
- Confirm which areas your pet can and cannot go into at the venue and where they will be allowed to relieve themselves.
- Ask if your ceremony will be the only event occurring at that time, and if there other events are occurring, what type of events they are and if there will be other pets there.
- Find out who the best venue contact is to call in case of any pet emergencies or accidents. It’s important to have someone in charge of your pet that they’re comfortable with such as a familiar petsitter, family member or friend and also a go-to contact at the venue.
What should you bring in your doggy bag?
- Portable bowls, water, calming treats (plus optional treat pouch), food, squeaky toys to give the photographer to grab your pets’ attention during photos, an Adaptil calming collar
- Harness and/or gentle leader, leash (NOT a retractable leash), collar with ID tags
- Poop bags, clean up supplies (like Nature’s Miracle, towels/paper towels, etc) in case of an accident
- Carrier, backpack, travel bag
- Cozy bed if your pet will be staying after the wedding
Tips for getting him to walk down the aisle
Dr. Nelson gives these 5 tips to get your dog walk down the aisle:
- Training, practicing, positive reinforcement
- Practice with distractors, music and other people
- Practice elimination cues prior to the wedding
- Make sure your pet knows the heel cue if they are walking with someone else
- Use a harness, not a leash attached to the collar, and NOT a retractable leash
How to inspire dogs pose for photos
- Provide your photographer with squeaky toys to catch your dog’s attention
- Practice beforehand to get your dog to sit or stand still during the photo shoot
What if your dog can’t attend the wedding?
“It does sound absolutely adorable to have your pup in your wedding, but some pets are not cut out for the role. If your pet does not have the personality where they will actually enjoy the experience (not just tolerate it and be stressed the entire time), then it may be best to allow them to enjoy themselves at home while you go and have your special day. You wouldn’t want to have to worry about a pet that escapes during the ceremony or becomes ill from either eating something he wasn’t supposed to or due to a case of stress colitis,” says Dr. Nelson.
An alternative to including your dog in your wedding ceremony is including them in the wedding photos so they can still be there for your special day and you’ll have photo memories to look back on, but they will get to enjoy time with you in a private, controlled environment.
*Featured cover photo credit: Boston Harbor Hotel, Nicole Ellen Photographer.
Stacey Marcus is a Boston-based freelance lifestyle writer, publicist and content strategist. Her work has appeared in Boston magazine, Boston Common, Bride & Groom Magazine, Destination I Do, Modern Luxury Weddings Boston and Chicago, Ocean Home and playboy.com among others. A former senior editor at New England Bride Magazine, Stacey is also a publicist for non-profit organizations and small businesses. She is the author of a children’s book, A Bed for Every Bear: Tuck’s Tale. Stacey enjoys writing about travel, trends, and romance.