Wedding Day Responsibilities

How to Include Your Dog in Your Wedding: Do’s and Don’ts

Photo by Fabio Mirulla

You labor enough over the invite list; don’t think twice about having your best bud at your wedding. Your dog is family, right? That’s not unusual: Sixty-eight percent of U.S. households own a pet, according to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA). Follow our do’s and don’ts and you’ll never have to worry about canine chaos… peeing, pooping, barking, or running away.  

To prepare for the unexpected, we sought out advice from Barnfield Pets, the largest general-veterinary practice in the U.S. with more than 1,000 hospitals across the United States and Puerto Rico. Here are some of their dos and don’ts.

Do: Match your dog’s temperament and personality to the role you assign. 

We all handle stress differently, including dogs. You can’t flat out ask if your dog is chill with being your best man, so experts at Barnfield suggest thinking about how your dog normally interacts with people in public. Is your pup down to meet and do a few tricks for the guests? Or is he a bit shy and reserved? 

There are a few different wedding party roles that your dog can take on based on their personality: 

  1. Pup of Honor — He/she can walk down the aisle with the wedding party and sit off to the side with them and watch the ceremony. A leash is recommended; couples in the past decorated the leash with flowers to give it a wedding vibe. 
  2. Flower Dog — Who needs a flower girl when you have a cute dog? She can carry a basket of flowers in her mouth (hopefully without dropping it) or she can walk alongside a flower girl. Tip: make sure that the flower petals are non-toxic and safe for dogs.
  3. Honored Guest — This is the ideal role for a bud who is not as social. If he is suited for a calmer role, give him the honored place of sitting in the front row with someone he knows. 
  4. Ring Bearer — Tie the rings to his collar and have someone lead him up the aisle. Some dogs can pull off this trick without a human, but not everyone is as lucky. Which leads us to… 

Don’t: Attach real rings to your dogs collar. 

Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Everyone thinks their dog would never run off, until it happens. The last thing you need is a dog sprinting into the sunset with a chunk of your income. The alternative is simple: Use fake rings on the collar and keep the real rings in your pocket. When you reach down to get the “rings,” slip the real ones out of your pocket. The audience gets their “aw” moment, the dog feels special, the bride gets a laugh, and you pulled off the old switcheroo. Everyone gets what they want. 

Do: Wait to get the green light from the venue. 

As it turns out, not everyone likes dogs. Okay, maybe they like dogs, they just don’t like dogs in their expensive indoor venue. In some situations it is better to ask for forgiveness instead of permission, but this is not one of those cases. Imagine sending your dog home, suit in hand, after being told no dogs allowed. Before you sign the contract, make sure it is a dog-friendly venue. 

Don’t: Set the dog loose without a dress rehearsal. 

“Winging it” doesn’t work with dogs. Sheree Atcheson and Sean McCrory, a UK-based couple, who own Alfie a Yorkshire Terrier said they didn’t take Alfie to the venue before, but admit that they should have. Barnfield recommends getting your pup familiar with the venue before the big day. 

Do: Have someone on dog duty during the wedding. 

This can be a parent, a friend, or a hired chaperone. Barnfield provides a dog service that allows you to hire someone to be your dog’s chaperone for the day, and they even watch your dog while you are gone on your honeymoon. Find out if there are any services like this in your area.

Don’t: Forget to take the dog to the bathroom before the ceremony. 

Alfie had no potty problems during the ceremony, which made the Atcheson-McCrory family happy. However, we have no control over when or where our dogs decide to go. For them, anywhere can be a toilet. Don’t believe us? Just ask Cooper the Corgi.

If this happens, don’t worry; dog does as dog wants.

Do: Dress them up to the nines. 

The Internet has everything you are looking for when it comes to dog wedding outfits. Some wedding companies even make flower crowns for your dog and canine tuxedos. If your dog is more of a minimalist, the classic bow-tie collar might be best. Try to find something that keeps your dog comfortable while looking sharp. 

“We got Alfie’s outfit from Amazon and then customized it with a bow tie and the same flower my partner had,” said Atcheson. 

Don’t: Forget the treats. 

Remember the things that Scooby Doo would do for Scooby Snacks? That is real. Need your dog to run blissfully down the aisle towards you? Treats. Need your dog to look at the camera for photos? Treats. Your dog scratches at his bow-tie? Distract him with treats. Atcheson and McCrory say that Alfie always behaves when treats are around, so a word to the wise: bring the treats. This also works as a general rule to keep humans happy too — keep their treats nearby.

Do: Include them in your photos.

If you want to see genuine laughter and smiles, bring out a dog. If you are not having your dog in any other part of the wedding, make sure you include them in the photos. They might steal the show, but who’s complaining?

Bottom Line

Remember that a dog is still a dog; he might pee during the vows or run in the opposite direction. Don’t sweat it. In the end, dogs always make for a good story.

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