Ten top tips to help you include your dog in your wedding.
Just before Christmas I was asked to make a bespoke green tweed collar, lead and bow set for one very lucky dog who was officiating at a wedding when his owners eloped to Scotland. It was very exciting to be involved in the planning stages and the handmade accessories were a big hit with Roshi’s owners.
Shortly after this we had fantastic news of our own as my son announced his engagement. Both our families have dogs so it got me thinking about the logistics of having a dog at a wedding and what can be put in place to make sure you all have a happy, safe and stress free day.
Nearly a quarter of couples consider having their pet with them at their wedding and searches for pet friendly weddings have increased by over 200%. When you are surrounded by special friends and family taking your pet along is a natural progression right? I have even read that in America your pet can be a witness and sign the papers with their paw print! How wild is that!
Whilst it is perfectly possible to have your dog at your wedding there are several things to think about before you decide to have a dog friendly celebration. So here are a few ideas to hep you with your wedding planning.
1. Check with your venue
Some venues are happy to accommodate pets but some will only allow pets at outdoor events and for others it is a complete no go. So as soon as you are looking at venues ask the question. Once you have established your pet can attend then it is important to consider their stress levels and their safety.
You might need to factor in travelling time and distance to the venue along with walks and feeding routines. You dog will be over stimulated if they attend the whole day so perhaps arrange a dedicated safe space for them that is quiet so they can relax in their bed or crate with familiar toys around them.
Town and City wedding venues may have limited outdoor areas for your dog but if you choose a remote country location you may have additional problems getting services like a dog sitter to come out to you.
You might need to check that the venue is escape proof and that the floor isn’t going to be problematic for paws.
If you end up choosing a wedding venue that doesn't allow dogs it's ok to ask if they would allow a quick visit for photographs so your pup can say hello to the guests.
2. Allergies and Phobias
Before you make the decision to have your dog present at your wedding you might want to check with important guests and venue staff to ensure that nobody has any allergies or phobias. Lots of people can be fearful around dogs so it’s only fair to consider the needs of both. You may well need to decide who is more important, the guest or your dog but if people are warned before hand they can take appropriate medication if necessary. If you mention that your dog is attending on your invitations or save the date info then guests will be aware in plenty of time before the day.
3. Find a dedicated chaperone or sitter
If your dog is attending your wedding it is likely that you have a role for them in the proceedings, maybe they will be a ring bearer with the wedding rings attached to their collar or maybe they will be best dog. They could even be a bridesmaid or walk the bride down the aisle. Just having them there will make for really cute photographs too!
So that you don’t have to worry about their welfare during the day you could employ a specialist wedding chaperone or dog sitter. Ideally it should be someone with whom your dog is familiar and some one you trust. You might even find a relative that wants to do it but either way there should be somewhere available for the dog to be able to rest during the day.
A chaperone would be able to help you with feeding, walking and maybe overnight and honeymoon boarding. They are also generally experts at logistics so can usually be flexible enough to manage the details and timings of the day, maybe bringing your pet in for the ceremony and then taking them home immediately afterwards depending how you pet copes with lots of new people and surroundings.
The best thing about hiring a chaperone service is that your dog's welfare is their top priority.
4. Food and Drink
Food and drink is a huge part of every wedding, so find out what your venue will provide for your dog or whether you will need to pack a bag of all the essential items for their day. Food, water, bowls, treats etc….
Often a wedding day schedule is likely to disrupt your dog’s normal toileting and exercise routine even if you have managed to recruit relatives to help out.
This is where a chaperone can help as they can provide exercise for your dog before and after the ceremony to let off a little steam and make sure there are no accidents at the venue. It also makes sure that none of your friends and family will miss out on the celebrations.
6. Does your dog have the right skills and personality to cope with the stresses of the day
Wonderful as it would be to include our dogs in my son's wedding I know that Leo and Charley would be a nightmare to manage, Charley because she gets so excited about everything and barks like mad and Leo because he is anxious and easily spooked. A wedding would be totally out of his comfort zone so we will be looking for someone to look after them both when my son gets married next year.
If you are desperate to include your dog then perhaps a smaller more intimate occasion might suit them better.
7. Training and a practice run
Before the actual day you could take some time to allow your dog to learn how to cope with lots of strangers.
You might choose to go to big outdoor events, family parties, festivals or dog shows to expose them to crowds of unfamiliar people, noises and smells. If they have an official role to play during the ceremony you might need to train new behaviour well before the day. A good dog trainer can help with this.
If you have a young or excitable dog seeing a trainer before the day might be helpful. They could give you tips about how to avoid over excitement and trigger stacking which will help to prevent your dog becoming overwhelmed. Frequent breaks from the activities can help and a cozy and quiet den to retire to with their toys will help to promote calm.
Immediately before the big day most couples have a wedding rehearsal so it might be good to get your pup to join in with this. If you are able, try a practice run at the venue where you can see if there are any things that might upset your dog or hazards that you might need to avoid on the day.
Some rural locations may have livestock or game birds in fields nearby that could be distracting for your dog.
8. Posh wedding outfits and accessories
There are some fabulous accessories out there for dressing up your dog at a wedding. You can find everything from a simple themed bandana or smart bow tie to full wedding dresses with veils and flowery crowns.
Whatever you choose make sure your dog isn’t uncomfortable or over heated especially during summer months. Some outfits will not have been designed to be worn all day. So make sure your pup is able to walk freely, eat and drink and toilet easily whilst wearing the outfit.
If wearing flowers garlands and crowns again make sure they aren’t toxic in case they get nibbled and eaten.
You may want to have some special accessories made to match the bridesmaids or the groom. Lots of small businesses will make to measure and provide a bespoke service for you if they can. In fact one of my favourite things to do is to make special and meaningful accessories for customers.
Making Roshi's collar bow and lead was a great challenge. First I had to find a green tweed fabric to match the grooms wedding suit. Then I had to make the Rottweiler sized accessories which were a bit bigger than I usually make. The finished set looked amazing so I made a collar for Leo from the scraps too!
9. Check out the event through your dog’s eyes
Weddings can be full of noises, smells, people, new surroundings and things you might not have even thought of could be potential hazards for your dog.
You could map out the main parts of the day and check if any situations would be overly stressful and you could chose which bit would be most suitable for your dog.
Do you need to check whether the confetti is edible and safe?
Is there anything poisonous or dangerous included in the floral decorations?
Is any of the food contained in the wedding breakfast hazardous to your dog?
Check my previous blog to see which foods you need to be careful around. You might know what is hazardous but would your guests be tempted to give in and give morsels of food to your dog under the table
Some dogs hate balloons and the noise from one popping can cause anxiety.
Will there be any children running around making unfamiliar noises?
Can your dog tolerate children?
All these things can be problematic for some dogs so at least if you have considered some of the issues you will be able to find solutions before the actual event.
10. Things you can do to include your dog if they can’t join you for the whole day.
If you decide that attending the wedding wouldn’t be safe for your dog, or it would be too stressful for you both, you can still include them in other ways. Here are a few ideas.
- Include them on your invitations and other wedding stationery
- Have a photo shoot with them at home before you set out.
- Make a reference to them in the ceremony and speeches.
- Use images of them in the venue decorations.
- Have a fondant model of them as a topper on the cake.
- Give each other accessories that include your dog’s paw print or image. You can get amazing personalised earrings, cuff links and necklaces with paw prints on.
- If your pup can't cope with the whole day maybe you could consider just a flying visit with a relative or a chaperone.
I hope reading this blog has given you some ideas of how to include your beloved dog in your wedding celebrations so that you can enjoy the wonderful celebrations together.