Dogs in the Bridal Party? I say YES !!!
During my training to become a celebrant I was strongly advised not to allow pets to take part in any ceremonies as they can be unpredictable and distracting.
Then I launched myself into the world of celebrancy and the first couple that booked me wanted not one, but all three of their dogs to be involved.
What was I suppose to do? My guiding principle as a celebrant is to advise and facilitate; not to stand in the way of what couples want....... so the dogs were in!
They accompanied the bridesmaids down the aisle and sat beside them well-behaved for most of the ceremony, gently encouraged by a few doggie-treats that we had hidden in a nearby flower-pot. At one point, Birdie the Staffy left her position and went to her owners for attention. Far from distracting and taking away from the ceremony, it was endearing. It added to the ‘realness’ of the ceremony.
I didn’t have my rescue dog Sasha when I got married but if I could do it all again, I’d definitely include her. Pets play such an important role in people’s lives: I can understand why couples want their fur-babies to be there and involved on their special day.
My advice to couples now is that as long as you understand that everything may not go exactly to plan on the day and you are relaxed about it, then you should go for it.
Unless of course, you think your dog won’t enjoy it. If your dog is anxious or easily excitable, they may find the whole experience overwhelming and you should put their needs above your own wants.
Tips for how to successfully include dogs in the wedding
Consider how your dog will be involved. Your dog could take the place of a flower girl or page boy by walking down the aisle unassisted. This may take some training and won’t be suitable for all dogs. You could put them on a lead and get them to accompany one of your bridal party down the aisle. You could let them be the ring bearer with the rings attached to their collar. You may need to have one of your bridal party loaded up with treats to reward good behaviour. It’s probably best to tell you bridal party about your plans, just in case one of them suffers from allergies so that they are forewarned and can take some precautions. Why not go all out and let the dog be the ‘best man’?! Remember, it’s your wedding and you can do what you want!
This is important for the smooth running of the ceremony. Having a rehearsal won’t guarantee that everything will go perfectly on the day but it will help highlight any possible problems. E.g. a dog that won’t sit in position because they want to go to their owner or one that keeps barking.
Check that the venue doesn’t mind pets. It would be awful to turn up on the day only to find out that pets aren’t allowed. Think about where your dog will sleep that night. You may need to book some pet-friendly accommodation.
Handler/ Pet sitter
You are going to have enough to worry about on the day without adding to the stress by worrying about your dog. Hire someone to look after your dog: to dress it, bring it to the ceremony on time, make sure it is watered and fed and looked after for the rest of the day if the dog isn’t going to the reception. They should probably take the dog on a nice long walk before the ceremony to burn off excess energy so they are more likely to behave.
There is nothing cuter than a dog wearing an outfit, especially a tuxedo or a bowtie. Make sure they won’t be too hot. Consider a flower wreath or just a collar with a flower on it. Tell your florist what you are doing as some flowers and berries could be poisonous. And get them groomed close to the wedding sot that they are looking and smelling their best.
Tell your photographer so they are prepared and don’t miss any crucial shots. They may even have some ideas on how to incorporate your dog into your photos.
For recommendations on professional pet handlers in Newcastle and the Hunter, see my Little Black Book.