Be mindful, realistic and prepared—and other tips to help you share the big day with your pet.
Posted in , Apr 25, 2019
You’re ready to tie the knot, but the day wouldn’t be complete without your best buddy. If you’re thinking about including your pet in your wedding—as more and more couples are—here are some tips to help the big day go off without a hitch.
1. Consider your pet’s temperament.
You’ll want the day to be relaxing, enjoyable and safe for your pet and guests. Before you ask your dog to walk into a crowded venue, John Woods of Stockport, Australia, a professional dog trainer and editor at Allthingsdogs.com, suggests you ask yourself these questions: “Is your pet well-socialized? Does she accept adults, kids, and people with hats?” Therapy dog handler Daleen Comer of Mission Viejo, California, who is training a dog to be a ring bearer, says, “Your pet should not be too sensitive to stress, because the stress level at a wedding tends to be high.”
2. Decide what your pet will do.
There are many ways your pet can be part of your wedding. Dogs, cats and even bunnies may serve as ring bearers. Dogs might stand by the groom; horses could carry the bride up the aisle. Or your faithful friend may sit as an honored guest in the front row. If your wedding venue doesn’t allow animals, or if your pet may not cope well with the busyness of the day, include him or her in family photos before or after the service.
Comer, who is also a therapy dove handler, says that doves can be a beautiful adornment at a wedding if kept safely in cages, but she cautions that the birds should never be purchased at a pet store and released at weddings. “They cannot survive in the wild,” Comer says. Instead, hire a service with “pure-white racing homing pigeons.” They look like doves, and “they know how to go directly home.”
3. Practice, practice, practice.
Don’t skip the rehearsals, no matter what. And be sure to designate someone as the pet wrangler. On his big day, Comer’s nephew hired a professional who picked up his two huskies at the groomer’s, brought them to the venue and stayed there the whole time. After the wedding and photographs were over, the wrangler took the dogs back home.
Even experienced therapy dogs, like Comer’s client Baxter, a nine-year-old mixed breed, need practice. “He’s already comfortable with crowds. To prepare him to be a ring bearer, I’m training him to go to a mark and stand on it.”
4. Be realistic about attire.
Do you dream of your golden retriever in a gown, or your tabby in a tux? As cute as this seems, it may not be realistic. If your pet isn’t used to wearing outfits, consider something smaller, such as a floral collar or a bow tie. “The last thing you want is Fido scratching to get his outfit off,” Woods says. If a dog can tolerate a harness, “a satin pillow can be attached to the back, and the dog won’t know it’s there,” Comer says. She’s also seen horses with bows attached to their bridles, or ribbons braided into their mane and tail.
5. Be mindful of other details.
Think twice about flowers or decorations that may be harmful to your pet. Alert your bridal party or anyone who will be sitting close to your furry friend ahead of time in case of allergies. If you’re worried that your pet may get stage fright and have to be removed from the scene, consider a backup plan for incorporating her into your day. Pictures or favors that feature your favorite buddy are fuss-free options.
6. Prepare for the unexpected.
What could go wrong, right? “Despite every good intention and no matter how many times your dog got it right in the rehearsal, you never truly know how your pet will behave on the big day,” Woods says. If you choose to include an animal companion in your wedding, remember, it’s not about the performance, but about the love shared on that day.
Did you enjoy this story? Subscribe to All Creatures magazine.