Q: My wonderful fiancé and I are getting married in New England in December. We’re having a traditional Catholic Mass in a Gothic chapel followed by a (boozy!) brunch reception. This is all happening at the boarding school I attended for high school. We’ve got a dress, a tux, and a great group of people coming. The only hiccup that I’m facing is how to incorporate our dog without making it stressful. We have a chocolate Lab puppy and he’s such a big part of our lives. He’ll be just over a year in December. The school is quite dog friendly and I know that if I want him to be around, they’ll allow it, I just don’t know how to do it well—he’ll get excited with so many people and so much food around! How have other APW couples incorporated dogs (especially bigger dogs) in their big day?
A:Wedding dogs! Talk about one of my favorite things ever. I didn’t get to have this at my own wedding, due to that tiny detail where I hadn’t adopted my dog quite yet. Whatever. Now, I have a dog, and a whole blog where I get to talk about him to my heart’s content. So let’s get cracking.
First things first, there are logistics involved in incorporating your dog into the wedding. Since your dog is still a puppy, socialization and training are the two key things you want to look at from now until the wedding. Bottom line: if he’s excited when there are a lot of people and food around, he’s going to get excited at the wedding. Working to change his pattern of behavior by teaching him how to interact more calmly with people will benefit not just the wedding, but your day-to-day life with your dog, so it’s absolutely worth the time investment. However, at the end of the day, he’s still a puppy, and a one-year-old Labrador is bound to be a little feisty and in everyone’s business. The picture of a wedding with the couple’s dog sitting calmly with the attendants is lovely, but sometimes just not in the cards when your pup would much rather sniff every crotch in the crowd, photographers and officiants included.
Second, you’re going to need some handlers that aren’t you or your partner. People who can act as, essentially, his babysitters. People who can take him out while you’re getting ready, who can bring him back to his designated place if he’s sitting out during the ceremony, who will make sure he’s got water and is fed at the right times. Your attention is going to get pulled in about a hundred different directions on the wedding day, and the list of things you need to do for your pup will only add to that. Chances are, you’ve already got a few folks lined up who are willing to take care of the dog while you’re on your honeymoon, so ask them if they’re willing to keep one eye on him during the wedding day as well.
Now that those two things are covered, let’s get to the fun stuff! Here are a few ways to incorporate your dog into your wedding, and what to think about before you decide your dog’s role.
1. Via Etsy, by You’re That Girl Designs 2. Via Etsy, by Kippy and Co. 3. Via APW, Jennifer and Jonathan’s Classy Cat Wedding, photo by Kateryn Silva 4. Via APW, A Private, At Home Santa Rosa Wedding, photo by Nirav Patel 5. Via APW, Exactly What We Wanted, photo by Kirsten Julia 6. Via APW, How We: Planned An Intimate, Florida Backyard BBQ, photo by Holly Gardner
Engagement Puppy: Oh, you thought we weren’t going to include engagement puppies? Come on! If Bryan had handed me a puppy instead of a ring, we might have eloped on the spot. WITH the puppy, of course.
Save the Date: Can’t have your dog at the wedding? Include him in your save the date invites instead. They make adorable chalkboard signs for everything now, but just be sure to acclimate your pup to wearing a sign, so you can avoid getting back one hundred photos of your dog shaking, rolling, and biting at the thing.
At the Wedding
Part of the bridal brigade: By your side from sunrise to sunset! Whether that’s as best dog/dog of honor, or simply hanging out with the other attendants, it’s up to you. A popular wedding dog job is the ring bearer, but make sure your dog is very well versed in coming when called, so he doesn’t end up visiting Aunt Sue halfway down and keeping his precious cargo. He can also walk down on a leash with another attendant, that way he’s tethered to someone—a good idea if your dog likes to wander.
Just Here For The Party: Would you rather not deal with dog wrangling during the ceremony? Let your dog be a reception-only attendant. If the venue is dog friendly, or close to home, let him sit out the ceremony and have someone bring him out to the reception, where he can soak in some attention from relatives and beg chicken off all the kids. If your dog has a habit of surfing counters for food or finding inappropriate things to chew on (discarded high heels anyone?), consider giving him a stationary place by your table where he can be leashed, have a chew or a toy, and enjoy the party without causing too much trouble.
Pictures Only: If your dog is like mine, and really good at making mischief where none existed before, consider bringing him out for wedding portraits only. You get to have him with you during the part of the day where you have the fewest amount of people to concentrate on, and can give him some undivided attention. Then, he can nap and you can spend time with the rest of your friends and family.
There In Spirit: Maybe your venue isn’t dog friendly, or maybe you don’t have a dog but you do have a really cute cat, and why can’t they get some wedding love too?? Whatever the reason, when including your animals in the wedding is a definite no, you can always incorporate something else that reminds you of them. Put their tags on your bouquet, use pictures of your pets as table markers, stick a big cardboard cutout of them in your photo booth. The sky’s the limit.
Bonus! Looking for some cute collar/outfit options for your pup? You’re in luck! Earlier this week we rounded up a whole bunch of options on Good Dogs & Co. for you to peruse, including a few DIY options. Happy hunting!
Did you incorporate your pets into your wedding? How did it go? Give us all your best tips and tricks.