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Open Thread: Dogs in Weddings


How do we incorporate our favorite furkid?

by Lucy Bennett, Deputy Editor

Open Thread: Dogs in Weddings | A Practical Wedding

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.

Open Thread: Dogs in Weddings | A Practical Wedding

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.

Open Thread: Dogs in Weddings | A Practical Wedding

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

Pre-Wedding

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. 

Lucy Bennett

Lucy is the Deputy Editor of APW and a freelance designer/writer hybrid. When not coming up with weird self-challenges, she can be found marathoning TV shows or playing board games. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, her moderately internet-famous pup, and two cats. She takes herself very seriously.

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  • Nina B

    PUPPIES!!! That is my helpful comment of the day.

    • vegankitchendiaries

      Haha! Yeah, I have nothing to add to the conversation except for I’m happy for another excuse to see pictures from the Linn & Dave wedding again! <3
      PS. PUPPIES!!!

    • NB

      Seconded. Can we just have lots and lots of pictures of APW wedding puppies? And, I would like to note that I will also accept “APW puppies” and also “puppies”. I’m open to maximizing Friday puppy time.

      • Ally

        Yes!! Pinterest board and/or Instagram hash tag plz!

  • ElisabethJoanne

    I’ve attended a nuptial Mass in a Gothic chapel with a doggy ring bearer. It was about 40 people. The dog was small and had been to the church a few times before.

    I’m told that church had seen a doggy ring bearer before – an aeredale terrier.

  • Ani

    This post is hitting me harder than a post about dogs at weddings should. We really wanted our dog to be at our wedding, but it’s not going to happen, and we’re sad about it. He’s going to be playing with his doggie friends at daycare, so he will have a good time, but we had hoped he’d be there; we’d even asked the flower farm to make a doggie wreath for him.

    Part of what is hard about it is that it relates to 1. my mom refusing to let us stay together in her house before the wedding because my 90-year-old grandfather will be there (and could be shocked, I guess, ugh) and 2. my mom refusing to let the dog stay there without us. At this point, we don’t have others in my hometown that I’d feel comfortable asking to take on a one-year-old dog, and we live far enough away that driving home is not practical. We’ll definitely have some photos around to show our whole family and honor him in absentia: thanks for the idea, Lucy!

  • http://instagram.com/mint.car Kamala

    My fiance used our dogs to propose. He had asked a friend for advice about how to do it and was told “just make it you guys” and we are definitely all about our dogs. He had a sign on our older dog saying that both dogs each got TWO cookies if I said yes about the thing on the other dog’s neck. Lo and behold our younger dog had the ring on a ribbon on her neck. It was private and at home with all my favorite people (furry and otherwise).

    We had discussed the possibility of having them at the wedding (his brother offered to put the dogs up in the RV that he is driving down so that they could be there) but truth be told they would be a pain to handle and they would be pretty unhappy all day. We’re pretty sad that they won’t be able to celebrate with us so we’re going to have them in our engagement pictures with us instead. The cardboard cut out for a photo booth isn’t a bad idea though…

    • Ani

      Yes, we’re sad too about not having our dog, but I agree with you that depending on where the ceremony is and what is happening, it might not be the most fun situation for the dog.

  • scw

    I’d love to hear more options for the “there in spirit” category! our indoor cat would not love attending our out of town ceremony, but we’d be thrilled if we could honor him in a silly way.

    • Ally

      If you’re in the market for a cake topper (or photobooth prop?) I’d recommend Ready Go Paper – https://www.etsy.com/shop/ReadyGo

      The likeness of her portraits is just insane – perfect cartoon versions of our pups. Our topper is my pic on disqus – I even had her print an 8×10 family portrait of all four of us that is framed and displayed with our fav wedding photos.

      • scw

        thanks!

    • MC

      We’re having a friend design a cartoon-ish picture of our cat’s face and then we’re making temporary tattoos (cat-toos?) to hand out at the reception!!! I’m crazy excited about it. We’re also going to have his picture all over our wedding zine/program.

      We also talked about making one of those head-in-the-whole photo things (what are those actually called??) of one of us with our cat, so other people could stick their faces through and take a picture “with” our cat. That project ended up being more work than we wanted, but I still love the idea.

      • scw

        I’d totally take that photo idea if we didn’t already have our photo booth planned!

    • Lawyerette510

      I went to a great wedding where at the top of the menus at each place-setting they had a button with a picture of their cat’s face on it. They actually had 4 cats at the time, so there were 4 different button designs, each a little different and with a different cat face. They had the date, the cat’s face, a cute background (chevron, dots, stripes, etc), and said “[Insert Cat name] loves her two mommies” They were awesome and nearly everyone took theirs home. I wear mine of my favorite hat all the time and get compliments.

  • Elle Marie

    We had a photo shoot with our cats incorporated into our engagement shoot, and had the nice framed photos of our cats on display during our reception. In lieu of favors, we made a donation to our local SPCA and had a sign about that with the photos of our cats. We now have the fancy framed cat photos on display in our living room, because we are THOSE crazy cat people.

  • Ally

    Best post ever!!

    My babies are in the second pic at the top and in #5 with my nephew (we called him the “ring leader”). We had them at the ceremony (outdoor park) and reception (restaurant patio). My first piece of advice is to expect chaos – we never planned on perfectly posed or behaved pups and just went with it. It was totally worth it!

  • Anne

    My new husband and I have two wonderful, adorable dogs who we love dearly… but honestly, we had zero desire to have them at our wedding. It was at an out-of-state family property that would have been hard to get them to, but even if we married at home I would want them somewhere else for the day. One is kind of sensitive and would probably be stressed out by all the commotion, and the other would be running around like a food and tug-of-war maniac the whole time, waaaay too excited about ALL THE PEOPLE. And since we were outdoors the whole time there is a 100% chance that one or both would drop a deuce at a key moment. Even with ‘handlers’ we would be worried about them the whole time. Everything was way less stressful with them happily at home with a dog sitter… and they’ll never know they weren’t invited ;)

    • Laura C

      You know, I love dogs — I sort of didn’t realize I do this, but my fiance points out that basically every time I see a dog on the street, I say “doggie!” under my breath — but even if I had one at the moment, I don’t think I’d want it actually present at my wedding. I just feel like there’s a venn diagram of dogs that would enjoy a wedding and dogs whose behavior would be enjoyable for the human attendees of a wedding, and the overlap between the two is tiny.

      But having them on the save the dates or pictures of them or whatever, that seems real good. If we had a dog instead of a neurotic, scared cat, it definitely would have been in our engagement pictures.

  • Cleo

    While we’re talking about this…please keep in mind, especially if you’re having your wedding at an indoor venue, that one of your guests could be allergic to dogs/cats/parakeets. I say this because my father is deathly allergic to dogs (throat closes up, can’t breathe, eyes water to the point where he can’t see, etc.) and any hint of dog dander would have him exiting before the ceremony even started. He has medication he can take to ameliorate the symptoms, but he has to take it a couple hours prior to arriving, and even then, it does little more than make his allergies tolerable for 2-3 hours.

    I’m not saying this to necessarily dissuade you from including a furry or feathered friend in your wedding, but to be mindful of those who can’t enjoy it. Perhaps, if you know who someone is, shoot them a quick email to warn them beforehand so they can prepare with whatever medication they might need, or, so they know that it would be better for their health to regretfully decline the invitation.

    • Lawyerette510

      In that same spirit, maybe a note on the wedding website about whichever furry friend is joining as a warning to those with allergies you don’t know about?

      • Cleo

        excellent idea.

  • Kirstin

    We have cats, and while our venue would have allowed it and we joked about the groomsmen wearing them in Baby Bjorns, we knew they couldn’t actually be at the wedding. So, instead, my husband took pictures with them at our house while the guys were getting ready. They had special wedding collars (one was a matching bow tie to the groom!). The one thing we didn’t consider – one of them tried to eat the bouts as the photographer was taking pictures of them!

    And the other thing we did that you might consider – in lieu of favors, we did donations. One of the places that we donated to was the Humane Society. You could find another pet-friendly charity that you support.

    • Lawyerette510

      The mental image of cats in baby bjorns on groomsmen is amazing. Thank you for that!

    • Alyssa M

      lol at the baby bjorns… and while I know you payed money for the bouts to be all pretty during your wedding, I’ll bet those pictures are adorable because eating the bouts is such a cat-like thing to do!

      • Kirstin

        Haha! Thankfully the groomsmen got them away in time. But yes, that cat instantly knows when there are flowers in the house and is on a mission to eat them all!

  • light0a0candle

    I really wanted my pup to walk down the aisle, but she’s going to be 11 months and has some issues with jumping up on people when excited, lol, instead of stressing over it we’re going to relegate her to photoshoot only.

  • sarah l

    I LOVE this. we have a cat, who is even harder to incorporate than a dog. my solution? custom stamps!!! We made him into stamps for the RSVP postcards. a few people peeled him off and used their own stamps :)

    incidentally, this was one of the bigger disagreements of all of wedding planning. my husband didn’t want to be “those people” who have their cat on everything, and then suddenly I was crying and saying “all i want is stamps of our cat on our wedding invitations, why is that so unreasonable?!!” turns out, it was not unreasonable, though possibly ridiculous, and it’s still one of my favorite details from our wedding :)

    • Lawyerette510

      I want to up-vote this 100 times!

    • scw

      love this! I’m disappointed in the options for postcard stamps so my mom and I were just talking about designing our own. do you happen to remember how much this ended up costing per stamp? (postcard postage is .34 now, I think)

      • sarah l

        I think with some discount I found online (maybe 50% off the price additional over the actual cost of the postage) the postcard stamps came out to be around $.84/stamp. For our mailing list of about $100, it was about $50 extra, I believe. I can’t remember how I justified it, though I’m sure I did, but I don’t regret it for a second!!!!

        • scw

          thanks, this is so helpful. I was going to research this today. it makes me feel like it wouldn’t be a stupid decision to buy the letter stamps I really want and just use them as postcard stamps.

    • Alyssa M

      My partner would say exactly what yours did! But I LOVE your stamps!!!

      • sarah l

        I also wanted him to be the table numbers, but lost (didn’t really fight) the battle on that one, which was fair, because that probably would have made us “those people”

    • http://underacorktree.blogspot.com Christina Josephine

      I very much wanted our invitations to come “from” our dog (i.e., Pinkerton Q. Lafontaine (dog’s name) joyfully invites you to witness the union of his people, Jason and Christina.” Yeah …. that idea was immediately vetoed. So with that full disclosure of crazy, I fully endorse your cat stamps!

    • http://instagram.com/mint.car Kamala

      OMG I love this!!! Maybe stealing…

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.ca/ Jenny/Adventures Along the Way

      So cute!

  • STM

    Some dear friends of mine had their two dogs walk down the aisle with them at their wedding 2 years ago, which was super adorable.
    …Then they barked through the entire ceremony. We all laughed every time they barked over the vows, and people were cool about it, but it was super distracting.
    So I guess, know your dog. On APW we hear a lot that “people don’t change for your wedding” and that’s true for dogs too. If they tend to be hyper, they will be hyper. It doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate them of course — puppies are awesome!!!

  • Lawyerette510

    Our old-ass terrier walked in to our (outdoor) ceremony (on a leash) with groom, laid down right behind us for the whole ceremony, although my sister held his leash, and then walked out with us. He was there for some of the pictures, and then he went to our room for the reception, because we didn’t want anyone to have to wrangle him and he is a horrible beggar, plus that morning, when I was sitting with some friends enjoying breakfast, and I thought Louie-dog was with the groom, one of the kitchen staff came out and said “um is someone missing a black and white terrier?” so groom had to be given explicit instructions to keep Louie on a leash so he wouldn’t be in the kitchen’s way.

    We spent $20 on getting a little suit for Louie to wear on his collar from https://www.etsy.com/shop/happydapperdogs, and I think he looked very dapper.

    • swarmofbees

      Dapper indeed.

  • Anon

    Our dogs were present for the proposal and the wedding (but not the reception). It felt right for us to have them at our fairly casual, laid-back outdoor ceremony. And the pictures are, of course, adorable :)

    We found that the rehearsal was a good indicator of our dogs’ behavior at the actual ceremony. We were confident that our older dog would do well (that is, no barking or jumping on people, etc.) but were not so sure about our 1-year-old lab mix. The rehearsal gave him a chance to check out the park with lots of people around (some new to him) before the ceremony (which had the additional distractions of music, more unfamiliar people, etc.). Sort of like a warm-up for him.

    It has been mentioned elsewhere, but picking the right handlers was key. It made us and our dogs more comfortable knowing they were standing with people they spend considerable time with and would listen to.

  • Alyssa M

    I am SO EXCITED to have my dog in my wedding. She’s getting up in age (I got her as a puppy when I was in 8th grade) so she’ll hopefully be calmer. She’s going to be our ring bearer and my MIL made her a little neck bandana thing (my family calls it her “bling”) out of the spare lace from altering my grandmother’s dress!

    The linchpin in our whole plan though, is the “handler” idea Lucy suggested. My brother’s wedding job is the dog. The only person she listens to better than me is him, so he’ll have her on a leash the whole time, and he absolutely has instructions to walk away from the (outdoor) ceremony a bit if she won’t behave. She’s also small enough to be picked up if need be.

  • Alison O

    There’s a good chance I’ll carry my 8-lb dog as my bouquet. With a little flower wreath around his neck.

    • Alyssa M

      OMG I love that idea!!!

  • Caitlin_DD

    This is my favorite article on APW ever. Puppies and weddings! I’m with you Lucy, not sure if the minor problem of having no puppy will be solved by the wedding or not ;)

  • Kat

    We incorporated our pup into our wedding quite successfully!
    The biggest tip I have is to know your dog. If it’s easily overwhelmed, scared by children, prone to incessant barking when walking in crowds, then maybe this isn’t the event for your pup. Here are the best tips I have for the day itself:
    Provide an escape for your dog. If your dog is crate trained, this is pretty easy, just have a dedicated place for their crate that can be their escape or time out place. If crates aren’t your thing, you could bring their favorite doggie bed. Basically, they need a place that they already recognize as theirs.
    They also need their own *person* who can remove them from a stressful situation. This should be someone the dog has interacted with many times before. Make sure you know who at the wedding may not like dogs and let the dog’s handler know who they are. Give the handler a treat bag, as well as some instructions on the dog’s commands.
    Remember food, water and bathroom breaks. Your dog will be stressed and may not abide it’s regular schedule. If your dog is trained to go on command, great, if not you may need to have someone take the dog on a short walk in between things.
    These tips apply to engagement sessions too. It’s great to have your dog there, but you may want some photos without them, or they may not behave. Have a friend or a crate there so they can chill out away from the photo lens.
    Weddings can be very overwhelming for dogs. Some of the decision depends on how OCD you are… if the dog barks during the ceremony, will that ruin your day or make you smile? Our wedding would have been lacking something without our pup there.

  • Gina

    Love love love. We incorporated our pup into both the save the dates and as ringbearer. He is primarily an off-leash dog in real life who is trained within an inch of his life. So I would second the statement that training is key. I know labs are excitable, especially the 2-year-old and younger set, so to some extent you just have to know your dog. For us, it was key to have a person dedicated to taking care of the dog, and a place for the dog to be away from all the hustle and bustle when needed.

  • Amanda

    My dog was in our wedding photos. We got my mother in law to bring him while we were doing couple photos, then she dropped him off at home and came back for the wedding. If you’re going to go this route, make sure to have a photographer who’s good with animals. Our photos turned out great! I made a birdcage veil for myself with little silk flowers, and I made extra flowers and hot glued them to his dog collar. He looked soooo cute!

    • http://www.smittenchickens.com/ Sarah Hoppes

      Having a few treats you the photographer can use really helps, too!

  • Jess

    Eeee! Love this. Our black lab was a big part of our ceremony :) He walked in with my husband and I, and stood politely with the ladies during the actual ceremony. He recessed out with husband and I. He’s in some of my favorite picture of the day – see attached. I swear he knew that it was important to behave – I had never really seen him so calm and collected.

    That said, he was 6 years old at the time. Since the wedding, my husband and I have brought home another lab – who is now 16 months. I had no idea if we could have incorporated the puppy into the ceremony the same way we did with our older dog. The pup is wild and crazy and exuberant and all the things that make lab puppies such a joy. It definitely would have been a lot harder to do with such a young dog.

    Good luck!!

    • http://www.girlonthewing.com/ GirlOnTheWing

      Apparently I can’t figure out how to attach this, haha. Maybe it’ll work now?

    • http://www.girlonthewing.com/ GirlOnTheWing

      Ok, and this and this. I forgot how many awesome pics we got of him!

  • Jenna S W

    I wish my sweet bubby boy could spend the whole wedding day with us, but he is just too excitable, even at 10 (people still ask me if he’s a puppy!). Plus, he’s a Golden Retriever, so the hair would just be everywhere, and my fiancé is deeply concerned about the possibility of muddy paw-prints on my white dress. We’re going to have him around for the getting-ready time, when we say the vows we’ve written to each other in private before any guests arrive, and for some family photos…..and then someone (not sure who yet–eep!) will drive him back to our house and stay there with him for the night.

  • Emma

    In my sister’s wedding (in a church) their corgi was the ring bearer and then was held by a family friend in the audience during the rest of the ceremony. He was quiet throughout everything, except the kiss! The only problem we had was when he got out of the hotel room the night before the wedding and we had to run around the hotel looking for him! Communication on who exactly is in charge of the dog at all times is definitely key.

  • heatherbquinn

    I’ve also seen folks use photos of their pets in table numbers, or include a little mini version of the pet in the cake topper.

    • GCDC

      We did this! Several months before the wedding, we took a photo shoot with our dog in various places around the city. For each picture, we wrote a number 1 through 12 on a chalkboard and placed it next to him. We framed those pictures and used them as our table numbers. We also now have twelve awesome pictures of our dog hanging up throughout our house.

  • http://www.smittenchickens.com/ Sarah Hoppes

    I just shot an elopement where the couple picked up their dogs from the groomer at the end of the day for a few pictures. Their dogs were happy to see them AND they were clean enough to avoid ruining their wedding clothes. It was adorable.

    http://smittenchickens.com/blog/an-nyc-summer-elopement/

  • Christine March

    Here in the Toronto area is a terrific company, Leash & Paws, that offers pet-handling services for weddings! Genius.

  • Hannah K.

    Our dog (Sammy the Wonder Dog) was part of the wedding brigade for our Episcopalian wedding, and it went amazingly well. I think it helped that he had been to several church service over the years, so we knew that the organ wasn’t going to freak him out, etc. He attended the wedding rehearsal, which gave us some sense that it was going to be fine. He was included in a lot of our pre-ceremony photos (I loved that our photographer who’d shot over 1,000 weddings had never done one with a dog!) My fiancé processed with Sammy as the ceremony started, and then we had arranged for a groomsman (who has spent a lot of time around Sammy, and had a pocket of treats in his tux) to be in charge after that. Our ceremony was a long one (full Eucharist, choral anthems, etc.), so we brought one of Sammy’s beds so that he could lay down next to me when the wedding party was seated. Generally, he stood with us if we were standing. After the ceremony, we arranged for a friend to take Sammy home rather than have him at the reception. My mom was terrified that it was going to end badly, but it was perfect.

    • Guest

      I’m not sure why the picture didn’t show up the first time, but here’s one of my favorites.

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