Want to Include Your Pet in Your Wedding? It’s Paws-Ible — With Careful Planning
When Jessica and Will Northrop got married in November 2020, the Virginia couple’s ringbearer practically stole the show. It wasn’t his dashing navy tuxedo and red bow tie that did it, though he did earn praise for his fashionable attire. What really made him stand out was overwhelming charm and cuteness. Calvin, a golden retriever who serves his community as a certified therapy dog and is a master-level agility competitor, took the extra attention in stride.
Besides, he wasn’t the only “star of the show.” The Northrops also found a way to incorporate their beloved special-needs puppy, Kiwi, into their wedding. Decked out in a lovely flower collar, Kiwi walked down the aisle with one of the bridesmaids.
It didn’t take long for the couple’s wedding photos with Calvin and Kiwi to go viral. Jessica later told Insider that as far as she was concerned, the wedding was “absolutely perfect.”
“Having the dogs be a part of it really put the icing on the cake, and made the day even better than I could have imagined,” she said.
If you’re reading this and thinking you want to include your fur babies in your wedding, my advice to you would be, go for it — maybe. Plenty of couples do this successfully, but pulling it off requires careful preparations, and before you even get that far, an honest conversation about your pet’s temperament.
I’ve compiled some suggestions and questions for you to consider.
The Tough Questions
If you consider your pet(s) part of the family, it only makes sense that you’d want to include them in one of the most important days of your life. But, unless you’re absolutely certain a wedding environment is a good fit for your pet, you’d only be subjecting them — not to mention you and your guests — to a miserable experience and possibly even the risk of being harmed.
Here are a few questions to help with your decision-making process.
· Think about your pet’s past interactions with people. Was your pet at ease, or have some encounters put them on edge or brought out bad behavior?
· Has your pet spent time in large crowds? Are you confident they’ll be able to remain at ease around tens, or even hundreds, of guests?
· How does your pet do around children, particularly around little ones who are crying, running, or loud?
· How does your pet respond to being stroked by strangers?
· Does your pet have any triggers, like thunderstorms, that could spur fearful or aggressive behavior?
· Is your wedding venue near your home or wherever you’re staying during the wedding?
· Is your pet the type that will help themselves to other people’s food?
· If you’ve selected your venue, do they allow pets? Do they have any rules or requirements you should be aware of?
If any of your answers suggest that something could go wrong while they’re at your wedding, you might want to reconsider their presence there. Even if it’s not a great idea to bring them with you, you can still honor your pet by including pictures of them on save-the-dates or invitations, centerpieces, posters, signage, and slide-show presentations.
Putting Your Best Paw Forward
If you do decide that your pet is a good fit for your wedding, there are some steps you can take to help ensure success.
· Talk with your vendors. Not only will you need to know if your venue allows pets at weddings you also should make sure that all of the vendors you’re working with, from florists to photographers, know what to expect. If any of them has objections or questions, now is the time to address them.
· Check with your guests. Be sure to include clear wording on your invitations and wedding website (if you have one) that your pet will be at the wedding. Include details on their breed, size, and how long they’ll be at the wedding (for the ceremony or throughout the event). That will help guests with allergies, children, or general unease around certain pets make an informed decision about attending — and who their plus-one should be.
· Recruit a helper. Like children, pets require ongoing supervision. While you may want your pet by your side throughout your wedding, there will be times, possibly during photography sessions or special dances, when someone else will need to talk over and keep your pet safe and calm. Your pet also will need help staying hydrated and taking potty breaks. Give your helper clear instructions and details about your pet’s specific needs, and consider sending a thank-you note— maybe even from you and your pet — for making your pet’s presence at your wedding possible.
· Put thought into your pet’s attire. Whether you’re considering a snazzy outfit or a special leash, select carefully, and consider a trial run to make sure your pet tolerates their wedding wardrobe well and is comfortable.
· Visit your venue with your pet. They’ll be more relaxed during your wedding if they have a chance to get acquainted with the building and grounds in advance.
· Practice. Just like the people in your party, your furry ring-bearer or flower puppy will benefit from a few trial runs before the big day.
· Consider a limited appearance. Participating in your ceremony may be just right for your pet. Receptions pose additional risk factors, from increased contact with guests to the possibility of them being fed foods that aren’t good for them.
· Along the same lines, be mindful of food, drinks, plants, and substances that can be dangerous to pets, from chocolate and alcohol to rice and confetti, and work proactively to keep them out of your pet’s reach.
Doggie Wedding Roles
While some of this advice applies to any kind of pet, most people who give their pet a specific role in their wedding are dog owners.
With that in mind, here are some potential roles your dog(s) can play during your big day. I suggest matching the role with your dog’s temperament and likelihood of obeying.
· Puppy in the Processional: Your dog can be part of your wedding party. This would include walking down the aisle (ideally, on a leash) and sitting by your side during the ceremony.
· Pooch with Petals: Allow your dog to carry a basket of flowers in her mouth. Maybe a volunteer can distribute the petals on the aisle. Be careful to use flowers that are nontoxic for dogs: Even the best-behaved dog might be tempted to do a little taste testing.
· Ring-Bearer: You can tie the rings to your dog’s collar or create a special holder for them.
Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having your dog join the rest of your guests and share your day as part of the audience. This is where a helper who can care for your dog, mentioned above, will be important.
Purr-Fectly Reasonable Options for Cat Lovers
While dogs may be the most popular pet participants when it comes to weddings, as I said, couples have been known to include other types of pets as well in their big days.
If you’re a cat person, for example, there’s no reason why you can’t find a way to create a meow-gical moment with them before or during your wedding.
In her pet blog, Live Long & Pawspurr, Paige Nadeau points out that just like dogs, cats with the right qualities — friendly, relaxed, and well-trained — can serve as ring-bearers.
If you’d like your cat to be in the audience, veterinarian Pippa Elliott recommends using a harness and pet stroller, and again, recruiting help. Generally, Elliott adds, cats will do better at a ceremony than at a reception.
If you do plan to have your cat present, choose your flowers carefully.
“Lilies in particular are highly toxic to cats,” Elliott wrote. “And it’s not just the flower but all parts of the bloom, including the pollen. If a cat brushes against the bouquet, becomes dusted in pollen and then grooms it off, the result could be serious kidney failure.”
If you pass on bringing your kitty to your wedding, you can still honor them with a cat cake topper, cat table names (really, a fun idea for any kind of pet), special photos, a cat-themed guest book, or other creative feline touches.
Nadeau offers an additional consideration for cat people, but it really applies to anyone thinking about having pets at their wedding: Make sure you and your intended are on the same page.
“If you are an animal lover, but your significant other is not, then you may need to compromise on how much cat stuff is allowed in the wedding… However, if you are both animal lovers, then you two have the option to go as animal-crazed in your wedding as you would like! It’s YOUR day!”
Absolutely! With planning, precautions, and consideration for those around you, you and your pet can create a day you’ll remember fondly… fur-ever.
About the Author:
Roger Igo is the founder and CEO of special events venue, The Bell Tower on 34th, along with Excellent Events, and Venues in Houston. He is the author of “Keep On Going, The History of The Bell Tower on 34th,” a former radio host, a graduate of CEO Space International, and an alumnus of The Disney Institute.