Dogs in weddings
My mutt Ace attended our wedding in June. We had about 30 guests with no bridesmaids or groomsmen. This was the perfect wedding for us, and there was no pressure for my dog to be the ring bearer or anything like that. He was just there, and we will always have those photos and memories.
Ace’s golden retriever friend Buddy was the ring bearer in an outdoor wedding two weeks later. He did a wonderful job walking down the isle with the (human) flower girl. The rings were tied to a pillow attached to his leash. This method worked perfectly, and Buddy was such a good boy!
These are just two examples of dogs in weddings. If you would like your dog to be involved in your wedding in some way, I thought I’d share some ideas.
I’d love to hear your ideas, too!
Is it a good idea to include my dog in my wedding?
If you are unsure of whether or not to include your dog in your wedding, ask yourself a few questions:
1. How well behaved/trained is your dog?
Think about your dog’s energy level when he’s around large groups of new people in a new location. Think about how difficult he is to control. Think about how vocal he is in these types of situations.
Will he bark the whole time? Is there a chance he might growl or bite? Is he OK around kids? How about older people with canes?
2. Is your dog going to cause you more stress than it’s worth?
I had a very simple wedding at a park, and I was still freaking out over my dog. I was so nervous it wasn’t even funny. Still, it was totally worth it, and I’m glad Ace was there. Only you know what is best for your own wedding! You could always have your dog there for the family pictures and not the actual wedding.
3. Will you be able to assign or hire someone to handle your dog during the wedding?
You are certainly not going to be able to keep track of your dog too much during your wedding. You’ll have plenty of other things to worry about!
I specifically asked a friend and my brother to handle Ace. A few others volunteered to also take a “shift” or two of leash holding. It worked out pretty well, but keeping Ace under control was not an easy task.
If you’ve chosen to include your dog in your wedding, here are my suggestions for making the event go as smoothly as possible as far as the dog is concerned:
Tips for including your dog in your wedding
1. Relax and go with the flow.
Nothing that involves dogs will ever go exactly as planned. If you have low expectations you will be pleasantly surprised!
I was pretty stressed out over my dog’s behavior at our wedding. I was mad at him whenever he whined or pulled on the leash, but he was just being a normal dog.
Realize there are just certain things you can’t control. If your dog poops at an inappropriate time, so be it. If he drools on Grandma, oh well. If he steals a piece of cake, it makes a good story. It’s all part of having a dog in a wedding!
2. Designate or hire someone to handle the dog before, during and after the ceremony.
Make sure you have at least one person dedicated to helping with transporting and handling the dog. You will probably need someone to drive the dog to the wedding; someone to hold his leash before, during and after the wedding; and someone to take him home after the wedding.
You may want to split this task up between a few people. Maybe one friend is able to bring your dog to the wedding, another can help handle him during the ceremony and a third could take him home. Another option is to hire a professional pet sitter or dog trainer to help. I got to be the person who transported Buddy the ring bearer to and from the wedding he was in. This was a lot of fun!
3. Make sure your dog is well exercised the week leading up to the wedding.
Dogs have physical, emotional and mental energy.
Ace is a low-energy dog as far as physical energy is concerned. However, he has a lot of mental and emotional energy!
The five days or so leading up to our wedding I thought I had done a decent job tiring out my dog. I took him on walks every day. I took him on a five-mile run two days before the wedding and a bikeride the morning before the ceremony. I played tug with him every day.
Well … let’s just say Ace was whining and yipping quite a bit at our wedding, and I was wishing I had done more to tire him out prior to the event.
If I were to do this again, I would take him on a five-mile run every day for two weeks before the ceremony (this is more exercise than he’s used to). I would play tug of war with him for a few short sessions every day to help him get rid of any extra pent-up emotional energy (which he has a lot of!), and I would tire him out mentally by taking him to a few new places that week or working on some obedience commands in various parks.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to take your dog to dog daycare the week of your wedding if that normally tires him out. Plus, it’s not like you’re going to have tons of time on your hands for exercising your dog that week. This is the perfect time to ask your usual dog walker to come a few extra times. You could also ask friends to help exercise your dog.
4. Take your dog to the location of the wedding a couple times in advance.
My goal was to take Ace to the location of our wedding at least a few times prior to the event, but I never got around to it. I wanted to practice calming exercises at that particular park like down-stays and structured walking. I think that would’ve helped him feel more relaxed on the big day.
I don’t recommend playing games like fetch or off-leash chasing or anything that gets your dog riled up, not unless you have a really shy dog who needs help coming out of his shell. If my dog plays fetch somewhere, he goes bonkers the next time we return to that same spot. He’s a bit nutty 🙂
5. Make sure the dog won’t jump or drool on people.
Make sure the person assigned to handle your dog is able to control him properly. You may need to put a prong collar or Gentle Leader on your dog for at least some of the time. That’ s OK. You should probably ditch the retractable leash for the wedding, too. If your dog is a drool boy like mine, make sure the handler has a towel handy as well as some hand sanitizer for anyone who wants it. Not everyone appreciates getting drool on their hands or nice clothes.
6. Make sure the dog won’t cry or bark during the ceremony.
If you have a “vocal” dog, have a backup plan for what to do if he starts barking or crying inappropriately. In our case, I asked my brother to be prepared to walk Ace back a few yards if Ace started whining during our ceremony (which he did). This worked out well. My brother was able to help Ace focus on something else (eating grass!). I recommend you also have someone prepared to take the dog away for a short walk if needed.
7. Plan an outdoor wedding if possible – much better for dogs!
Outdoor weddings are a little less formal, and it seems more appropriate to have a dog in attendance. There is less pressure to have everything “perfect.” You don’t have to worry about the dog having an accident or lifting his leg on a church bench!
If your wedding is indoors, some churches may allow dogs. Others will not.
8. Don’t forget dog essentials like water and poop bags.
In Ace’s “gear” bag, he had – a bowl, water, a prong collar, Gentle Leader, towel for drool and poop bags.
9. Have treats and a favorite toy handy.
There will be times when you will need your dog to focus, like during pictures or when he needs to be quiet. If your dog will lie quietly and chew on a Kong-type toy, that might be a good idea to have along in a bag. Also have a few of your dog’s favorite treats (like pieces of jerky) handy and a favorite toy. I didn’t have a tennis ball along for Ace because I was worried it would get him too riled up. Looking back, it would’ve been better to have a ball along because he would’ve just fixated on that when we needed him to be quiet.
10. Don’t worry too much about what other people think.
Some people may not approve of dogs in weddings, and that’s just too bad for them! This wasn’t an issue for me because I’m pretty sure all my family members and friends just assumed Ace would be there.
Throughout the whole wedding-planning process, I did notice most females believe weddings should go a certain way – they way they want it to go! Just remember this day is all about you and your significant other. If you want your dog in the wedding, go for it.
11. Order your dog’s “outfit” way in advance.
I decided not to dress up my dog for our wedding, but Ace always has his tux on!
If you decide to order your dog a fancy collar or a bow tie or a dress or whatever it might be, it’s best to get that out of the way far in advance. One less thing to worry about!
I want my dog to be my ring bearer or flower girl
If you want your dog to be the ring bearer or flower girl, I suggest making it as simple as possible by finding a way to attach the flowers or rings to the dog. That way there is no pressure about training your dog to carry something, and that means less stress for you!
When Buddy (right) was the ring bearer, the rings were attached to a pillow that was attached to his leash. The flower girl (yes, a human flower girl!) held Buddy’s leash as they walked down the isle. Adorable! Buddy then took his proper place on the boys’ side with the groomsmen. So cute!
If you want your dog to be a flower girl or a bridesmaid, she could wear a wreath of flowers around her neck to match the other flowers in the wedding.
If you want your dog to carry the rings or flowers in a basket with his mouth, you can certainly train him to do so. Just remember to relax and go with the flow. There’s a chance the dog won’t perform perfectly with all those new people watching, and that’s OK!
Have you ever been to a wedding where a dog attended? How did it go?
Thank you, Christie, for the pics of Buddy the ring bearer!
Thank you to my mom Nancy who blogs at NancysPoint.com for the pics of Ace at our wedding!
Friday 27th of July 2012
Oh my! It would never have occurred to me to have my dogs in a wedding. Thank you for the fun and informative post! What a great idea.
Sunday 22nd of July 2012
Lindsay, I didn't know you were that stressed out about having Ace there. I thought he was extremely well behaved! I'm so glad he was there.
All your tips are really important considerations to think about. You covered things well. I would just add that if it's important to you to have your dog there, go for it. The memory and the photos will be something to treasure forever and that's worth a bit of stress. Besides you're going to be stressed out anyway, what's a little more?
Friday 20th of July 2012
Buddy did such a good job!
Thursday 19th of July 2012
For obvious reasons, this is my favorite blog of yours! Love it!
Thursday 19th of July 2012
One point you made applies to ALL weddings... Don't care what others think. Weddings are a huge social event and many women LOSE THEIR MINDS over it. Drives me nuts.
I love having a dog in the wedding. So sweet! Our next family pictures will definitely include the dog(s?). He's family!
One thing to remember... while you are wearing your dog out you are getting your nerves out in a healthy way too! Good all around! :D Definitely KEY to having this go off well. Panzer is a little angel when he's tired. When he's not, he's a bundle of "PLAY?!" (picture the rottweiler from Over the Hedge).
Anyways, I love what you did. I'm so glad he was included... wouldn't have been right not to!
Friday 20th of July 2012
Couldn't agree more about how so many women LOSE THEIR MINDS over their wedding. Drives me nuts, too. Just chill out, people! :)