If you and your future spouse have a dog, then you have almost certainly thought about how to make them a part of your wedding. Sure, you might be having a religious wedding ceremony in which dogs cannot participate. But if not, giving your fur baby a role in your exchange of vows is a great way to tell your love story. (We get into the reasons why below.) Unfortunately, however, that is not always as easy as might seem. No matter how well-trained your pooch is, a wedding ceremony can be an intimidating environment. So your pup might not do what you want or expect them to on the day of. Fortunately, we have photographed numerous wedding ceremonies in which dogs played a role. We have a good sense of what works and can offer you some great tips on how to include a dog in your wedding ceremony.
Before we talk about the best ways to make your pooch a part of your wedding, let us quickly explain why it is even a good idea in the first place. As we have explained elsewhere on this website, getting a dog together is often a very big step in a couple’s path to the altar. It is a sign of their commitment to one another. It points to a shared future. In a way, it is also a practice run for raising a child together. Getting our cat Potok (our business’s namesake) was certainly an important milestone early in our relationship.
If your pup has played an important role in your shared history, having your dog at your wedding makes a lot of sense. After all, your marriage celebrations are all about telling the world your love story. And if your fur baby has been a part of that story, then they need to be present.
The challenge, of course, is making sure that your fur baby’s presence is an asset and not a distraction. The last thing you need when you are trying to tie the knot is something pulling you out of that moment. Fortunately, there are some very easy steps to follow to avoid that.
The first way to make sure that including your dog in your wedding ceremony is a positive experience is to decide on a well-defined role for them. Just having them show up at your wedding ceremony and expecting them to “do something” is a recipe for disaster. So pick a specific thing that you want them to do. That can be carrying your rings to the altar. Or accompanying you as you exchange your vows. Or maybe leading the way up or down the aisle.
Whatever role you pick for them, just make sure that it is something you know they can do. Keep your expectations realistic and the job you want them to do simple. The easier you make it on your fur baby, the more likely it is that their participation in your wedding ceremony will be a positive experience for them and you.
Ok, so you have decided on what role you want your puppy to play in your wedding ceremony. Our next recommendation on how to have dogs in your wedding is to spend some time training them to do what you want them to do. As we said above, just showing up at the wedding and turning them loose is not a good way to ensure success. Instead, use reputable and time-tested training methods to get your dog to perform the exact tasks you want them to. Then, when your wedding day rolls around, they will be more than ready to do their “job.”
Our next tip for how to include dogs in your wedding is to bring lots of treats. (Did your dog’s ears perk up when you read that last sentence? Our cats always seem to know when they might get to eat something tasty!) If they are not doing what you want them to or are becoming a distraction, some delicious snacks can be a great way to encourage better behavior. Or at the very least, a way to keep them occupied while you are trying to get married!
The last way to ensure that your dog helps make your wedding ceremony extra special is to have a backup plan in case everything goes bust. A dog that just will not sit still, regardless of the simplicity of their role, lots of training and offers of treats will stress you out. Behavior that is normally endearing will turn annoying and frustrating very quickly if it happens during your wedding ceremony. So when couples ask us how to involve dogs in a wedding without it becoming a distraction, we always suggest that they appoint a “dog wrangler.” What we mean is someone to be on call to step in if the pup just will not behave. Letting a relative or friend worry about your dog allows you to just relax and experience the beauty of getting married.
This picture is a great example of what happens when a couple follows these steps. When they do what is necessary to ensure that having their dog in their wedding ceremony is a positive experience. The two grooms in the image married in a surprise ceremony at the fabulous Conrad Washington DC hotel. (Well, a surprise to one of the grooms, anyway!) They picked that luxury hotel’s rooftop as the site for their ceremony. That meant they were exchanging their vows with the US Capitol building looming behind them. (As an aside, if you are looking for a wedding venue with a killer view of the DC skyline, the Conrad Hotel has one of the best in the metro area.)
The couple’s dog was an important member of their family. So there was no way he was not going to participate in their wedding ceremony. Keeping with our advice above, they kept his role very simple. All he had to do was walk down the aisle with them, sit between them during the exchange of vows and walk back out with them at the end. The groom who planned the wedding worked with his pooch beforehand to prep him for everything that would happen. Finally, one of their friends was there with treats and ready to take the pup away if he acted up.
Fortunately, that was never necessary. The dog did have a few “unscripted” moments -- like when he started scratching his side energetically. But those did nothing more than provide a laugh for everyone there. And of course, provide the kind of moments that make for great wedding photos like this one!
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