While many people consider themselves pet lovers, some people are what the industry refers to as "pet humanizers": people who treat their pet as a member of the family. With that being said, it's no surprise that some of these pet humanizers, who are also brides or grooms to-be, go out of their way to make sure that their furry loved one is included in the big day.
In fact, according to an article that appeared in the New York Times, a 2011 study of American weddings completed by Brides magazine concluded that close to 5 percent of brides include a pet in the wedding party. It's estimated that nearly 10 percent of brides have had pets present at the ceremony and/or reception. My team at Camp Bow Wow and I have seen everything from doggie ring bearers to puppy flower girls. When considering if you are able to incorporate a dog (or any pet for that matter) into your wedding, it's important to make several key considerations.
Personality Matters: It is important to consider your pet's personality when making the decision to incorporate him into your wedding. If you have a free-spirited animal, he may resist walking down the aisle in a manner that you'd prefer. Assign someone to walk with him to avoid any mishaps. To prevent an overly hyper dog at your wedding, take him to day camp to play and exert lots of energy, a long walk, or a romp at the dog park, during the days leading up to the wedding. If your pet is nervous around strangers, limit his role and have him leave after the ceremony. If you have a friendly dog, allow him to stay for the reception -- as long as proper supervision is available.
Training Day: Take your pup to the location of your wedding weeks in advance, so that he becomes well acquainted with the area. Allow him to practice walking down the aisle and reward him with a treat afterward. This will provide Fido with an incentive to do so with ease on your big day.
No Dogs Allowed: Unfortunately, very few religious and indoor venues will allow dogs on location other than service animals. Be sure to check in advance that pets are allowed on the premises. If you are open to an outdoor wedding, including your pet may be an easier option.
Give a Heads Up: Be cautious of guests with pet allergies, as a dog could make the experience of attending your wedding unpleasant. Warn your family and friends in advance that your dog will be in attendance. Allergies or not, it's always a good idea to give your pup a shower before the big day. This will limit dander and loose hair that not everyone will want on their nice clothes.
Doggy Chaperone: Don't leave your pet unattended. Designate someone as the dog's sitter or hire a home buddies professional to take on the responsibility of walking and caring for your pet during the wedding.
Safety First: If you decide to dress up your pup, make sure that his costume does not constrict his breathing or movement in any way. A decorative leash is a great option for pets participating in weddings, as this is something that your pet is probably already accustomed to.
Feed Me: Have dog food and a bowl of fresh water handy at the reception to ensure that Fido is well fed. Make sure your pet doesn't sample human food, as this could lead to upset your dog's tummy and nobody wants that on their big day!