Rescue dogs with groom and groomsmen

A How-To Guide to Inviting Your Dog to Your Wedding

February 13, 2020

Hi, I’m Jordy. I’m a labradoodle, and I love long hikes wherever the wind takes me, a game of fetch, and a great couch nap. I’ve been a dog my whole life, so I thought it might be valuable coming from me, an expert, to provide some helpful advice on how to incorporate your best friend into your wedding day, in a way that makes sense to the both of you.

Photographer: Leigh Blazer at Molly Johnson Photography | Florist: Laura Nowlin
Treats…Camera…Action!

Firstly, understand your guests are going to absolutely gush when they see your dog, so this is a great move to get the crowd in your corner. True, they love you and are happy for you as it is, but nothing entertains like an adorable pup prancing down the aisle. You should see the looks I get simply by walking a human. Being a dog is like being a celebrity everywhere you go. Everybody wants a piece of you. Your guests will squeal, I promise you. There are a lot of roles we are willing to play. We perform well as ring bearer or flower girl, or simply an escort to them. We could walk the bride down the aisle, or stand as Best Man, or at the very least one of the groomsmen or bridesmaids. I mean throw a dog a bone! (No seriously, I could use a bone.) If your dog is on the petite side, maybe consider carrying him or her in lieu of a bouquet. Or supposing your dog is too shy for all of that pomp and circumstance, a great alternative is to park your dog in the front row with your family (where we belong) and officially be the coolest wedding guest ever. Sunglasses optional.

Photographer: Leigh Blazer at Molly Johnson Photography | Florist: Laura Nowlin
I’m pretty laid back. Is your dog?

Before even thinking about bringing your dog to the biggest day of your life, be honest with yourself about his or her temperament. Would you call him a people person, or more of an ankle biter? Is he the sort to cower in crowds, or does he tap dance on command? Speaking of commands, does he know any? If you have any doubts as to whether your dog will comply with the demands of the day, and will not cooperate when you say “Heel!” or “No!” or “Get off the cake table,” then perhaps your dog should sit the wedding out and spend the next day with Mom and Dad opening presents.

Photographer: Amanda Ketterhagen Photography | Florist: Alfa Flowers
Break a leg, but don’t raise a leg.

The wedding ceremony might be a perfectly comfortable place for your dog, but the reception is a whole other animal. Assuming your venue even allows my kind in the door, remember that for us a party can be a scary, chaotic place. Loud music, dance floor lighting, and the hazard of tripping Grandma Marge during the Cha Cha Slide are all possibilities, and there is food everywhere. Half-eaten dinners. A buffet table. Chocolate (my personal kryptonite). All of these can be irresistible to a dog with limitless salivation, and unless you plan on managing your best friend all night (and their potty breaks), all might be happier limiting his festivities to the ceremony only.

Photographer: Forte Films and Stills | Flowers: Bank of Flowers
A Bride and her Groom-er

I cannot believe these words are about to come out of my mouth, but please be sure your dog gets a bath and fresh haircut the day before the big day. Every dog feels great with a fresh blowout, and how about a snazzy outfit to boot? Ribbons in your wedding’s colors, or a small, lightweight wreath adorned with your bouquet’s flowers make for a cohesive look. A miniature tux or bridesmaid’s gown would certainly be appropriate. Some dogs however aren’t cool with being so decked out, in which case a matching bow tie or glittering collar would more than suffice. But either way, the occasion calls for some dog-glam fashion. Our parents are getting married. We would like to look presentable, thank you.

Photographer: Forte Films and Stills | Flowers: Bank of Flowers
Do your homework, Mom.

Just like you, we as dogs need to be on site and rehearse our moves ahead of time. The worst thing you could do is spring it on us last minute so that we have no familiarity with the smells and distractions of a new place. We would like to first take a cruise on the premises, mark any area trees in advance, and be sure the space is free from cats. Also we would like to know who will be walking us down the aisle, if anyone, and be sure we are comfortable with them. It would be nice also if you could designate a handler to provide snacks, water, a patch of grass, or a favored blankie.
And hey, you never know. You may have given your dog the nickel tour and conditioned him to being the center of attention, but when the pressure is on he may be feeding off your nerves and behaving erratically. If you sense this is going to be very unpleasant for your dog, it will also be unpleasant for you. So find a Plan B option in the event of your dog’s sudden indifference to your original vision. Identify a family member you can rely on who will shuttle your dog home, to the hotel, or to a friend’s place until the hub-bub has died down, and Mommy and Daddy return as Husband and Wife.

Dog with vine collar for wedding
Photographer: Taylor Kelley Photography
Pawparazzi alert!

I don’t need to tell you this, but your dog is your favorite family member. It should only follow that we wind up in some or all of your engagement and wedding day photos. Choosing a photographer with some experience shooting friends of the furrier variety will go a long way to getting us from our best angles, and with patience and experience enough to know how to handle our quirks. Don’t forget to include us in your pre-ceremony pics, where we can pose with Mommy in a matching dressing gown. Or maybe we can help Daddy with his pocket square, captured on film with a look that says, “Treat her right, or else.” Cameras love us, because we love you.
Just remember to check your dog’s paws. You’re both going to be dressed pretty fancy that day. One of you is wearing white. And dogs are, well, dogs.

Photographer: Leigh Blazer at Molly Johnson Photography | Florist: Laura Nowlin
Worst case scenario, your dog is antisocial.

Listen, not every dog is going to be like me, Jordy the Wonderpup. I am a magnet to people and nothing phases me. But your dog may prefer a quieter milieu, and that’s fine. He is lovable and you don’t need to shame him for that. There are other ways to honor your dog in ways less disruptive, for instance in custom artwork, or a framed photo of him near your check-in table. Create custom cocktail napkins with your pup’s face, embroidered pocket squares with his or her silhouette, or a cake topper that bears a strong resemblance. Name a dessert or drink after them, or go all out with an ice sculpture bearing his likeness. Or keep it simple and semi-private with dog themed socks, cufflinks, or a bouquet charm. There are all sorts of ways to say “Good boy!” without him actually being present.