How to (and why you should) include your dog in your wedding!

I had lunch with a friend recently who is currently planning her wedding, and the main wedding-related thing she wanted to know about was how we incorporated our dog Buzz! This is actually something a few people have asked me about since we got married this past June, so I really wanted to write about our experiences having our pup be involved in our wedding, and provide some recommendations for future brides + grooms who are still in the planning stages!

Our wedding was magical in so many ways, and it’s hard to narrow down my favourite moments, but one of them was definitely walking into our venue space before the ceremony and seeing my handsome little dog all dressed up in a bow tie with flowers attached to his leash. Cue all of the tears.  Brian and I had already done a reveal at this point, so we wanted to take some photos with Buzz before the ceremony started, and having our little family all together on such an important day was literally the best thing ever. My smile was so huge in the photos because Buzz was being hilarious and I was just. so. happy. It may have required some extra planning and logistics, but we honestly don’t regret a single thing, because having him there was so incredibly wonderful, and something I would fully recommend it to anyone who is equally obsessed with their dog! 

Here are a few things to consider if you’re hoping to include your pup in your wedding:

Start thinking about this in the early stages of wedding planning

Including Buzz in our wedding was definitely a no-brainer. He’s such an important part of our lives, and I don’t think anyone was surprised at all that we wanted him to be a part of our big day.  It was probably one of the first things that Brian and I talked about when it came to wedding planning – possibly even before we talked about our bridal party! We didn’t know how it was going to work at all, but we knew we wanted it to happen. We even included him in our engagement photos and Save the Dates! Thinking about this early on in the process will help you make other decisions, including time of year, deciding on a venue, and what the timing/day-of schedule will ultimately look like. 

Ask your potential venue LOTS of questions

There are so many reasons that I was (and still am) obsessed with our venue – St. Marys Golf and Country Club, but one of them is definitely because they are dog friendly! Knowing you want to include your dog before you shop for venues is super helpful, because you can ask them questions at your initial meeting. One of the first questions we asked our venue was whether or not we could have our dog around, and what that would ultimately look like. They hadn’t had too many couples bring their dogs in the past, but were really supportive of all of our ideas.

If your venue is used to having dogs involved in weddings, they will likely have a lot of insight from past weddings, and may be able to provide some suggestions or recommendations. Ask them what they recommend in terms of timing and logistics (i.e. when your dog should arrive on the day of, and where they will hang out before/after the ceremony), and they may even let you bring your dog to the venue space ahead of time so they can become familiar with the area.

Decide how involved your dog will be

This is important for you and your fiance to discuss, and may also depend on your dog’s behaviour and comfort level, and where your dog will be when they’re not at the venue. Will they just be around for photos? Or do you want your dog to be around for the whole day?

We knew it probably wasn’t possible to have Buzz there for the whole day, because our ceremony was outside and it would likely be too hot for him to be around for a long time. So we decided it would be best to have him arrive just before the ceremony for a few quick photos with our amazing photographer Sarah Antaya, and then be a part of the ceremony. Our one year old nephew was the ring bearer, and much too small to walk the dog down the aisle, so we asked our wonderful friend Emily to be our flower girl and walk with both of the boys down the aisle!

Consider their well-being, and have a back up plan!

You may have a pretty solid plan in place, but your dog’s well being definitely comes first. We would have loved to have Buzz around for the whole ceremony, but we decided the day of to have him leave immediately after he walked down the aisle, simply because of how hot it was outside.

Here are a few things to consider as you plan out logistics:

  • Weather and temperature – some dogs do really well in the heat, but ours does not! So weather was definitely a priority, and given that it was around 30 degrees celsius the day of our wedding, we knew that this would impact our plans
  • Your dog’s behaviour/comfort level – make sure your dog feels comfortable around lots of people, and that they won’t get nervous or scared when they’re walking down the aisle with people watching them
  • The space – consider your ceremony space and determine if your dog will feel comfortable in the space. If you have an outdoor ceremony space, keep in mind that there may be a ton of distractions, especially if your dog is unfamiliar with the environment.
  • Pressure on others – this is definitely something to keep in mind as you decide who will look after your dog. This is something we thought about a lot, because we wanted our guests/family to really enjoy themselves and not have someone who needed to chase Buzz around and look after him.

Have a dedicated handler who will make sure your dog is well taken care of on your big day

This part is really important, since you likely won’t have your dog at the venue all day. You need to have someone who can bring them to the wedding, and take them home (or wherever they’re staying) afterwards.

This is one thing that took us a long time to decide on, because we really didn’t know who to ask to help us out with this. We thought about having Buzz stay at the hotel we were staying at, and have a family member pick him up and drop him off – but the hotel wasn’t pet friendly, and that seemed like a ton of work for whoever was assigned that task. We also looked online for local pet sitters who would be open to having him at their home, but had zero luck.

After much consideration, we ended up asking the MOST wonderful work friends, Faith and Brendan to help us out. We knew they loved dogs, and while we didn’t know them super well at the time, we decided to throw it out there and see what they thought. And I’m so grateful they said yes! Not only were they okay with watching Buzz for two nights, but they also drove him 45 minutes each way to take him to the venue and then home again after the ceremony. We are forever grateful to them!

If you’re in a similar situation, it honestly doesn’t hurt to ask. It took us a while to become comfortable with this option because we felt bad that the people we would end up asking weren’t actually invited to the wedding. But people are more understanding than we think! After we asked Faith and Brendan, there were a few others who offered as well, just in case our plan fell through! We had a small wedding, so while we would have loved to have everyone we know there – we just couldn’t! And people were okay with that! So I recommend asking someone you work with, or a friend’s sibling/family member – so many people LOVE dogs and would jump at the chance to help someone out.

If this isn’t an option, there are also dog watching services like Rover that could definitely help you in your search.

Hopefully this helps! Comment below if you have any additional tips or suggestions!

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