For many of us, our pets are a part of the family, playing a huge role in the ups and downs of everyday life. So it makes perfect sense to want to include them on what some couples consider the biggest moment in their lives, their wedding day.
Fortunately, there are lots of great ways to include your furry, feathered or even fishy friend in your wedding ceremony. But before you start shopping around for doggie tuxes, Courtney Geigle — wedding specialist and founder of the online wedding marketplace My Wed Style — suggests you consider the pros and cons of having your pet at your wedding.
The pros are obvious: the opportunity to dress up your pet in a super-cute outfit and capture amazing pics of you and your special friend throughout the day. But are you prepared for the possible cons? You may experience a very different reality if your normally mellow pet gets freaked out by the crowds or the music or your cousin Betty's 3-year-old toddlers. What if your dog feels the need to mark his territory while walking down the aisle? What if he starts growling at the flower girl? Who will care for your pet throughout the day while you're busy?
Once you've thought through these scenarios and planned for potential emergencies, you can start thinking about the best role for your pet to play in the ceremony. Erin Askeland, training manager and behavior expert at Camp Bow Wow, shared these tips with us to help you plan:
Personality matters: It's 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.
Training day: Take your pet to the location of your wedding weeks in advance, so that he becomes well acquainted with the area.
No dogs allowed: Unfortunately, few religious and indoor venues will allow pets on location other than service animals. Be sure to check in advance that pets are allowed on the premises.
Give a heads-up: Be cautious of guests with pet allergies as a dog or cat could make the experience of attending your wedding unpleasant. Warn your family and friends in advance that your furry friend will be in attendance.
Doggy chaperone: Don't leave your pet unattended. Designate someone as the animal's sitter who will take on the responsibility of walking and caring for your pet during the wedding.
Safety first: If you decide to dress up your pet, make sure that his costume doesn't 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 food and a bowl of fresh water handy at the reception and make sure your pet doesn't sample human food, as this could lead to health complications.
As for the role that your pet should play, again, it's important to keep your pet's personality in mind. If he is skittish, maybe she could just take part in the photo ceremony when the crowds will be smaller and you're more likely to get a good shot. If you think he could handle it, you might want to consider making him a ring bearer or "groomsman" (or flower girl/bridesmaid if your pet is female.) And if he's particularly easy-going, you could plan to bring him along for the whole day with a role in the ceremony, the photos and the reception.
The most important things to remember when planning to incorporate your pet into your wedding celebration are to be flexible, be patient and be prepared for emergencies.
Come to think of it, that's good advice for any couple planning a wedding — or even more importantly, a life together.