We love the growing trend—especially among millennials—of making pets part of the wedding celebration. After all, weddings are a time to be with family and loved ones, those who bring you joy and smiles, right? For those of us whose pets are bona fide members of the family, it doesn’t seem fair to leave them out of the big day just because they might drool a little or beg for scritches.
At the same time, if you’re going to bring a pet to your wedding, you need to keep your guests (furry and otherwise) comfortable and safe. Here are our top tips for how to include pets in your wedding celebration.
CHECK THE RULES
Before you sign with your venue, find out whether they allow animals. If they do, ask about any extra fees or rules for pets, as well as accommodations they can make for your four-legged friend. Can you bring your pet and familiarize her with the venue prior to the event? Is there a small space to the side where she can be taken if she gets overstimulated?
Also, ask your planner or caterer about any state, county, or municipal laws regarding allowing animals around your guests’ food. In Utah, for example, pets are banned from public common eating areas, but there are workarounds. With a bit of planning, you can avoid any health or safety concerns.
ASSES YOUR PET
As much as we love them, some pets don’t do well in the excitement and bustle of a wedding. A crowd of strangers, a new environment, a lot of noise and heat and waiting around on a leash…for some animals, weddings are a nightmare! Don’t put your pet (or yourself) through anything he can’t handle.
DETERMINE YOUR PET’S PARTICIPATION
Even if your fur baby isn’t up for a full day of socializing, there are other meaningful ways they can take part in the fun. If possible, include pets in pictures; you’ll always treasure those precious mementos. And, depending on your pet’s temperament, you may want to let them walk down the aisle or act as your ring-bearer, flower pup, or mutt of honor. If attending the ceremony is too much to ask of your animal companion, consider representing him in your signage or décor. We’ve seen adorable likeness of a beloved pet on save-the-date cards, napkins, stationary, Chasing Tail beer cozies, party favors, and even the cake!
Receptions, though, are a different matter. The noise, congestion, and distractions of the reception are too much for any except the best-behaved pets.
GIVE A HEADS UP
It’s important to give your guests fair warning that there will be a pet on the premises. Some guests may need to plan in advance in order to address allergies or fear of animals.
If you want pictures of your pet at the wedding, make sure to communicate with your photographer and videographer well in advance. (It’s a good idea to ask whether they’ve worked with animals before and how they plan to get the kinds of shots you’re looking for.) Don’t forget to warn your florist too, since certain flowers, plants, and pesticides are toxic to pets.
ARRANGE FOR A HANDLER
Don’t make the mistake of imagining that you can take care of your own pet at your wedding. Trust us: you will have way too much going on to be able to give your four-footed friend the attention she will need. Arrange with someone your pet knows and trusts to watch after her throughout the event. It’s good form to provide your handler with clear instructions as well as any supplies or treats your pet may need. If your little darling will be there for more than a couple of hours, it might be considerate to trade off the task between more than one handler. Just make sure that there’s never any uncertainty about who is responsible for your furry guest.
PREP YOUR PET
If your venue allows it, take time to visit the site ahead of time with your pet. It’s especially helpful for dogs to get a chance to sniff around and get comfortable in a new place. If your pet will be playing a role in the ceremonies, give her (and her handlers) a chance to practice. The more you can reduce anxiety and distractions by planning ahead, the better. This includes introducing your pet to any other animals that are invited to the event, and giving your pet time to get accustomed to any special wedding attire (decorative collar, tuxedo, tutu, etc.) you may want them to wear.
And speaking of prepping your pet, make sure you’ve left yourself time for any washing and grooming your furry guest will need to be looking and smelling their best.
Weddings were not designed with pets in mind, so think about any potential threats to your furry and non-furry guests. For example, some wedding foods are unhealthy or even toxic for animals: alcohol, chocolate, fried foods, fatty foods, meat with bones, coffee, grapes, and ice cream, to name a few. Make sure no well-meaning guest has a chance to poison your pet. Before the dining starts, it’s probably best to send her home—the pet, we mean, not the well-meaning guest.
Anticipate how your pet is likely to handle the attention of rambunctious children and adoring guests. Even animals who love to be petted may have their limits.
We mentioned that some flowers are toxic to animals. Lilies, for example, can be lethal to both cats and dogs. Daffodils and azaleas are also no-nos.
BE PREPARED WITH A PLAN B
Pets can be unpredictable, especially in new situations. Make sure you and your handler(s) know what to do if your pet suddenly turns sick, gets scared, or refuses to cooperate. Will someone be ready to pull her aside or take her home?
No matter how much you plan and prepare, animals will be animals. But isn’t that why we love them?
You can find other top wedding planning tips here!