Dogs in Weddings: Tips for a Successful Ceremony

Who tops the guest list for the big day?

Friends and family, of course—and since dogs are part of the family, they should be included too. Like all preparations for the wedding, advance planning is needed.

Rachel Mullins

Oliver the Pekingese helps Charlie Mullins get ready for his wedding to Rachel

Train Your Dog

For a successful wedding, a dog acting as ring bearer, flowerdog, best dog or dog of honor should be comfortable in crowds of strangers, including older people, babies and children of any age. He should be on leash at all times, with someone who knows dogs and whose only job is to take care of him. Jumping, pulling on the leash, barking, and self-grooming are not allowed during the ceremony. Sitting on the bride’s train during the I do’s is optional.

“At our outdoor wedding, a groomsman was to handle my Border Collie, but he dropped the leash,” said Gabby Etrog Cohen. “Bandit was a real bandit that day. He ran away with our rings tied to his collar.” The ceremony was stopped for about fifteen minutes as the wedding party and guests played catch-me-if-you-can with Bandit. The groomsman was more attentive thereafter.

lola walking

Lola, Carolina Villagas Kulbabinski’s Bulldog attendant, being led down the aisle

Know Your Dog’s Limits

One bride wisely included the dog walker in the wedding. Her dog was comfortable on his way down the aisle and the ceremony went smoothly. After a short photo session, he and his walker went to the hotel room to relax.

There will likely be flowers and greenery at the wedding, which can overstimulate your dog. A dog’s nose is super-sensitive, so candles, aftershave, and perfumes can send him into olfactory overload.

Take your pet to relieve himself 10 times more than he needs it, just in case. Accidents happen and dogs get nervous. Outdoor weddings present problems of their own. Karen Robinson’s English Bulldog, Bonnie, wore a tutu for her wedding attire. She walked down the aisle with the groom, but not before pausing to potty on the way (anyone bring a pooper-scooper?). Bonnie danced at the reception and then made her way to the kitchen where she unsuccessfully tried to convince the catering staff she was allowed to eat crab cakes.

Lisa Dyer’s wedding resembled a high speed chase, too, as the ringdog spotted his owner (the groom) while walking with the five-year-old ring boy. Apparently, the boy’s instructions included “Whatever you do, don’t let go of the leash.” Boy and Australian Cattle Dog passed the bridesmaid as a blur in their mad dash to the front of the church. The flower girl, walking the Dachshund flower dog, also made a run for it when the Doxi caught sight of the groom. Dogs do not get embarrassed easily.

The dog napping on the train during Angela Winfield and Lance Lyons’ wedding

Get Him Used to the Venue

It’s a good idea to take the dog along when looking at the venue. He’ll have a chance to see and explore while it’s empty. Taking a dog to church, during a service, will also help if the pastor is cooperative. Bring him to the rehearsal? You bet.

Plan for a Getaway

Weddings are stressful for all concerned. Dogs can get bored and overstimulated all at the same time quite easily. When they’re mobbed by too many strangers who want selfies with His Cuteness, do him a favor and let someone take him where he can relax, preferably home. Familiar surroundings will let him refresh and recharge.

When Everything Goes Wrong—and it’s not the Dog’s Fault

With planning and advance training, it’s possible to have an elegant, reverent and respectful wedding while including the dog. On the other hand, it’s equally possible to have everything go wrong and none of it be the dog’s fault.

Take for example Koren Palazzo Spadavecchia’s wedding. She’s a dog trainer, so Martha, her German Shepherd, behaved impeccably. However, the weather and circumstances did not. Several relatives passed away in the weeks before the wedding. A water spout (a small tornado full of water) from the nearby river caused a power outage. Trees fell on several of the guest’s cars. The florist finally showed up with the bridal bouquet—the wrong one. A bridesmaid’s dress caught fire (candles). Groomsmen went to get food since the caterers couldn’t cook without power. Dinner was courtesy of McDonald’s.

Koren says the joy and comfort Martha gave her as she struggled to hold back tears is the most wonderful memory she has of the day.

Koren and Martha

Koren Palzzo Spadavecchia’s German Shepherd, Martha, accompanied her during the stormy disaster wedding

Know What You’re Signing Up For

Don’t include the dog on a whim, unless you’re okay with what could follow. Even well-trained dogs can forget their manners in an unfamiliar situation. Seeing their person in a wedding gown? What are you wearing? What’s that on your head?

Train him to walk on leash, calmly, with you or someone else. Take him to unfamiliar and crowded places. Introduce him to squealing children.

Expect, well, who knows what to expect? He’s a dog. He can’t be any more embarrassing than your crazy uncle, right?

Meet the Author: Sandra Murphy

Sandra Murphy writes magazine articles about all kinds of animals, pets or exotics, marine life too, eco-friendly living and weird topics that catch her fancy. In her spare time, she writes fiction, mostly mysteries with a twist. With all the research, her browser history is intriguing to say the least. She lives in St. Louis with two bossy cats and Ozzie, a very tolerant dog.

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