The Wedding Day Dog Blog! Top Tips For Including Dogs In Your Wedding Ceremony
Want a dog ring-bearer? A wedding reading to celebrate your four-legged friend?
Fancy having your dog give their pawprint of approval on a wedding certificate?
Wondering how to make it all work? You've come to the right place!
For most dog owners, dogs are members of the family. So, it's only right that they should be included in your wedding day somehow!
I've had dogs involved in wedding ceremonies in a number of different ways, so check out my suggestions and top tips below.
But first, allow me to distract you with some fabulous pics of previous Kickass Doggos:
The Kickass dogs hall of fame
Can we even have our dog at our wedding?
First of all, you need to find out whether your venue will allow dogs, and if so whether there are restrictions on doing so.
You also need to consider how well your dog would cope with being surrounded by lots of other people (who may well be cheering, clapping, and wearing their finery throughout the day!) I know that my dog would have been a noisy nightmare in the ceremony, so we decided to just have him along for a couple of hours in the afternoon instead.
Booo... Our dog can't come to the wedding at all!
If you can't have your furry best mate there with you on the day - whether that's because of venue restrictions or just because your dog is too much of a bonehead / liability, there are plenty of fun ways to incorporate them somehow. Why not consider:
- Using photos or illustrations of them on your invites / wedding stationery (like Cleo the Frenchie for Annette and Matt's big day)
- Using a dog-related reading (like the one below) in the ceremony
- A dog-based wedding favour (like Annette and Matt's Cleo biscuits made by PollyAnne Confections) or how about a donation to an animal charity in your dog's name on behalf of your guests?
- Including them as part of an engagement / pre-wedding photoshoot, like Ness and Ross did
- Having professional pictures with them at home in your wedding finery on the morning of your big day (make sure those paws are clean!)
You could even do a first look with them!
A wedding reading for dog-lovers
Whether your dog is there with you on the day or not, a great way to reference your love for dogs is to use this reading: How Falling In Love Is Like Owning A Dog by Taylor Mali.
You can also buy gorgeous letterpress copies of it, which make great gifts for people involved in your wedding!
Here's a recording of me reading it (or check it out on my instagram page)
It features my own dog, Jarvis the Cocker - be sure to watch to the end for the bloopers!
OK, we're doing it: our dog is coming to the ceremony...
How can we get them involved?
I've had dogs play a part in ceremonies in a few different ways.
A doggy escort / dog of honour, who simply walks in and out with you (or a member of the wedding party) at the start or end of the ceremony.
Top tip: It's a good idea to allocate someone to hand your dog over to for the duration of the ceremony - ideally someone sitting near the front who your dog knows and trusts.
(I have had one very well behaved doggo who stood at the couple's feet and was perfectly behaved, but think about whether you would be distracted and whether it would be better for someone else to sit with them who can give them fuss and treats if needed!)
A doggy ring bearer, with a pouch containing the rings attached to their collar / harness.
Your dog might already be in the ceremony space at this point, or you might get someone to sneak them in at the back once the ceremony has started for a surprise appearance once we reach the ring exchange.
You might even do the old 'the best man has forgotten the rings' fake-out like Ben and Shashika did... he went running out to 'look in his other suit pockets' and then their 2 sausage dogs appeared - to a soundtrack of 'Hound Dog', of course - with the rings clipped to their collars!
Top tip: if you go for the surprise appearance method, make sure your dog has good recall and will be likely to come to you at the front without needing to visit and sniff everyone else in the room first. Maybe have their favourite treat or toy at the front to help entice them over.
A doggy 'witness', who puts their pawprint of approval on your commemorative ceremony certificate.
This is where the lack of legal status for celebrant ceremonies can work in your favour. Obviously, for an actual legal document a pawprint wouldn't be appropriate but we can do whatever we like! You might decide you wants some humans to sign it, too, or make the dog the star witness.
Top tip: these paw print kits (available on Amazon) come in a range of colours and are inkless, so you don't need to worry about getting inky pawprints on your clothes. If you decide to go down the ink pad route instead, have some wetwipes handy! It's also a good idea to have a practise at home first to check how well your dog copes with their paws being touched in this way, and to give their paws a trim if they're a bit furry to make the paw pad a little clearer.
Whichever option you go for, here are my top tips:
- Try to arrange a test visit to the venue to make sure you dog can cope with the surroundings.
- Schedule a good wash and groom just before the wedding, so your dog will be looking and smelling fresh!
- Get them something special to wear, or a new collar and lead which matches your vibe / colour scheme / flowers, and make sure they are happy and used to wearing it ahead of the big day.
I made my bouquet and all my wedding flowers from felt, and here is Jarv in the matching flower collar I made for him!
- Make sure they've been out and done all of their business beforehand (but having some poo bags and wipes on standby just in case!).
- Share the responsibility. You are going to be very busy on your wedding day and you don't want to spend the entire time looking after the dog. Ask which people will be up for some dog-time, and don't be afraid to take them up on it!
- If your venue has outside areas which might be wet and muddy, have a towel available to give them a wipe down if needed.
- Equally, if it is a boiling hot day, have a contingency plan. Make sure shade is available to them and limit their exercise / exertion
(I know for a fact that
my dog would chase a ball aaaalllll day if guests were throwing one for him - here's the evidence! - but that could be dangerous on a hot day.
Dogs are notoriously bad at self-regulating!)
- Have a supply of their favourite treats and a fresh bowl of water handy at all times - and don't forget their dinner!
- Know what your dog's limits and thresholds are. There are few dogs who could cope with an entire day of being involved in every single aspect of your wedding from start to finish. So think about which parts would be most easy and convenient for them to attend, and then maybe send them off with someone for some down-time.
Need an extra hand?
One issue people come across on their wedding day as dog owners is that the people you would normally rely on to walk or look after your dog are often attending your wedding as guests! There are an increasing number of businesses which cater especially for caring for your dog on your wedding day, whether you are leaving them at home or bringing them along to part of your day. Some will even give them a groom and get them looking sharp before they arrive!
Kickass Dog Spotlight
Otto the rescue dog
Rescue dog Otto joined his Vet Nurse pawrents Sophie and Andy for their ceremony at Stretton Manor Barn. He walked down the aisle in his mini tux collar designed to match the wedding, then chilled out with the bridesmaids for the remainder of the ceremony. Andy's dad read 'How Falling in Love Is Like Owning a Dog', and we talked in their love story about what their dog and cats had taught them about love and life - spot the mini versions of them on their cake by BakerLu!
Shiro the Shiba
@theshibashiro was Dog Of Honour on Lily and Jason's big day at Inkersall Grange Farm. She walked in with a bridesmaid, with her collar decorated to match their woodland and Lord of the Rings inspired wedding day, and then joined in with the professional group photos.
Charlie the Westie
West Mill became Westie Mill, with rescue westie Charlie being the star of the show. He joined Dani as she got ready, walked in with the page boys, 'signed' the wedding certificate, walked back out with Dani and Matt at the end, and enjoyed getting lots of fuss and attention from all the guests!
Darcie the miniature schnauzer
Darcie is a huge part of Ness and Ross's lives, so OBVIOUSLY she was going to be a big part of their wedding day as well. She was an extra bridesmaid, sat beautifully through the ceremony, was name-checked in the vows, gave her pawprint of approval, and stole the show in all the photos (sorry, guys, but it's true!)