Want Your Dog to Be in Your Wedding? Here's What You Need to Know

Photo: Laura Murray Photography

On your wedding day, you want all your loved ones around you, and for many couples, that means inviting their dog, as well. There are lots of ways to involve pups in your celebration, whether in a formal role—as ring bearers or flower dogs, for example—or simply as honored guests.

Furry friends make the event much more memorable, but they also require special handling. Here's what you need to know before you decide to bring him or her along—and how to keep your pooch calm, cool, and well cared for when he joins your celebration.

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Consider Your Dog's Temperament

Michèle M. Waite

Not all pets are suited to a wedding, and it's important to assess the temperament of yours. Are they friendly or aggressive? Do they make a lot of noise? Do they steal food? At the very least, your pet needs to be well-behaved and know the basic "sit" and "stay" commands, says puppy pro Heidi Ganahl, founder of Camp Bow Wow, a doggie daycare and overnight kennel.

You want your dog to be a cute addition, not a distraction. Some pups are calm enough to be a ring bearer or flower girl, while others are too excitable to walk down the aisle. Before deciding which role to assign, consider if your pet's disposition will lend itself to that type of situation—and if not, don't try to train them in the weeks leading up to your wedding.

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Consider Your Own Personality, Too

Sabine Scherer

A relaxed attitude is crucial. Don't involve your dog in your wedding if it's going to introduce unnecessary stress for you and your partner.

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Determine Your Dog's Role

La Vie Photography

Is it appropriate for the kind of ceremony you're having? "An animal fits a certain type of affair, one at a farmhouse or a private estate, perhaps, but probably not at a fancy hotel," says Sasha Souza, a California event designer.

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Check the Rules on Pets at Weddings

Nancy Neil

Not all venues are pet-friendly, so ask the on-site manager if your dog will be welcome. An outdoor setting is often the best choice.

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Salute Your Dog in Spirit

Judy Pak Photography

If your pet can't be present, find ways to honor her in your details. Name a cocktail after her, for example, or incorporate her photo into décor elements, like these drink stirrers.

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Style Your Furry Friend

Rachel Thurston Photography

Take your dog to the groomer before the wedding so he'll look his best. And however you want to accessorize Spot, make sure he's comfortable in his garb by trying it out a few times in advance. If he balks at a full get-up, surrender the fantasy and opt for a simple collar; in general, it's best to keep adornments minimal and easy for the pet to wear. Don't make him dress up for longer than is necessary.

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Anticipate Potential Hazards

Nancy Ray Photography

If your pet's wedding attire—or the venue décor, for that matter—includes flowers, do your research (or make sure your florist does!) as some are toxic. Ask the venue about pesticides or toxic plants on the grounds, and about creatures that might distract or threaten your pet. And keep dogs someplace safe during the reception so guests won't feed them. Certain wedding fare, including chocolate, alcohol, and meat with bones, can be dangerous.

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Inform Your Vendors About Your Dog

Lauren Kinsey

Well in advance, inform attendants and vendors that your pet will play a role, and discuss special measures you'd like them to take. Also notify your officiant. Some may refuse to preside over a wedding that includes pets.

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Hire a Pet Handler

Corbin Gurkin

Your pet will need to be fed, walked, and looked after while you're in day-of mode. Entrust him to a friend or sitter, ideally someone already acquainted with your furry friend (and supply ample treats for rewards—and bribes!).

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Prep Your Pooch

Jade + Matthew Take Pictures

Bring your pet to the site before the wedding day, and have him come to the rehearsal to practice his part if he will be participating in the ceremony. Dogs like to sniff and explore new spaces, so if you get that out of the way early, they'll be less likely to do it at the ceremony, Ganahl says.

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Have a Game Plan…

Michèle M. Waite

Jot down the details of your dog's involvement, including where they'll walk and stand, particularly during the ceremony. Communicate those wishes to your wedding party. Don't put your pet in a situation where she feels alone or nervous, Ganahl says. It's best if she isn't standing up with the wedding party; have someone she knows walk her down the aisle and then sit next to her.

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Be Flexible

Michelle Gardella Photography

Be prepared to roll with the punches on the wedding day. You may have a certain vision for how your pet's part will play out, but remember that dogs have a mind of their own. Make sure to have a backup plan in case things go awry. Embrace the little quirks canines can introduce to a celebration—chances are, it'll lead to a more memorable day.

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