10 things to consider when planning your dog-friendly wedding

One in 10 people now involve their pet when they tie the knot, according to recent research by national animal charity Blue Cross.

And unsurprisingly, dogs topped the OnePoll survey of the pet most likely to play a major part in the bride and groom’s big day, followed by cats, rabbits, horses, and guinea pigs.

More than a quarter (26 per cent) of the 2,000 respondents admitted that involving their pet helped to keep the butterflies at bay.

However, it seems an increasing number of couples are going further than simply having their pet present. A massive 92 per cent of brides said that they wanted to walk down the aisle with their pet as maid of honour, while more than half (56 per cent) planned to include the animal in their wedding photos. Meanwhile, 54 per cent were happy for their pet to take on the role of best man.

When asked why, 20 per cent replied that it was because their pet was an important part of their family, while 12 per cent put it down to the animal’s ‘cutesome’ factor.

If you're looking to make your dog a part of your big day, here are ten things to consider:

  1. Take your pet’s personality and level of training into account. If you want your dog to carry the rings or walk you down the aisle, think about how he will react in a crowd, or with unfamiliar sights and sounds. It wouldn’t be fair to include your dog if he is nervous around people, or likely to become scared or stressed.
  2. It might sound obvious, but before booking your venue, check it is pet friendly and allows dogs into all the areas you want to use. A significant 32 per cent of those surveyed admitted that they wouldn’t think to do this in advance.
  3. When looking around potential pet-friendly wedding venues, check that they tick all the boxes from your dog’s — as well as your own — point of view: is there plenty of outdoor space, non-slip flooring, and no valuable antiques that a wagging tail could destroy in an instant?
  4. In the run-up to your wedding, make sure you spend time training your dog for his role. Book some dog training classes, and brush up on the basics, or work on more advanced training like carrying rings. Try to expose your dog to the anticipated sights and sounds of your big day, such as clicking cameras and church bells, and include him in all dress rehearsals.
  5. Whether it’s just a dicky bow or a full outfit, give some thought to what your dog will wear — if anything — and trial it in advance. It shouldn’t cause any distress or discomfort, or pose a choking risk. Equally, ensure that any flowers, plants, or garlands won’t be toxic to dogs. Don’t get carried away though — the most important accessory to remember is your dog’s lead!
  6. Make sure you inform your photographer/videographer early on that you want to include your pet in the photographs so they have time to think of some creative ideas for the day.
  7. When sending out your invitations, ensure you let any guests who are allergic to dogs know that yours will be attending.
  8. Book a pet sitter or nominate a family member/friend as your dog’s minder for key times in the day, such as during the speeches, cutting the cake, first dance, and signing the register. In fact, your dog is likely to find the day very tiring so it’s a good idea if someone he’s familiar with could take him away from the festivities after a couple of hours — 62 per cent of those polled said that their pet only spent two hours or less at the wedding.
  9. It’s easy to get swept up with all the guests, presents, dancing, cake, food, drink, and speeches on the day so make sure you don’t forget your dog’s needs too. Ensure you — or someone you can rely on — provides a bowl of water and enables him to have regular toilet breaks, and somewhere quiet to sleep.
  10. With all the food readily available at weddings, Blue Cross suggests it’s a good idea to ask guests not to offer your dog treats or titbits — they may not be aware that some foods, such as avocado, chocolate, grapes, and raisins, aren’t safe for canine consumption.