How 8 Pet Parents Creatively (and Safely) Included Their Dogs in Their Weddings
Real people share pics and tips from their big days. Get inspired!
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It’s your wedding day. Now that you aren’t confined to a Zoom micro-wedding (remember when those became a thing?), you can safely invite the people you want to see as you and your betrothed are marching down the aisle. Your wedding VIP list also includes your pup — whether they’re in your wedding party or just watching from the sidelines.
Though it’s no easy feat to get your pup to sit still for a photo shoot, and some may be too skittish to walk down the aisle without some serious training, it’s certainly not impossible to incorporate dogs into weddings. In fact, it’s become a popular conversation at the wedding planning meeting; your pup can not only attend with a little help from your friends (their wranglers), they can also bare legal witness to the event.
We talked to eight pet parents who incorporated their pets into their weddings to learn about the dog-at-your-wedding dos and don’ts and how it all went down when they said “I do.”
Andrew, Bill, and Kate
“On paper, having the dog at our wedding made sense: we were planning a casual, outdoor, cocktail-hour wedding in the garden. Plus, our dog, Kate, is sweet, gorgeous, and incredibly important to us. But Kate also has quite the knack for doing her business at inopportune times while we’re hosting people, often while making direct eye contact with our guests. But what were we going to do — keep her inside while the party was going on? Kate is too important to us to not have her there.
When the big day came, I still had nerves about Kate — she probably picked up on this, because she was staring nervously at us as we prepared the house. Kate was so nervous we could barely get her to sit for a wedding picture. But as the guests arrived and the hors d’oeuvres were served, her mood picked up. And when the ceremony started and everyone turned to face us, I could see her sitting and paying attention, too. I’d like to think she picked up on how special that moment was, and knew she needed to be still. The fact that she was being fed a steady stream of shrimp tails by our guests probably didn’t hurt, either.”
— Andrew Spena
Julia, Andy, and Maggie
“Our pup was an integral part of our wedding day. My husband walked her down the aisle, so they were both waiting for me as I walked down. It was hard to tell who looked happier to see me. During the ceremony, the officiant mentioned her and she started rolling around in the grass like she knew it was her moment — it made for a great laugh. It was special to get to walk back down the aisle together as an official family of three, and we even shared a dance as the night got started. I’d recommend having a designated person to watch your pup for the reception or take them back to your house so you can dance the night away stress-free (and to make sure they don’t steal too much food!).”
— Julia Labadie
Lesley, Cody, and Tilly
“When my (now) husband Cody and I eloped in 2019, Tilly was just over a year old. She was already the center of our world, so naturally, she’d be our flower girl. Challenge number one? She is a Weimaraner mix and was a crazy puppy — so we’d need her to be distracted to have the ceremony go smoothly. Fortunately, we brought a comically gigantic bone so she’d behave or, at the very least, focus on said bone. Challenge number two? The flower girl would most likely end up eating the flowers if we sprinkled them down the makeshift aisle. So, we had to improvise and hand-make her a bouquet attached to her collar (yes, she still tried to eat it).
We brought lots of treats and tried to get her to pay attention (aka be quiet) as best as possible. As we started saying our vows, Tilly got a little frisky and it was the gigantic dog bone’s time to shine. So as we said our vows, she was loudly gnawing and chewing on the bone, scraping it with her nails, and making so much noise that I had to yell, “Tilly, stop! Mom and Dad are trying to get married!” It was the perfect example of how our troublesome girl always makes things a little unexpected. At least we got a couple of nice pictures out of it!”
— Lesley Albert
Mia, Cole, and Mowgli
“Having our 70-pound-pitty, Mowgli, in our wedding day celebrations was a must! Five months before our wedding, Mowgli had to unexpectedly have emergency surgery when he began showing signs of dog bloat, and his stomach tried to flip. It was a very scary 48 hours, but thankfully he made it through. Mowgli had already been a very important part of our lives, but after nearly losing him, we learned just how big a part of our family he was. We had our wedding photographers take multiple photos at our venue with him prior to the ceremony. He even got to sport his own matching bowtie! I know I will be forever grateful for those photos and am so happy he was able to join in on our special day.
Part of me wishes we would have had Mowgli in the ceremony as well, but I think that would have been a little too much for both of us. The best piece of advice I can give to anyone wishing to have their pet in their wedding is to do what is best for both you, your partner, and your pet. Weddings can be a very stressful time, so make sure that the way you are incorporating your pet isn’t adding to those stress levels. Be sure to communicate the inclusion of your pet with your photographers/videographers so they know what to expect as well.”
— Mia Balsamo
Danielle, John, Jaxon, and Boss
“Everyone thought I was crazy when I told them my dogs would participate in my wedding! My dogs are a big part of my life. They are as well-loved as the humans in our bridal party and deserved to be part of our big day. I did not want cell phones during the ceremony so the officiant told the crowd that they were “trained cell phone detection dogs,” who would come off the altar to take your phone away if they sniffed one out.
I hired someone to get them to the ceremony on time, and my two friends, who have a lot of dog experience, were in charge of them during the ceremony (they threw treats at them to keep them on their dog bed; they will do anything for food). Amazingly enough everything went as smooth as I could have imagined! Jaxon was so content that he even rolled over and laid on the train of my dress, which we all got a big laugh over. Would I have my dogs in my wedding if I could do it again? Yes!”
— Danielle Vrabel
Maggie, Janak, and Luna
“Luna has been in our lives since the early part of our relationship and we always wanted to have her as part of the day. My husband and I also both chose to hyphenate our names, so as she was the first in our family with our shared last name, it felt like we couldn’t have our wedding without her. While she is extremely well-behaved and usually pretty chill, I knew since we first started discussing having her as our ring bearer that we would need someone to help escort her down the aisle. I had fears of her being so excited to see us she would run down the aisle and jump all over us (and more specifically, me and my dress).
We ended up asking my husband’s cousin to be our flower girl and escort Luna down the aisle and we were very glad we did. She was fairly anxious and confused when the time came, but the moment she made it to the head of the aisle, she saw my husband at the other end and just started running. Thankfully, my husband’s cousin had a good sense of humor about it (and was barefoot, otherwise, she probably would’ve been pulled over), and Luna delivered the rings and made it to her seat generally without incident (and got some good laughs from our guests).”
— Maggie Snell
Sam, Josh, and Bailey
“As if perfectly on cue, midway through my best friend’s speech at my wedding, our Rottweiler Bailey let out a sort of ‘Here, here!’ in the form of a soulful howl that reverberated around the wedding venue. Seconds before, my friend had begun to choke up, so this much-needed moment of levity couldn’t have come at a better time and was met equally with awwwws and guffaws. I adopted Bailey not long before losing my dad, and he went from being my best friend in a lonely city to my reason for getting out of bed in the morning. Needless to say, there was no way he was not going to be at my wedding.
After nixing innumerable venues that didn’t allow dogs, my husband, Josh, and I found the perfect spot: an art gallery converted from an 1880s boiler house in Dumbo, overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge. It could accommodate 75 people and 140 pounds of dog. We didn’t task Bailey with a job like ring bearer, but he sported a white bow tie and stole the show just the same. He hounded the servers for hors d’oeuvres, photo-bombed every portrait, then took a nap in the middle of the dance floor. I just celebrated my 10-year anniversary, and while Bailey passed a while ago, looking back at pictures tugged a little harder at my heartstrings this year — I’m so thankful that he got to be a part of our special day.”
— Samantha Gurrie
Hilary, Lindz, and Georgie
“By the time of our wedding in early June of 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic had been underway for 15 months, and it had been touch and go as to whether we could go forward with our day as planned. It was a bit of a miracle that we could keep our original wedding date, so there was no way our cattle dog mix, Georgie, wasn’t going to be part of the ceremony.
Georgie is bred to be on high alert, and she will bark at anything she finds odd or new. Weddings are full of those things (plus, our pup hadn’t seen many humans besides us for more than a year), so we were sure to build in a plan to make her feel at ease. My spouse’s sister, who makes Georgie feel safe, was assigned the role of walking Georgie down the aisle. We got her a lavender bow tie, leash, and collar that matched the rest of our wedding party, and we had a bone on hand for her to chew while we were up at the altar.
On wedding morning, Georgie had a one-off medical incident we have never been able to define, but I think she was really just trying to steal focus from us. Jokes aside, she walked down the aisle while on muscle relaxers from the vet, and she was extremely chill as a result. It was 90 degrees Fahrenheit during our outdoor ceremony, so we kept her cool and hydrated until show time. While we exchanged vows, Georgie hung out in the shade of my father-in-law’s legs, quietly chewing her bone. When we broke the glass, though, she was sure to contribute a celebratory ‘mazel tov!’ via barks.”
— Hilary Weaver
And yours can too (in 23 states). Here’s how.
Wedding planner Amy Shack Egan shares tips and tricks for getting your pup down the aisle.
Whether your pet is walking you down the aisle, playing the role of ring bearer, or entertaining guests at the reception, read this before the big day.
Avery is a writer and producer. She has written for numerous publications, including Refinery29, BuzzFeed, and V Magazine. When she’s not at her computer, you can find her reading, practicing her Greek on Duolingo, and delving into the Sex and the City discourse. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and their cat, Chicken, who rules with an iron fist.