If you’re not following me on Instagram (cough cough….@lifewiththedoodle) you may not know this but…us humans are married! We had the perfect intimate ceremony on May 21st, with just our parents, Doodle and Gracie Lou in attendance.
We (luckily) planned this type of elopement-style wedding from day one, before the potential of a pandemic was even a thought. (Because really, who would expect that?!) We just knew we wanted our day to be about getting married with our furry children there by our sides. Throughout the planning process, we picked up a couple tips when having your dog(s) be part of your big day.
know your venue's policy
This is the very first step you should take when deciding to have your dog in your wedding. You may be only looking at pet-friendly venues, or you may already have a deposit down on a venue and now need to find out what their policy is. Regardless of your process, determine what your venue’s pet policy is before you take any further steps. It should be in the contract but if not, reach out to the event coordinator to confirm.
For example – our venue allowed up to two pets, with designated handlers. The pets were not allowed indoors, which wasn’t a problem for us because we had an outdoor ceremony.
decide how you want your dog to be a part of your big day
If you’re anything like me, having your dog in your wedding is a “non-negotiable.” I mean, it’s their big day too! Now that you know what your venue’s policy is, start narrowing down exactly how you want your dog to be there. Will they just be there for photos? Will they be part of the ceremony in some way?
Make sure you follow a couple of the next steps before you “officially” decide, but have some exact ideas in mind as you move forward with the planning process.
talk to your photographer / videographer
Have a conversation with your photographer and videographer (if you have one) about how you want your dog to be part of your wedding. You want to make sure they are comfortable with and skilled at capturing photos of dogs. Also, see if they have any recommendations or timelines to stick to. Maybe you want to capture certain photos first, so your dog can then make its way home with a designated handler (…more on that below) before the party gets started. Whatever it may be, you’ll need to have these conversations upfront so your big day can go as smooth as possible.
(Side note: if you’re getting married in or around North Carolina, I can’t recommend Will Greene Photo+Video more! They made our dreams come true, capturing the perfect photos and videos of our pups by our sides).
know your dog's personality
This is especially important. Sure, you may want your dog to walk you down the aisle, pose perfectly for all photos and hang out for part of the reception. Let’s be realistic though – knowing your dog’s personality, is that actually feasible? Is your dog leash trained and able to walk down the aisle without pulling you over? Are they well-behaved enough to sit like a perfecct angel throughout the whole ceremony?
This isn’t to say you can’t have any of this – you just need to plan ahead. Maybe you need to have treats ready to help walk down the aisle. If having them at the ceremony is a non-negotiable (like it was for me!), have a “doggy distraction bag” ready if they start getting restless. We had frozen Kongs stuffed and waiting for the pups so they wouldn’t disrupt the ceremony.
It boils down to being prepared and having everything you need to make your big day less stressful, and make it less stressful (and exciting!) for your dog too.
designate a handler or two
You’ve figured out how you want your dog to be part of your big day. You’ve confirmed having your dog there with the venue, photographer and videographer. Now, make sure you have one or two “designated handlers” who will be responsible for them throughout the big day. After all, you’ll be a little busy getting married!
Whether it’s a family member who will be holding the leash or a pet sitter you’ve hired to help out for the day, there should be one or two people there who are solely responsible for your dog. You can have all the kisses, cuddles and photos you want throughout the day, it’ll just give you peace of mind to know you can look away as needed (and that you don’t also need to keep track of your dog’s “distraction bag”).
think about outfits too!
This is the fun part! Scroll through Instagram and Pinterest to see all of the fun ways you can dress up your dog. Everything from special leashes and collars to tuxes and tutus – the options are endless.
We decided to keep it simple and bought high-quality leashes and collars that matched the colors of our wedding. I highly recommend Harbor Hound Co. if you’d like to do the same! (Bonus: our collars and leashes were not leather, for all of our fellow cruelty-free friends).
go with the flow
Your wedding day will be perfect. Period. You won’t really care about anything that may not go exactly as planned – and that includes anything your dog may or may not do! Maybe they don’t sit perfectly in every photo…it’s OK! Your photographer will still get the perfect shot (Roxanne kept sitting on my dress in our photos, and we still got so many amazing ones!).
Go with the flow, enjoy the day, and enjoy having your dog there to be part of it!
Photographer/Videographer: Will Greene Photo+Video
Venue: Longleaf Vineyard
Makeup: Jenna Arredondo