Whether attending as a guest or preparing for your own special day, an increasing number of people are seeking ways to include dogs in weddings.
To address this, we conducted a survey of 1,000 pet parents in the U.S. to gauge what people felt about the concept of "wed-dog" celebrations.
The findings were fascinating: 74% of us consider our pets vital to our relationships.
This leads us to wonder: If our pets are so important to our relationships, why not involve our beloved four-legged companions in wedding festivities?
Taking it a step (down the aisle?) farther, 7 in 10 of us want our dogs to attend our weddings.
Of those wanting their dog in attendance, a further 60% would get their dog involved in the ceremony.
How involved, exactly? Well, "Dog of Honor" (40%) was a top pick, followed by "Ring Bearer" (37%), and "Flower Dog" (35%).
77% even stated that they would prefer to have their dog in attendance over some extended friends and family. Well, that's certainly taking "it's me or the dog" to a brand new level!
However, even though 55% of those polled would bring their dog to someone else’s wedding if invited, many have anxieties around the idea, with 47% stating they would "spend the whole event worrying about [their dog]" and 42% concerned that "it would be a distressing environment."
Want to Include Dogs in Your Wedding? Here's Our Best Advice
To set pooches and owners up for success throughout wedding season, we chatted with Sarah Ellen Tranter, who is both a qualified Registered Veterinary Nurse (RVN) and a Veterinary Relationship Managerhereat ManyPets.
Sarah is uniquely positioned to give advice on this, as she included her dog Ava as part of her own special day. Sarah stopped by to share her top tips to help dog owners have a stress-free day of celebration.
#1. Schedule Potty Breaks
Toilet troubles can be a bit tricky when it comes to pets. Imagine the nightmare of walking down the aisle with your dog when nature decides to call!
"While this can’t be avoided entirely, minimize the chances by scheduling at least three toilet trips," advises Sarah. "Two staggered right before the ceremony and one right after."
"If you’re the one getting married, it’s worth getting a trusted friend to take on this role—you can’t exactly be running out halfway through for a bathroom trip!"
#2. Don’t Forget the Treats
Pack your pet's favorite snacks to be prepped and ready to reward good behavior. If you're walking down the aisle with them, it’s a good idea to have a few in your pocket, ready to pull their attention away from any surrounding distractions.
"To help keep them still while sitting, try stuffing a longer treat like a bone up your sleeve—the smell will hold your dog's attention for hours!"
#3. Watch Out for Flowers
"One of the best parts of weddings is the beautiful flower arrangements, but be careful—some plants can be toxic to dogs," warns Sarah.
Tulips, daffodils, and rhododendrons are some of the worst culprits when it comes to toxicity, causing intestinal upset, vomiting, and, in the worst cases, paralysis.
"It’s best to keep an eye on your pooch throughout the day, and consider having them on a lead if they’re in a space that has lots of floral arrangements around."
"In particular, watch out for brides and bridesmaids bouquets being left on seats, as these are at perfect nibble height for pups."
#4. Keep Things Cool
With peak wedding season falling in the middle of summer, your big day may well be a scorcher.
A key thing to remember is that dogs can’t cool down in the same way humans can, which puts them at a greater risk of overheating.
"When choosing your venue, try to opt for somewhere with good ventilation or air conditioning," says Sarah.
Alternatively, if you’re having the ceremony outside, make sure there’s a well-shaded area that your pooch can sit in, and consider getting married a little later on in the day so that the sun isn’t as strong.
#5. Introduce New People Before the Ceremony
Some dogs struggle with stranger danger, so if your dog will be interacting with new people during the ceremony (like being walked down the aisle by a groomsman or bridesmaid), it’s best to get them well-acquainted prior to the big day.
"Get them to go for walks, throw a ball around, and give them a few treats to build a positive relationship so that your pup sees their handler as a familiar face by the time the big day rolls around."
#6. Test the Waters With Other Dog-Friendly Events
"If your dog hasn’t been to any big events before, it’s possible that they could become overwhelmed by the number of people at your wedding, which can make them distressed," Sarah adds.
"A top tip is to test the waters and get your dog used to bigger gatherings—try taking them to a busy park, a town center, or even bring them along to a church ceremony!"
If your dog repeatedly gets spooked by larger groups after continued exposure, then it might be wise to keep them off the invite list. You don’t want to add a distressed dog to your list of worries on your big day!