When my (now) husband and I initially announced that Isabella and Penelope would be in our wedding as our flower girls, we received a variety of responses. Some thought we were crazy. Others thought it was sweet.
I adopted Bella two years before Alex and I met. She’s my girl. When he picked me, he picked her too. And when we adopted Penny shortly after we got engaged, we knew they would be playing a role in our wedding. They’re our babies, and it just wouldn’t have been right to us to get married without them there.
They brought so much peace to our wedding day, and we’ll forever cherish that we were able to have our little girls play a prominent role in one of the most important days of our lives.
That said, there are a lot of considerations to keep in mind when having your dog in your wedding. We put a lot of extra work in the planning and preparation of our wedding in order to have them involved, and we learned a lot throughout the process.
If you’re looking to have your pup in your wedding as the flower girl or ring bearer, welcome to your one-stop shop of information: The Ultimate Guide to Having Your Dog in Your Wedding! Here is everything you need to keep in mind while planning and preparing to have your pup(s) in your wedding.
First and foremost, be honest with yourself. Is your pup really up for a role in your wedding? While the idea of having your dog in your wedding is an excellent one, all dogs have different personalities and not all personalities are a good fit for a role on such a high profile day.
If your dog is nervous around strangers, doesn’t do well in crowds, barks incessantly, is skittish, or is just generally misbehaved, it might be best to not include them in your wedding day. And keep in mind, not including them in your wedding day doesn’t mean they can’t be included in this sweet time of your life in some way. Having your dog join you and your fiance during your engagement pictures is a great compromise. (We had Bella in ours - we didn’t have Penny at the time.)
However, if your pup is well-behaved and handles crowds nicely, then I think it’s a great idea to include him! The first thing you’ll have to decide is the role your dog is going to play - flower girl, ring bearer or something else. Once you’ve made that decision, you’ll move on to reviewing your venue.
Once you’ve made the decision to include your dog, it’s time to take a look at your wedding venue.
If you’ve already selected and placed your down payment on your wedding venue, you’ll want to ensure they’re flexible with having your dog on site for your wedding. If you haven’t already chosen a venue, you’ll want to ask the site coordinator in your early communication if they can accommodate your dog in your wedding. Some venues are dog-friendly and others are not due to other events also taking place.
Think about your wedding day holistically. Your dog will be on site before, during and, most likely, after your wedding ceremony. It’s important the venue has the ability to accommodate that.
For instance, my husband and I got married at The 1927 Lake Lure Inn & Spa in Lake Lure, NC. It was a destination wedding (two and a half hours away from Charlotte), and we stayed the weekend at the inn. It’s a dog-friendly inn, so Isabella and Penelope were able to stay with me in my cabin the nights and day leading up to our wedding ceremony. Then after the ceremony and pictures were complete, they were taken back to my cabin while we all enjoyed the reception.
This is one of the most important things you’ll need to take care of leading up to your wedding day in regards to your dog. The hours leading up to your wedding day are often chaotic as there are many moving parts - decorations being set up, the bride and bridesmaids getting ready, photos taking place, vendors moving about - the list goes on.
It’s important that prior to that day, you’ve already decided who will be handling your dog and making sure he gets to where he needs to be and when. Whether it’s a family member or friend, a member of your wedding party or a pet sitter, it needs to be someone your dog is comfortable with and someone you trust.
Many people hire a pet sitter so no one attending your wedding has to take their attention away from enjoying your big day as guests. Having a pet sitter also makes the picture process easier as your dog isn’t be shuffled from hand-to-hand as the handler needs to be in pictures.
At our wedding, Bella and Penny spend the day with my bridesmaids and me, and my crazy dog lady matron of honor helped when they needed to go out. Once pre-ceremony pictures started, my little brothers (also groomsmen) took over their handling.
During our ceremony, my brothers walked Bella and Penny down the aisle while escorting their bridesmaids, and the pups stood up front with them while we exchanged vows. The girls were passed around between family members during our photos after the ceremony, and then my brothers took them back to my cabin to get them settled when their job was done.
Regardless of how you choose to handle it, be sure you’ve made the decision prior to your wedding weekend and that each person involved understands their role.
Even if your dog is well-behaved enough to be in your wedding, be honest about your pup’s limits.
If your dog could get distracted off leash, be sure your dog remains on leash walking down the aisle. If your dog hates wearing clothes and tries to get out of them, don’t put a ring bearer outfit on him. If you know your pup is prone to allergies, opt for a faux flower necklace instead of a real flower arrangement.
Don’t set your dog up for failure when he is already going to be sensing a lot of emotions that day.
In the same way, you need to be honest about your dog’s limits and not push him too much, you need to make your vendors aware of your dog. Tell your photographer about your dog’s role in your wedding and that you’d like pictures of him. If you have a videographer, you’ll want to notify them as well so they can plan to catch those unexpected moments on film.
Another vendor to keep on your radar is your florist, especially if you plan on using real flowers for your flower pup.
When Isabella and Penelope were our flower girls, we had to supply several measurements to make sure the flower necklace would fit properly. For instance, Penny has very short legs, so we needed to supply the measurement from her neck to the ground to ensure none of the flowers would prohibit her from walking.
Other vendors to notify would be your officiant, your day-of wedding coordinator, and your venue coordinator to ensure everyone is aware of the plans surrounding your pup.
Rehearsing your wedding ceremony with your dog is of the utmost importance to ensure he is ready for a leading role in your wedding.
If you’re planning on having him walk down the aisle with a handler, he needs to be trained to walk calmly and not pull on his leash. If he is going down the aisle by himself, he needs to practice making that walk without getting distracted by the activities at the venue and all your guests. If he is going to walk down the venue and be up front for the 30 minutes of your ceremony, he needs to practice sitting calming and quietly. If he’s going to sit with a seated handler during your ceremony, he needs to practice staying calm and quiet with things happening in front of him.
I highly suggest tiring your dog out prior to your wedding ceremony. At our wedding, we took Isabella and Penelope out on a boat with our wedding party the day before our wedding and they swam all day. Then, they went to the rehearsal dinner with us. On our wedding morning, my brothers took them running. By the time our ceremony rolled around, they lay down and slept through most of it.
If your dog is going to be in an outfit, rehearse with him in the outfit. If she is going to be a flower girl, have her get used to faux flowers and real flowers around her neck. (It was a serious project to get Penelope to not bite at her flowers).
Practice, practice, practice, and then practice some more. Your handler should have experience working with your dog on this as well, not just you. And when you think your dog is prepared, keeping working with him.
Having your dog in your wedding is such a special thing, but you don’t want it to distract from the most important thing taking place - marrying your best friend.
Last, but not least, plan for EVERYTHING. Whether your wedding is indoors or outdoors, there are always unknown variables and last minute surprises.
If you have a handler for your dog, have a backup plan in case he cancels last minute. Also, have a plan for if the weather doesn’t go as planned.
Our wedding was outdoors in the mountains in early September. In North Carolina, we get a lot of storms around that time of year and we knew it was a good possibility we could have a thunderstorm on our wedding day. Isabella is terrified of thunderstorms and we knew if one rolled in, even if our wedding was moved indoors, she would no longer be able to be a part of it. She would just be too nervous. So we made a plan for if that happened.
Don’t rule anything out when it comes to your pup. Prepare for anything to ensure your dog is taken care of on a day where you shouldn’t be stressed out or worrying.
Having Isabella and Penelope in our wedding was nothing short of amazing, and I hope it’s as memorable of an experience for you as it was for us! If you have any questions about the guide above, have any suggestions you think we missed or just any comments in general, we’d love to hear them. Leave us a message below!