Once upon a time, including pets in a wedding would have been a massive social blunder frowned upon by the majority of guests. Now, many pet lovers can’t imagine marrying without their pets present. It makes sense: When pet owners marry, they’re agreeing not just to combine their own lives, but the lives of their pets. Olympian couple Karen and David O’Connor married at their equestrian facility with their horses looking on from the pasture, and many couples involve animals directly in the wedding, as ringbearers or in other roles.
Dogs As Ringbearers
A dog acting as a ringbearer is perhaps the most popular and easiest way to include a well-behaved dog in a wedding. Using clicker training, it’s fairly easy to teach a medium to large-sized dog to carry a ring pillow. Small dogs can wear the rings on their backs with a ring pillow sewn to the top of a doggie jacket or dress. Make sure you include the dog in rehearsals as well as the ceremony itself. It won’t do to have the dog spit out the pillow halfway down the aisle and go off to greet the guests on your big day! Make sure that the dog has practiced, in whatever clothing and location it will be expected to perform, at least 20 times before the ceremony.
Dogs in Other Roles
There’s no reason a dog has to be ringbearer. Your dog could walk down the aisle in a pet tuxedo or dress with your groomsmen or bridesmaids, or could stand with whoever is passing out programs to greet guests as they arrive at your wedding. If the flower girl or flower boy is mature enough and your dog is calm enough, consider having the pooch carry the flower basket while a child tosses flowers. If you do this, make sure none of the flowers you use are poisonous to dogs!
If you don’t think your dog is up for being trained to carry something or sitting still wearing clothes during the whole ceremony, but it reliably comes when called, you could have someone hold your dog at the back of the church and release it after your big kiss. Call the dog to run down the aisle to you, and include it in a big family hug and kiss!
Other Pets in Weddings
Very few cats are outgoing enough to join a wedding party. If you have one of the rare doglike cats that enjoys walks and socializing with strangers, it could accompany the bridesmaids or groomsmen in a pet stroller or on a leash.
Small pets are best included carried by a flower girl or ringbearer, if the child is old enough to hold a pet gently but firmly. Rats can sit in the flower basket (if your guests won’t be frightened) or on the flower child’s shoulder.
Birds don’t make very good wedding party members– the crowds may be frightening for them, and if any guests have birds of their own, your birds might be exposed to contagious illness. A very calm bird in a flight suit could be included with the bridesmaids or groomsmen. Otherwise, consider releasing white homing pigeons after the wedding, as a tribute to your own birds.
If you have horses but don’t want to marry at the barn like the O’Connors, perhaps the best way to show your love for them is to hire a carriage company to take the bride and groom from the wedding to the reception.
However you choose to include your pets, remember, they deserve as much consideration in your married life as your single life and your wedding– don’t be one of the many couples who abandon their pets or ignore them once babies begin to arrive!