Including Your Dog in Your Wedding

Picture of bride and groom with their dog

So, the big day is almost here.  The months of planning and decision-making are coming to a close, and the “perfect” event is literally hours away.  Recheck your list.  Have you booked the church and the reception hall?  Or are you having an outdoor wedding and reception – where?  Did Uncle Bob and Aunt Miriam say “yes” to you invading their expansive backyard?  Have you booked the guy who delivers the tables and chairs and the tent?  What about the “decorating committee”?  Have you/they got all the materials and the design necessary to transform the space that you will be using? Have you had the last minute conversation with the baker who will be creating your three-tier dream cake confectionary?  Your dress and his tuxedo, as well as those of your attendants – are the apparels already hanging in your closet waiting to be donned?

The invitations have been sent, the replies received, and the seating arrangement plan determined.   Have you forgotten anyone – friends, extended family, business acquaintances or long-lost newly-rediscovered high school buddies?  What about your dog?  Yes, your dog.  Rover is a part of your family, isn’t he?  He has been lying on the floor beside you while you hover over the endless lists of preparations, hasn’t he?  He has been there to support you and comfort you when the typical pre-wedding glitches rear their ugly heads and force you to reconsider or regroup, hasn’t he?  Rover is very sensitive, and you can be sure that he has clued into the increasing frenetic energies as the calendar days roll by, but he hasn’t said much.

He is probably your best-est friend, and usually, when weddings happen, the best friends garner special treatment.  But, if you do choose to include him in the festivities, then you have to give some thought to his role on the day – is he an attendee?  or a participant?

So … here are some considerations for Rover:

  1. Is he housetrained?  That might seem like a strange question, but a fundamental one.  No one, not you, the groom, the minister, the mother of the bride, or the flower girl, wants to deal with a dog who wants to claim new territory.  The venue for the wedding would qualify for that category of “new territory”, like the church pew, or the leg of the head table.
  2. Is he socialized?  Rover might be the calm, laid-back creature when he is with you and your immediate family.  But a wedding scenario is quite a different matter.  There will be many strangers gathered to celebrate the event.  I know, you are going to quote the old phrase “a stranger is just a friend that I have not met yet”.  Well, that may be true, but it is unfair to Rover if you foist a couple of hundred not-yet-friends on him all in one location.  Talk about stressful!!  The outcome may be very good (Rover just extends his happy family and enjoys the event) or very bad (Rover is overwhelmed by the faces, the energy, the noise, the unfamiliar activities and could react by becoming extraordinarily withdrawn and fearful.  A fearful dog is not someone who would interact well in this situation).
  3. Assuming that he is both housetrained and socialized, is he amenable to “dressing for the occasion?”  We people like to dress up for occasions such as this, and whether for good or bad, can assume that it would be appropriate to have Rover wear a bow tie or a jacket.  Has he ever worn them before?  Well, maybe the bow tie would be okay since it is not a huge jump from his collar, but wrestling him into a jacket might be a different matter.
  4. Who is going to attend Rover when everyone is attending to you?  Do you (and Rover) have a favorite friend who would take charge of the “canine guest”, making sure that Rover is on his good behavior and knows the commands “sit”, “stay”, “down”, and “wait”?  Just realize that “knowing” the commands does not mean that he would obey the commands when in the crowd situation.  This point calls to the obedience training that you had done with Rover long before there was ever a wedding on the horizon.  Have you done that?  It would be unfair to Rover (and to you and your guests) if you have shirked this particular responsibility.  So, think about this carefully.  Having said that, however, I do know of one wedding where the dog (a Newfoundland) was the ring-bearer for the event and performed quietly and beautifully.  She was “one of those memorable personalities” at the wedding, and as you know, every wedding has a “memorable personality”.  But, she and her owner (the groom in this instance) had undergone years of obedience training (among other accomplishments), and as a result, she never faltered in the performance of her particular role that day.
  5. Is Rover a “service dog”?  Is his presence at the wedding essential or non-negotiable?  If Rover does hold all the credentials to qualify as a “service dog”, then it would seem reasonable to suggest that he has done the housetraining, the socialization, the crowd-pleasing and the obedience-to-a-fault behavior.  Then he would definitely earn his right to be in all the wedding photos, and would probably sport his bow tie with elegance and confidence.

Please don’t think that I am trying to diss the idea of Rover attending the blessed event.  I just think that including and immersing him in the festivities and all that they entail needs to be carefully considered, both for Rover and for you.  And, just to give you some good thoughts on this one – my Clydesdale horse attended my wedding – well, actually, he watched the ceremony from the pasture fence, and then we had photos taken afterwards.  He was very handsome!



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