If you are knees deep in planning your wedding, then you already know that 50 percent (or more) of wedding planning is honoring the most important people in your life. After all, there's a special place for your closest of friends as honorary attendants. Then you acknowledge your other friends as bridesmaids and groomsmen. Your grandparents and parents are ushered into both the ceremony and the reception. We find ways to include important aunts, uncles, cousins, and other friends by asking them to do readings, make speeches, handout programs, or help decorate.
What I, and a lot of other contemporary brides and grooms, have noticed is amongst all the excitement around including the people in our lives, we often forget to include those who are equally important to us: our pets. For those that had their pet before they met their partner, pets are lifelong companions as dear to them as their childhood playmate. For couples who adopt a pet together, Fluffy is more than a companion, but a first child. It makes sense, then, that we include them in our wedding day whenever possible. If you do choose to include your pet in your big day, take a look at some of these important things to remember.
Always have a pet sitter. Whether your pet will be joining you all day for the festivities, or just briefly for pictures after the ceremony, it's incredibly important to designate someone you trust to pet sit for the day. Someone (NOT YOU) will need to be responsible for making sure your pet has food and water, that he or she is not too hot or cold, and perhaps most importantly that his or her bathroom needs are attended to regularly. You'll also want your pet sitter to be prepared to handle any situation should your pet get restless at inopportune times.
Know the rules of your venues. If you insist on having your pet participate throughout the day, be sure to check with each of your venues at which you intend to have your pet. Ask about their animal policies, rules, and regulations. If the venue does not already have a clear policy on animals in writing that you can have a copy of, make sure to have the venue put any terms that you agree upon clearly in your contract before signing. Many venues may not allow pets for a multitude of reasons not the least of which are health and safety laws and insurance restrictions. Do not get upset. I assure you the venue isn't trying to make your life difficult. If your pet's participation is non-negotiable, find another venue.
Be conscious of any people, including vendors, that may have severe allergies. You'll want to notify your guests and your vendors that a pet will be participating and in what capacities. Ask your guests to let you know if there are any severe allergies to be concerned about. Chances are a few of your guests or vendors will be allergic. You'll then have to decide whether you still want to include your pet.
Now that you have the basic guidelines to follow, here are a few ideas on how to include your pet on the big day.
Here comes the pooch — with the rings! If you don't have a child to act as your ring bearer (or you have too many to choose from and don't want to hurt feelings), you can always use your pet as a ring bearer. I've found that this option works best with well trained dogs, unless you are going to have someone escort or carry your other pets down the aisle. Just like a traditional ring bearer, your pet can actually carry the rings by fastening them to a collar or special Velcro pillow. These are easy to make yourself, but can also be found in pet stores, party stores and of course online. If you aren't too comfortable with your pet carrying the jewels, consider giving them a sign or outfit that announces the bride's arrival. My personal favorite was from a wedding I attended two years ago that read: "Daddy, Mommy looks awesome!"
Escorting the maid of honor will be the best man, Fido. If the ring bearer scenario is a little much for your taste, turn it down a notch by simply having someone escort your pet down the aisle. You can have your pet come in early with your parents, or ask one of the attendants to carry him or her to stand by your side during your vows.
A picture is worth a thousand words. If you cannot have your pet at the ceremony (or simply choose not to), you can always have a pet sitter bring your pet to your photo location. You can take some pictures in your gown and tux with your loved one and then send him or her home to rest for the evening. Similarly, you can do pictures before the ceremony or, if your venue allows, invite your pet to join you for the reception only.