From Man’s Best Friend to His Best Man: Putting Pets in Your Wedding
When my fiancé and I got engaged last year, one of the first questions we were asked by nearly everyone in our lives is if we would be putting our four dogs in our wedding. This question was understandable. Several celebrity weddings have popularly featured the famous couple’s pooch as an attendant, while many wedding websites are filled with ring bearer and flower girl costumes for dogs. Incorporating pets into weddings definitely seems to be an ongoing trend.
Admittedly, when the idea first came to us to include our dogs in our wedding, we did think about it – for about 30 seconds. Then our heads filled with images of our husky mix stealing hors d’oeuvres during cocktail hour, our English springer spaniel whining for attention during the ceremony, our Jack Russell terrier lifting his leg on the front row and our Labrador mix taking off after a squirrel.
While our brood will be home with a pet sitter during our wedding, for many couples, their big day just isn’t complete without their beloved pet in attendance.
One of the first big steps that Joel and Dani Kordyak of San Diego, Calif. made as a couple was adopting a Labrador mix puppy whom they named Wednesday. When they decided that their wedding would be limited to only immediate family, there was no doubt in their minds that this included their dog.
“It was such an important moment, and Wednesday is such an important part of our life, that we wanted to make sure she was commemorated during that time,” says Joel.
On their wedding day, while Dani and her father walked down the aisle on a popular dog beach in their hometown of San Diego, Joel and Wednesday, both dressed in wedding attire, were waiting to greet them. As the happy couple said “I do,” Wednesday celebrated by digging a hole and kicking sand onto Joel’s best man.
The Kordyaks got married with the help of Elope San Diego, a husband-and-wife business that has performed more than 6,000 weddings, first in Washington and then later in San Diego, since they were founded in 1987. According to owners Steve and Christine Haslet, 99 percent of the weddings they perform are on the beach and 15 percent of those involve the couple’s dog(s).
When a couple asks the Haslets to help them incorporate their dog into their wedding, Christine understands the significance of this request. “Our customers see their dog as part of the family or part of themselves as a couple,” she says. “They have raised this dog together and they are letting everyone know that this dog is really important to them.”
Christine believes that having pets in your wedding is similar to having kids in your wedding: “Everything they do is pretty cute. Even if they don’t make it down the aisle, having them there helps people relax.”
While couples have opted to include their pets in their wedding, not all furry guests are dogs. When Michelle and Reid Sample got married in 2013, Michelle knew that her new husband was a package deal and that marrying him meant also committing to his eight year-old domestic short hair cat, Cash.
While Reid would have liked for Cash to be his best man, according to Michelle, their decision to get married on a hot air balloon in Southern California made that impossible.
So, Michelle did what any other woman in love would do: She bought a kitty tuxedo for her new husband’s cat and incorporated him into their on-the-ground reception as an honorary ring bearer.
For those of us who choose to have our pets at our weddings in spirit only, there are other ways to celebrate the role they have played in our lives. According to Jessica Geiszler, owner of event-planning agency Stellar J Productions, many of her clients have incorporated their pets into their big day in a variety of ways.
“I’ve seen people name signature cocktails after their pet, place pictures of their pets in their wedding slideshow and use cake toppers that look like their pets,” she says. “You can also use your wedding website or program as a place to thank your pets for being part of your lives.”
As for my fiancé and me, we are naming the tables at our reception after pets we have owned throughout our lives. We are also having a friend read a passage during the ceremony that equates relationships to owning a dog.
Additionally, we will be taking another piece of advice from Jessica: “Making a donation to your favorite pet charity, in honor of your nuptials, is another great way to honor your pets,” she says.
Expert Tips for Incorporating Dogs into Your Wedding
Christine Haslet, owner of Elope San Diego, has some advice for couples who plan to add their dog to their wedding guest list:
- Assign one person to be the dog’s caregiver before, during and after the ceremony. Charge this person with removing the dog should he need something or become a distraction.
- Walk your dog before the ceremony to get out any excess energy. Make sure he uses the bathroom during this time.
- If you want your dog attentive during your wedding, bring treats and use them to keep the dog focused.
- Skip feeding your dog right before the ceremony so that he is hungrier and more interested in earning treats.
- If your dog will be wearing a special outfit, accept that it will likely get damaged.
- As the bride, if you plan on holding your dog’s leash during the ceremony, wear shorter heels and a dress with a shorter hem. This is especially true if you have a larger, stronger dog. If he gets excited and decides to take off, you could get hurt.
- Keep expectations low and, when your dog behaves like a dog, laugh it off and enjoy the fun.