6 Unforgettable Ways to Include Your Dog or Cat in Your Wedding

By: Alyssa SparacinoUpdated:

dog wedding
Jose Pang Photography

6 Unforgettable Ways to Include Your Dog or Cat in Your Wedding

Have you ever seen a cat or dog at a wedding? If you’ve watched two people tie the knot anytime in the past five or 10 years, there’s a good chance you have. According to a 2020 survey by WeddingWire, more than one third of couples—38 percent!—included their pet in their wedding or engagement.

That comes as no surprise to wedding industry insiders. Gina Myers, president, lead consultant and designer at La Cosa Bella Events in Raleigh, North Carolina, says including pets in your engagement or wedding is basically mainstream. “I don’t think it’s even a trend at this point,” she says. “It’s just something that people really love to incorporate, since their pets are becoming more and more important to them.”

So what’s the best way to include your dog or cat in your wedding ceremony or reception? Find inspiration for your own celebration in these tips from wedding industry experts and couples who made their furry family members a centerpiece of their big day.

dog wedding
dog wedding
Photos: Jose Pang Photography

1Make Your Pet the Flower Girl

Allison Tabor’s English Bulldog Matilda knew her fiancé Adam was The One even before she did: “She was drawn to him from day one.” So it only made sense to include her in the wedding, walking down the aisle as the “flower girl” in a bright collar of fresh flowers and led by the groom’s young niece.

A fun floral collar that matches the other arrangements is an easy way to ensure your pet is coordinated with the event, says Valarie Falvey, founder of Kirkbrides, a Northeast Ohio wedding planning and design company that oversees more than 100 weddings a year. In fact, she adds, florists are becoming much more familiar with this increasingly common dog wedding request, and will often ask for the collar ahead of time to affix the blooms and ensure they stay put.

Good for pets who:

  • Are outgoing and well-socialized
  • Adjust well to new people and environments
  • Walk on leash politely
  • Are comfortable wearing large accessories

How to do it: Talk to your florist about adding a floral collar to your package, and provide a collar that fits your dog if requested. It’s also a good idea for the person accompanying your dog down the aisle to practice walking your dog, especially if it’s a child, such as another flower girl or ring bearer. You can also make a practice collar with fake flowers to help your pet get used to the feeling of flowers around their neck. “A few practice strolls down the aisle with lots of praise and treats will help the pup feel more confident during the main event,” says Victoria Schade, CPDT-KA, certified dog trainer and author.

Frisco Pink Floral Dog & Cat Dress, Medium

Frisco Pink Floral Dog & Cat Dress, Medium

$13.99
Shop Now!
Frisco Blue Daisies Dog & Cat Dress, Medium

Frisco Blue Daisies Dog & Cat Dress, Medium

$13.99
Shop Now!
Wagatude Floral Print Dog Dress, Pink, Large

Wagatude Floral Print Dog Dress, Pink, Large

$14.99
Shop Now!
dog wedding
Suzuran Photography

2Make Your Pet the Ring Bearer

No, your pet doesn’t have to carry your rings in their paws. (Though we’d be impressed if they could!) Take inspiration from Arne Klein and Brad Kisner, who enlisted their Goldendoodle, Stanley Milton, as ringbearer in their 2018 wedding in Cleveland, Ohio. Outfitted with matching bow tie and leg cuffs, Stanley was led down the aisle by two handlers, wearing a harness with a special pouch for the rings.

Good for pets who:

  • Are outgoing and well-socialized
  • Adjust well to new people and environments
  • Walk on leash politely

How to do it: Figure out the logistics first: How will you attach your rings to your pet? Arne and Brad used a harness with a pouch; other couples have tied the rings onto a pet’s collar with a decorative ribbon. Whatever you choose, give your pet plenty of practice “wearing” the rings to help them get comfortable in their wedding-day gear. It’s also a good idea for your pet to practice walking down the aisle in advance, to avoid any wedding-day jitters. Most importantly, wait until just before your pet walks down the aisle to attach the rings—you don’t want them getting lost!

dog wedding
Suzuran Photography

3Include Your Dog or Cat in the Wedding Party

Your bridesmaids and groomsmen are the most important people in your life. Doesn’t your pet belong among them? That’s why engaged couple Tina Gibble and Daniel Brauchli are planning to have their dogs Luna and Leo at their sides during their wedding ceremony. “They’re a part of our family,” Brauchli says. “Including them together in our wedding is so important to us.”

Depending on the temperament of your pet and the length of your ceremony, asking your pet to behave throughout the whole thing may be a tall order. You may need to appoint a handler to usher your pet away should your furry bridesmaid or groomsman become distracted or scared during the exchanging of the vows. But some pets are uniquely qualified to stand up for you at your wedding. Brauchli says he plans to take his dogs on a long run the morning of the wedding to help them stay calm and relaxed. Who knows—maybe it’ll help with the groom’s wedding-day jitters, too!

Good for pets who:

  • Have calm temperaments
  • Are outgoing and well-socialized
  • Adjust well to new people and environments
  • Are experts at “sit” and “stay,” or comfortable being held or in a carrier

How to do it: Your pet should already be familiar with the “sit” and “stay” commands, or be comfortable either being held or in a pet stroller. As you plan your ceremony, keep the length of time in mind: Will your pet be able to comfortably “stay” throughout the whole thing? Will they tolerate being held or sitting calmly in a pet stroller for the duration?

If so, practice often in the weeks leading up to the big day. Ask your other bridesmaids and groomsmen to practice with them, too. You may want to enlist at least one member of your wedding party to carry treats in their pocket to reward good behavior during the ceremony. Don’t forget to give your pet extra love (and more treats) after you’ve said, “I do!”

If your pet isn’t cut out to attend the entire ceremony, consider hiring a handler or asking a friend or family member to gracefully help them bow out after they walk down the aisle. If it’s important to you, they can return to sit beside you for your vows.

If you’re planning to keep your pet on site throughout your ceremony and reception, it’s a good idea to hire a pet sitter or to give one of your guests the responsibility of handler for the day. Weddings can be as distracting for brides and grooms as they are for pets, so having someone watch your pet while you mingle with guests and make memories on the dance floor will ensure they stay safe and happy. If needed, a pet sitter can take them home or to the hotel, too.

Frisco Formal Dog & Cat Tuxedo, Black, Medium

Frisco Formal Dog & Cat Tuxedo, Black, Medium

$13.99
Shop Now!
Frisco Wedding Reversible Dog & Cat Bandana, Medium/Large

Frisco Wedding Reversible Dog & Cat Bandana, Medium/Large

$8.99
Shop Now!
Frisco Floral Dog & Cat Bow Tie, Medium/Large

Frisco Floral Dog & Cat Bow Tie, Medium/Large

$6.99
Shop Now!
dog wedding
Courtesy of Chris McCormick and Jully Merino Carela

4Go Big With Cardboard Cutouts

Some pets just aren’t cut out for a big wedding. Chris McCormick and Jully Merino Carela’s cat, named Señor Cat, would’ve been way too stressed out by the celebration to attend—but the couple still wanted him to be a part of their big day. The solution? Cardboard cutouts. These sturdy, larger-than-life photos of Señor Cat and the couple’s other cat, Eleven, who had recently passed away, stood beside McCormick and Merino as they said their vows. Wedding guests also had the chance to take photos with the whole family.

“Everyone knows we’re cat people,” McCormick explains with a laugh. “Our wedding day would have felt incomplete without their presence. It would be like not having your child present at your wedding.”

Great for pets who:

  • Aren’t able to attend the event in person

How to Do It: Companies like Fathead and Party City sell custom cardboard cutouts—all you have to do is upload your favorite photo of your pet and wait for the package to arrive in the mail. Check the delivery date to ensure your cutouts arrive in time for your wedding, and remember to add a stand to your order if you’ll need the cutout to stand up all on its own.

dog wedding
Suzuran Photography

5Name a Cocktail After Your Pet

What’s the only thing that could make the bar at your wedding more popular? Your pet, of course! Just ask Klein and Kisner, who dedicated their entire wedding bar to their dog Stanley. Dubbed “Stanley’s Watering Hole,” it came complete with a signature fall sangria cocktail called “The Stanley.” Snacks for guests were served in dog bowls emblazoned with words such as “chew” and “nibbles,” and cocktail napkins read “slurp.”

Few couples go to those lengths for their pets at the wedding bar, but personalized touches like specialty cocktails are a popular way to pay homage to wedding couples’ pets, Myers says. After all, what could be better than sipping some hooch named for your pooch?

Good for pets who:

  • Are loved by their in-love parents—that’s the only requirement!

How to do it: Talk to your caterer and/or wedding planner about creating a custom drink that reflects your pet. Remember to request a sign at the bar that tells your guests the name of your drink and what’s in it.

dog wedding
dog wedding
dog wedding
Suzuran Photography

6Include Them in Your Wedding Theme

Cat parents McCormick and Merino included lots of cat silhouettes and details on their stationery and wedding website. Klein and Kisner incorporated illustrations of their dog Stanley on their cake topper, bathroom signage, cookie decorations, photo booth props and commemorative buttons given as favors.

Wedding themes are made up of tons of small details, many of which can be personalized to include your favorite animal. Falvey says that the popularity and expansion of creators on sites like Etsy have made things like dog wedding invites or cat-inspired place cards that much easier to fold into a couple’s vision.

“Most wedding vendors like doing things that are a little different, as well as creative and personalized,” she says. “That makes our job a little more fun and interesting.”

Great for pets who:

  • Are loved by their in-love parents—that’s the only requirement!

How to do it: If you’re using a wedding planner, let them know that you’re looking for ways to work your pet into your theme. They’ll likely have suggestions for vendors who’ve created animal-inspired invitations, favors, signage and more. No wedding planner? Search sites like Etsy and Fiverr to find freelance artists who can create custom designs inspired by your pet.

While the wedding industry has changed a lot over the years, particularly as the coronavirus pandemic has caused many wedding dates to be postponed and large events to be scaled back, one thing’s sure to remain a staple in these special days to come: Our pets are going to have a seat at the VIP table.

Expert input provided by Valarie Falvey, founder of Kirkbrides, a Northeast Ohio wedding planning and design company; Gina Myers, president, lead consultant and designer at La Cosa Bella Events in Raleigh, North Carolina; and Victoria Schade, CPDT-KA, certified dog trainer and author.

Share:

Published:

By: Alyssa SparacinoUpdated:

BeInspired