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

By: Alyssa SparacinoUpdated:

dog wedding
Jose Pang Photography

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

Do hear that? Those wedding bells? That's the sound of thousands—yes, thousands!—of couples tying the knot this month. More specifically, more than 48,000 couples are getting married on Oct. 22, the most popular wedding date of 2022, according to The Knot. And among those couples are proud pet parents who are also planning the perfect way to include their dog or cat in their wedding ceremony—and beyond.

"For a while, it was very common for couples to have their pets walk down the aisle during the wedding ceremony. While this is still a popular option, we're seeing a rise in couples including their pets in pre-wedding festivities," says Hannah Nowack, senior weddings editor and expert at The Knot.

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

1 Include Your Pet In Your 'First Look' Photos

dog wedding
Photo: freemixer/iStock

Not all pets are able to attend the wedding ceremony—and that's OK! One option is to include your pet in your "first look" and pre-ceremony photos.

"Making the most of the 'first look' is a great option if you don't want your pet to attend the actual wedding but you'd like them present at some point during the day," Nowack says.

"[You] can snap pictures with [your] animals but then leave them home while the wedding takes place. This is a best-of-both-worlds solution that allows your pet to be part of the day without being a distraction or burden."

Good for pets who:

  • Aren’t able to attend the ceremony in person
  • Get overstimulated in crowds or have a tendency to misbehave

How to do it:

  • Hire a pet sitter to watch your furry friend (all of your friends and family will be at the wedding!), and coordinate with them so your pet can pose for a few pre-wedding pictures.
  • Communicate to the sitter what time the "first look" will take place and approximately when it will end. They will not only ensure your pet arrives dressed to impress but they also get home safely.
wedding puppies

The Most Popular Wedding Date...

... is October 22! Why? Fall weather is near-perfect, and the vibrant foliage makes a great backdrop for wedding photos, Nowack says.

"Additionally, couples love wedding dates that feel balanced and symmetrical numerically: 10/22/22 is a great example of that," she adds. "Plus, it's a simple anniversary to remember."

2 Make Your Pet the Ring Bearer

dog wedding
Photo: Suzuran Photography

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.

"Many couples choose to include their pets in the wedding processional as a ring bearer of sorts," Nowack says.

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: 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.
  • Have your pet 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!
Rubie's Costume Company Ring Bearer Pillow Dog & Cat Costume
Rubie's Costume Company Ring Bearer Pillow Dog & Cat Costume
$4.00
Shop Now!
Pearhead Pet Wedding Announcement Chalkboard
Pearhead Pet Wedding Announcement Chalkboard
$4.59
Shop Now!

3 Make Your Pet the Flower Girl

dog wedding
dog wedding
Photos: Jose Pang Photography

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.
  • Make a practice collar with fake flowers to help your pet get used to the feeling of flowers around their neck.
  • Have the person accompanying your dog down the aisle practice walking your dog—especially if that person is a child, like another flower girl or ring bearer. “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
Frisco Pink Floral Dog & Cat Dress
$10.79
Shop Now!
Frisco Dainty Pink Floral Dog & Cat Dress
Frisco Dainty Pink Floral Dog & Cat Dress
$9.09
Shop Now!
Frisco Blue Daisies Dog & Cat Dress
Frisco Blue Daisies Dog & Cat Dress
$9.14
Shop Now!
dog wedding ring on nose

Did You Know?

  • The most popular roles for dogs in weddings were as ring bearer (50 percent), flower girl (17 percent) and page boy (13 percent), according to a 2022 Amazon Handmade/OnePoll survey.
  • The same study found that 93 percent of people polled believed pets should be involved at the wedding—because they're part of the family. (Obviously!)

4 Include Your Dog or Cat in the Wedding Party

dog wedding
Photo: Suzuran Photography

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.

"Make sure someone is delegated as the pet's official handler and point-of-contact for the day," Nowack says. "Couples could hire a pet sitter for this task or invite an animal-loving family member to handle the task if a loved one is interested."

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:

  • Keep the length of time in mind as you plan your ceremony: 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 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.
  • Practice often in the weeks leading up to the big day. Ask your other bridesmaids and groomsmen to practice with them, too.
  • 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 you’re planning to keep your pet on site throughout your ceremony and reception: 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
Frisco Formal Dog & Cat Tuxedo
$9.52
Shop Now!
Frisco Formal Dog Wedding Dress
Frisco Formal Dog Wedding Dress
$14.99
Shop Now!
Frisco Wedding Reversible Dog & Cat Bandana
Frisco Wedding Reversible Dog & Cat Bandana
$4.53
Shop Now!

5 Go Big With Cardboard Cutouts

dog wedding
Photo: Courtesy of Chris McCormick and Jully Merino Carela

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

How to Do It:

  • Companies such as 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.
  • Remember to add a stand to your order if you’ll need the cutout to stand up all on its own.
  • Check the delivery date to ensure your cutouts arrive in time for your wedding.
Image

2022's Biggest Wedding Trends

Multi-day and multi event weddings are on the rise.

"Couples are excited and eager to celebrate, and they're doing that with weddings that extend past the traditional ceremony and reception.

"Maybe they host a pizza welcome party or a poolside day-after brunch—whatever the case may be, couples want to spend as much quality time with loved ones as possible," Nowack says.

Can't go wrong with pizza.

6Name a Cocktail After Your Pet

dog wedding
Photo: Suzuran Photography

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.”

These personalized touches are a popular way to pay homage to wedding couples’ pets. After all, what could be better than sipping some hooch named for your pooch?

"Couples can [also] print a picture of their dog on cocktail napkins that will accompany hors d'oeuvres during cocktail hour," Nowack says.

Good for pets who:

  • May not be able to attend the wedding (if it's a destination wedding, for example)
  • Are loved by their in-love parents

How to do it:

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

7Include Them in Your Wedding Theme

dog wedding
dog wedding
dog wedding
Photos: Suzuran Photography

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,” Falvey 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 such as Etsy to find freelance artists who can create custom designs inspired by your pet.
Cheers to all the 2022 brides and grooms (and their fur babies!)—and congrats to those looking forward to their 2023 wedding!

Expert input provided by Hannah Nowack, senior weddings editor and expert at The Knot; Valarie Falvey, founder of Kirkbrides, a Northeast Ohio wedding planning and design company; and Victoria Schade, CPDT-KA, certified dog trainer and author.

Share:

Published:

By: Alyssa SparacinoUpdated:

BeInspired