Including Pets in the Wedding

By: Dawn Mattina
There are those couples who wouldn’t think of banning their favorite creature from their wedding, whether it is a dog, a cat, or a parakeet. They would rather drop one of their family members from the invitation list than their beloved pets.
Then there are the vast majority of animal lovers whose anxiety over their pets’ unpredictable behavior keeps them from extending an invitation to them. There are also those who waffle back and forth on the matter. They would love to include their furry friends in the wedding day festivities, but for one reason or another can’t fully commit to it.
Make no mistake. With thoughtful consideration, you can include your pet and leave it up to your wedding photographer to consider capturing the special guest’s reaction to this most unique day.
Animals create excellent photographic opportunities. Whether it is during the actual ceremony, the reception or when you’re getting ready, pets can add a measure of spontaneity and fun to the photographs. Pets can add a degree of personality to the wedding and keep it from being a run-of-the-mill type of event.
In most cases, the pet attending the wedding happens to be a dog, since canines are most easily trained and socialized. So how do you know if your Fido is ready for his close-up? First, it’s important that you know how he reacts in a variety of situations. If you’re considering including him in the ceremony, know how he responds to large groups of people. Is he easily distracted? Can you (or an appointed individual) command his attention? Does he respond to basic commands, such as heel, sit, stay, etc. Keep in mind you need to know whether the dog is going to be cooperative, so [the event] doesn’t turn into a joke. If the bride and groom want dignity in the processional, they need a dog who heels and is obedient.
You can do all the planning and rehearsing with your furry friend, but in the end you may have to hold your breath and cross your fingers.  It’s like sending a three-year-old flower girl down the aisle. You hope you’ve done everything you can so that it works well and then you just sit back and watch.  Although you never know what may come of it, a pet taking hold of the leash, so to speak, may result in a wonderful photograph.
The pet’s toy or bedding can be helpful in fostering a sense of comfort and security. Lippke recalls one wedding in which the bride and groom helped to keep their small dog in line by placing a familiar pillow next to them during the ceremony. When the dog walked down the aisle, he knew to go straight to the pillow and sat there contentedly from the processional to the recessional.
It’s always a good idea to put someone other than the marrying couple in charge of the dog. “It should be someone that the pet feels comfortable with and if you think watching over your pet would be too much responsibility for one of your guests to shoulder, then your pet isn’t ready to walk the processional.
With all the activity going on, it’s important to create as comfortable an environment for the animal as possible. This means putting him on a leash if that’s what he’s accustomed to. Give him a small role in the wedding, just enough for that fun and clever photograph.
If your furry friend isn’t ready for an audience, there are other ways you can include him in your wedding festivities and the accompanying pictures. Having him hang around while the bridal party gets ready for the big day is one. However, be sure that your pet can be trusted with all the mesh/lace and expensive gowns/dresses. Fido chewing up the dress an hour before the ceremony could be a big disaster.
Pets play a large role in many peoples’ lives, and for some couples it makes sense to consider including them in the wedding activities. They can provide another aspect to the day, and subsequently to your photographs, creating memories and moments that last.

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