If you feel the same way we do, your dog is like your child. So wouldn’t you want to include him in one of the biggest, happiest day of your lives? When we first polled our Facebook friends to ask if it’s a good idea to include your dog in your wedding, the responses varied from (a) “Yes, we had our dog as our ring-bearer, and it was awesome!” to (b) “Definitely – I regret not including my dog in my wedding!” to (c) “You have officially gone crazy.” Responses like (a) and (b) were from dog owners, and those like (c) were from non-dog owners — so of course they had no idea. And we decided that since we were already crazy when it came to our dog Brewster, we would include him one way or another.
Now we just needed to figure out the best way to involve him that would be ok for him and wouldn’t cause unnecessary stress for us on a day/weekend that might already be pretty stressful. We wanted Brewster to be in pictures with us (which were mostly happening pre-wedding), and also to be in the ceremony somehow. The most popular suggestion was making him our ring bearer, but we already had one: my now-husband’s three-year-old nephew. We thought about having him “stay” at the top of the aisle, then calling him to us; but a 1.5-year-old dog off-leash in a crowd of 100 people stands a slim chance of making it all the way down the aisle without getting distracted or running off to look for food. We also weren’t sure what to do with him while the ceremony was going on — there were suggestions like giving him a chew to work on, or setting up a bed for him so he could just lie down. But we know our dog, and he would be too excited in a situation like this to lie nicely in a bed and chew a chew.
Another question was what to do with Brewster during our wedding weekend. The hotel where we were staying allowed dogs, which was great, but we didn’t want to have to worry about him the whole weekend, while we were going off to events and trying to stay sane. We also needed someone to take care of him during the reception, so we didn’t have a puppy on the loose that we needed to keep an eye on the whole time. We thought about hiring our dog walker to take him for the weekend in San Francisco, then drive him the hour north to our wedding site for pictures and the ceremony, and drive him back afterward. Who knows how much that would have cost, but they weren’t able to do it anyway. We thought what might make more sense would be to have a local dog walker watch him for the nights of the rehearsal dinner and wedding, and then drive him over on the afternoon of the wedding; but we didn’t know any, and we hated the idea of leaving our child — I mean, our dog — with just anybody.
In the end, like many aspects of the wedding, things seemed to miraculously come together at the last minute. Our dog walker knew a local trainer who lived in the town where we were getting married, which we were comfortable with since she was a personal recommendation. We had Brewster stay with us on the Thursday night and Sunday night we were up for the wedding, and the local dog walker took him for the Friday and Saturday nights. She drove him back for photos and the ceremony, and acted as his handler for the time in between. At first, we had thought we could handle him ourselves for those couple hours he’d be with us; but thank goodness we decided that we could use some help instead, because we had no idea how nervous we’d be before the ceremony. Brewster was also very excited to see us, and kept trying to jump up on my dress, which I was desperately trying to keep clean before the ceremony. It was worth every penny to have a handler, and it wasn’t even that much — especially compared to every other cost of the wedding.
As we waited behind the scenes, one of the groomsmen walked Brewster down the aisle with his matching leash and bowtie collar (which also matched all of the groomsmen’s bowties — and yes, we had gotten the dog’s first, and then ordered matching ones for the humans), carrying treats to lure him along. He was supposed to sit near the groomsmen during the ceremony, but once he saw his two parents standing together on the altar, he wanted to be near us and started whining. The dog walker/handler snuck up to grab him, and he sat on the lap of one of our friends who is the mom of his buddy Oliver during the entire ceremony, which made him happy. The rest is something of a blur, but somehow they brought him back up for the recessional, and my husband took his leash, so the three of us walked back down the aisle together. He then showed up at the perfect moment again, when we were taking a few minutes to ourselves post-ceremony and pre-cocktail hour, and getting some beautiful sunset photos. And before we even had a chance to worry about him for a second, the dog walker whisked him back to her home, where he played with her dogs for the rest of the night, and we danced the night away. I couldn’t have planned it any better.
If it’s important for you to include your dog in your wedding, don’t even think twice, and certainly don’t care about what your non-dog-owning friends/family will think. Just figure out what parts you want him to be involved in, and then hire someone to help with the rest. Like including human children in your wedding, it might not go perfectly to plan, but that’s part of what makes it special and memorable. Some of my favorite photos from the day are the ones with us and our fur baby — our little family.