Pets are a part of our families, so it’s not surprising that some people want to include them in their big day. There are several things to consider prior to actually making this a reality.
Check with the Venue and Key Guests
First, and most importantly, check to make certain that your pet will be welcome at the sites your wedding takes place at. Make sure everyone you’ve hired for the wedding knows what you are planning. You don’t want your officiant sneezing his way through the ceremony due to a pet hair allergy.
Decide what you want your pet to do. Keep in mind your pet’s temperament and abilities. If your bird can reliably fly from one person to another and perch quietly on a shoulder for a while, it’s fair to plan for him to fly from the groom to the bride and sit on her shoulder as she walks down the aisle. However, if your puppy is just starting to learn how to sit, it’s not fair to expect her to trot up to the altar with a pillow bearing the rings.
Practice Makes Perfect
Practice, practice, practice. Like any trick or new behavior, your wedding routine needs to be reinforced for your pet. Take it slowly and keep it positive. If your pet is going to be wearing a new item, like a bow tie collar or a ring pillow, put it on several times before the actual event. Offer treats and praise, even for just wearing the new item. If you can, practice a few times in the actual location so your pet will be familiar with it. If the location isn’t available, try practicing in lots of different place so your pet will feel confident in a strange place.
Designate someone to watch your pet. Even if your pet’s role in the wedding is as simple as sitting next to you, neither you nor your fiancé can really be expected to give the pet your full attention during the wedding. Try to choose someone your pet already knows and trusts. If you can’t, arrange a meeting ahead of time so your pet can get used to its minder for the day. Make sure the person you choose is physically up to the job; don’t have your 4 year old ring bearer trying to wrangle your full grown Great Dane.
Be flexible. No matter how well you plan, something may not work out as you planned it, especially with your pet involved. Be prepared for scenarios like your pet getting stage fright or having an accident (in which case your pet minder should be prepared to clean it up). Also, make sure your pet minder has the option of taking your pet outside or even back home if your pet acts up or seems uncomfortable.
Remember that, even though we love our pets, not all of them are meant to be at weddings. Consider carefully whether your pet will be comfortable and happy at your ceremony or reception. As much as you may want your pet there, your pet may be far more content staying at home with a favorite toy. A photo of you and your spouse with your pet in a place of honor at the reception can show how much your pet means to you without causing you (or your pet) as much stress. Also, remember again that your pet may not be enjoyed by others as much as it is by you.
Enjoy your wedding with your pets!