State
City
Zip Code

Here Comes the Pet? August 30, 2013

The bride looked resplendent in a gown of ivory satin and lace, and the groom was dashing in his fitted suit. Meanwhile, the maid of honor was adorned in a sparkly rhinestone collar that brought out her puppy dog eyes, while the best man's yellow bow tie stood out against his sleek dark fur coat.

The phenomenon of incorporating four-legged attendants into the bridal party is becoming more and more common, which probably comes as no surprise to animal lovers. For some couples, pets are such a fundamental part of their lives that it would be unfathomable to not have them share in the big day.

Animal participants in weddings aren't limited to dogs and cats. It's important to think of the specific needs of each animal, however, and take all necessary steps to ensure the animal's comfort and safety. Careful planning is necessary to ensure that Fluffy and/or Fido's involvement is a welcome addition to the festivities.

First of all, it's important to carefully consider whether including your pet in the wedding is actually a viable option. There are several factors to take into account:

1.-The personality of the pet(s): Weddings can be overwhelming - for both people and their animal friends. A pet attending or participating in a wedding may encounter large crowds, loud music and noises, unfamiliar people and places, and lots of distractions. Animals that do not have a good track record of dealing with these challenges may not be up for participating in the festivities.

2.-The personality of the humans: Lovable as they are, pets can be attention-stealing, messy, and loud - and not all brides and grooms care to deal with these traits during their wedding. Micromanagers, beware: even well-trained pets add an element of spontaneity to a wedding, and couples unwilling to accept that fact are better off leaving Bruiser at home. Animal-loving couples with a flexible and relaxed attitude, however, may find that a furry pal's shenanigans just make the occasion more memorable.

3.- The venue and its location: Even the most well-behaved pet may not be welcome in all venues, so a bride and groom with their hearts set on including Spot should make sure prospective venues are pet-friendly. Many houses of worship, historical venues, and fancy hotels, for instance, may not be. Outdoor weddings are ideal for incorporating pets, especially ceremonies planned in an animal-friendly venue, such as a farm, the yard of a private residence, a park, or a dog beach. Also consider the distance your pets will have to travel to reach the venue. Including a pet in a location wedding that takes place far from home may be impractical, unless the pet is a seasoned traveler.

If after thoughtful consideration you do decide to include your pet in your big day, there are a number of steps to take beforehand.

Determine the Pet's Role in the Wedding:

Animals may take part in a wedding in a variety of ways, with different types of pets lending themselves to different roles. A well-trained dog, for instance, can flourish in the role of the ring bearer. To help him deliver the rings down the aisle, the canine ring bearer can be outfitted with a special harness that holds a pillow with the rings on his back. Or Buster can carry the rings down the aisle in a satchel or basket held in his mouth.

Similarly, a dog or other large animal (pony, sheep, etc.) can serve as the flower girl, either by toting a basket of flowers down the aisle or by simply wearing a floral adornment. A smaller animal, such as a cat, bunny, or lizard, can ride down the aisle in a basket carried by a (human) flower girl or bridesmaid. Some brides may even opt to forego a bouquet themselves and instead carry a beloved pet down the aisle. If you do decide to go this route, remember that you also will have to dispense with some post-ceremony bouquet traditions. Your single friends do not want to compete to see who can catch your cat, bunny, or (worst of all) snake.

Some pets may be better suited just to be wedding guests, sitting with family members and friends in the audience.

Select the Wardrobe:

It's customary for members of the bridal party to get decked out in wedding-day finery, and there's no reason four-legged attendants can't join in the fun. Wedding attire options for pets abound, including fancy or bejeweled collars and leashes, floral adornments, and bows and bow ties. Why not obtain a bow tie for your pooch that matches those worn by the human groomsmen? Particularly accommodating pooches and felines may even agree to wear a specially sized pet tuxedo or dress, which are available for purchase at many pet stores and through online retailers. Handmade formal pet attire and accessories are available through Etsy.com.

Make sure that your pets are comfortable. Outfits or accessories should fit properly, include only materials that are safe for your pet, and not hinder breathing or movement. And unless Ashes absolutely loves her wedding attire, remove the adornments as soon as the ceremony is over.

Unlike some of the other members of the bridal party, pets will not require hours of hair and makeup prep on the day of the wedding. It is a good idea, however, to take animals to the groomer in preparation for the big day. Bathing dogs will help to limit shedding.

Decide Who Will Watch the Pet at All Times:

The happy couple should appoint someone to watch over the pet at all times, as the bride and groom will be likely to too busy exchanging vows to attend to every need of their pets. The official pet watcher can be a member of the bridal party or another animal-loving guest, or the couple can hire a professional pet sitter for the occasion.

The couple should also decide on exactly which parts of the day's festivities the pets will attend and make sure that the designated handler knows the pets' schedule for the day.

Create a Supply Kit:

Pack a wedding day kit of supplies for your pet and give it to the person in charge of the animal. Include toys and comfort items that can help keep Buddy occupied during any downtime, as well as lots of treats, which can be used to reward good behavior during the ceremony, photography sessions, and reception. It is also a good idea to pack a lint brush to help with the quick removal of any pet hair that ends up on the fancy wedding attire of the bridal party or guests.

The supply kit should also include food and water for the pet (and bowls or dishes to serve them in), if the furry friend plans to stay for the reception.

Practice, Practice, Practice:

Bringing your pets to visit the ceremony and reception venues in advance will help to increase their comfort level on the day of the wedding. If the pet will be playing a role in the ceremony, practice the task with him in the weeks leading up to the wedding. Giving the pet the opportunity to practice at the actual location of the wedding will be especially beneficial. Remember to bring Bucky to the wedding rehearsal, so that he can practice his part along with the other members of the wedding party. If each successful practice run is rewarded with a treat, he will have plenty of incentive to do his best on the big day.

Plan for Purr-fect Pictures:

Talk to your photographer first to make sure that he or she is comfortable with including animals in your photo shoot. If including Snowy in your photos is a top priority, you may want to inquire about previous experience in animal photography when you're researching potential photographers.

Make sure the person in charge of watching your pet during the ceremony will be able to watch it during the picture taking process as well, or secure another helper. Since members of the wedding party will be busy posing for photos themselves, it may be helpful to enlist a third-party assistant to mind the pet during this time. Use toys from the pet's wedding day supply kit to help capture the animal's attention to achieve picture-perfect shots.

Identify and Avoid Potential Hazards, Accidents, and Challenges:

Try to identify potential threats to the safety of your pet and take steps to mitigate them in advance, if possible. A pet may encounter a number of hazards in the wedding day environment. Make sure any venues your pet will visit do not use pesticides or have toxic plants or other materials on site. Any floral arrangements used should be composed of nontoxic, pet-friendly plants. Consider the weather forecast and make sure any weather-specific items the animals will need are packed in their wedding-day supply kit. Also keep your animal attendees in mind when selecting wedding decorations, as balloons can alarm animals if they burst and small decorative items can be choking hazards or cause health problems if swallowed. Loud noises stemming from music or fireworks may frighten the animals and should be avoided.

The main hazard that animals that attend the wedding reception will likely encounter is the prevalence of "people food," some of which can be harmful or even deadly to pets. The person in charge of watching the dog should be vigilant that the pet does not consume chocolate, cake or other sweets, alcohol, meat with bones, raisins, grapes, garlic, and onions. Well-meaning guests should be reminded not to feed the animals.

The pet's handler should also monitor the pet's interactions with other guests, making sure that the furry friend is not in danger of being accidentally trampled and that it is being properly handled. Children who wish to play with the pet may not realize if they are being too rough.

In the days leading up to the wedding, it can be a good idea to take Rascal to a doggie day care facility or day camp where he can play and burn off extra energy. Taking dogs for a long walk or a trip to the dog park may also help ensure that they are mellow and relaxed on the wedding day. Immediately before the ceremony, have someone walk the dogs or take them outside, so hopefully they will not need to "do their business" during the ceremony.

Consider Your Other (Human) Guests:

Remember: it's a wedding, not a petting zoo. Not every wedding guest may find your pet as adorable as you do. Your Great Dane/bullmastiff mix might be the sweetest pup in the world, but some people - especially small children - may still be afraid of it. Additionally, some guests may be allergic to animals, and close proximity may cause discomfort. Remind Sassy's watcher to keep the animal away from guests who are not interested in spending quality time with her.

Informing your attendants, officiant, and guests in advance that your pet will take part in the wedding festivities is also a good idea. Make sure your officiant is on board with including pets in the ceremony.

If after honest reflection, however, you conclude that your pet will not thrive in the high-stress environment of the wedding, remember that you can still share your special day with your pet, albeit in a more intimate manner. Set aside some time in your wedding day schedule to hang out with your furry best friend - either before the event, between the wedding and the reception, or after the festivities have wrapped up. A pet that may be overwhelmed by walking down the aisle in front of 300 people may love keeping the bridal party company as they get ready for the ceremony, for instance.

0
View More