By Rebecca Gatto
Animals help make us who we are. They delight us, bring us peace and comfort, and remind us what it means to be gentle, loyal companions. For many animal lovers, it feels strange to celebrate an occasion as meaningful as a wedding without them. Here are some ways to include animals of any kind into your celebration of love and commitment.
1. Include your calm, well-behaved dog in the ceremony. Nothing charms guests quite like a canine ring bearer. What’s more delightful than watching an excited, furry friend saunter down the aisle? At my wedding, our collie mix was our “flower girl”—she even wore a special, flower collar that our florist was delighted to design!
Before you tell Bruiser that he gets to be the ring bearer, call your venue and make sure they allow pets. Then, make all the appropriate preparations, including designating a trusted guest, pet sitter or wedding party member to handle the dog. You’ll have enough to worry about without dodging muddy paw prints and making sure potty breaks have been scheduled.
Don’t forget to make sure your fur friend looks his or her best: take a trip to the groomer and pick up a clean leash and collar for the occasion.
Photo Rebecca Gatto
2. Set aside time for pictures with skittish or attention-seeking pups. For some dogs, the overstimulation of participating in a wedding ceremony would be unkind to the pet and distract from the ceremony. There’s good news, though: most experienced photographers can make a little patch of parking lot grass work for photos.
If you and your partner choose to have a “first look,” you can even take care of these images before the ceremony happens.
Have a trusted friend, pet sitter or wedding guest chauffeur your pup to or from a quick, five-minute session. Don’t forget the treats!
Rebecca, Tom and their dog Leena – Photo Linda Conley Photography
3. Schedule in-home engagement photos for indoor pets. Have a beloved pet who can’t safely venture outdoors? Find a wedding photographer who offers in-home engagement sessions, or who is willing to make a stop at your house as part of your session. Cats are a great candidate for this sort of session, but we’re animal lovers here, so let’s not stop at traditional pets. Feature your boa constrictor, chinchilla, hedgehog, or cockatiel in your engagement photos by finding a photographer who’s flexible, creative, and willing to come to you.
Scott and Diana and their cat Joan Jett – Photo Rebecca Gatto
4. Do a trash-the-dress (or suit) shoot with outdoor animal friends. Do you spend your weekends at the horse stables, or perhaps volunteering at a farm animal sanctuary? While bovine ring bearers and horseback wedding entrances aren’t quite mainstream (yet), there’s nothing quite so cathartic as a good trash-the-dress or wreck-the-suit shoot. After your wedding, put your finery back on and invite your photographer to document a one-of-a-kind finale for your celebration! A cute photo of you grooming your horse or feeding some sheep will make an adorable ending to your wedding photo album.
Photo via The Knot
5. Incorporate small touches. For animal lovers like you and me, pets are family. For sweet creatures who stay indoors, or for those who passed on before the ceremony, small touches like jewelry and photographs can help you feel comforted by their symbolic presence. A delicate bracelet with kitty paw charms could help calm your mind, or a set of photo cufflinks with your pets’ faces. Photos of you, your partner and your animal friends would make a sweet touch to decorate the card and gift table. Setting up a memory table for loved ones who have passed on? Dig out old pictures of you with childhood companions to include. You could even wrap a spare collar from a beloved pet around your bouquet or hold it in your suit pocket. You could even include your furry (or feathered or scaly) friends as part of your cake topper!
Photo via Bridal Guide
Our pets and other beloved animals help make us who we are. How will you include your favorite creatures in your wedding celebration? Share your wedding planning tips with us!
Cover Image Rebecca Gatto
Rebecca Gatto is a photographer, world traveler, and ethical vegan living in Upstate New York. She adores weddings and believes they are even better when they include compassion, environmental stewardship, and vegan cupcakes.