Including Pets in Wedding Ceremonies

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Do you have a beloved pet who you feel is a family member, almost like your first child? Over the years, I’ve often been asked to include pets in wedding ceremonies — usually as a ring-bearer. A recent couple had their dog as a bridesmaid, pink frilly dress and all!

Before I go any further, please know that I’m a great lover of dogs and cats. I have several of my own. They’re very important to my happiness and general well-being. I’m just not sure I’d want them at my wedding…

What to expect with your pet at the wedding ceremony

Your wedding ceremony should reflect who you are and include the words, rituals, people, and elements that matter most. So if your dog falls into one of these groups, and having the dog participate in the ceremony is vital to your happiness and to the perfection of your wedding day, here are some points to ponder:

a) However important your dog is to you, having it participate in the ceremony may make your guests a little anxious. They will not be able to help just waiting to see if it misbehaves by lifting a leg on one of the chairs– or one of the guests— barking, or jumping up at you to lick your faces and share the joy and leaving pawprints on your beautiful wedding gown or tux. By the way, having the handler give the dog a treat if it starts to bark, can backfire, as the dog very soon realises that the more barking it does the more treats it gets. Do you really want a barking chorus to your vows?

b) Pets are notorious scene-stealers – as are babies and small children (see my other posts). You may wish to think hard about whether you want to share the limelight with your pet at the actual ceremony.

After thinking the matter over, many couples opt to include their family pet/s in the ceremony without their actually being present. I’ve often mentioned the pets when I tell the couple’s story as part of the ceremony.

If you’re still bound and determined to have your dog walk down the aisle in a tux and bowtie or sparkling collar and ribbons, with your rings strapped to its back, make sure there’s a handler nearby to step in at a moment’s notice. He or she will also have to commit to keeping the dog by their side once your pet has delivered the rings to your Best Man or Best Woman.

P.S. And even more vital, ask the handler to please make sure the dog has had a pit stop just BEFORE the ceremony…

Catherine Kentridge

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