Wedding
Planning Blog

Expert tips to make sure your pet-friendly wedding is a wonderful success

How do you make sure that it is an enjoyable day for both you and your pet and one that is unforgettable for all the right reasons?

For forever and a day, animals have been making audacious plays at our hearts and weaving their magic into our lives. From darling dogs to fancy felines, beautiful bunnies and lovable llamas, they are faithful companions that have seen us through the best and sometimes the worst seasons of our lives.

On your wedding day, it makes sense then, that you would want to have your pet by your side, continuing to make memories with you. But what exactly does this look like? How do you make sure that your dog-friendly wedding is an enjoyable day for both you and your pet and one that is unforgettable for all the right reasons? To ensure you get the best experience for your pet-friendly wedding, we've composed a guide to help you through the planning process, incorporating wonderful ways to represent your dog at your wedding. Covering everything from logistics and styling to professional assistants and customised stationery you'll feel purrfectly prepared to host your pet at your wedding.

Start by setting yourself up for success with realistic expectations

Pets come in all different shapes and sizes as well as temperaments and personalities. You may have been dreaming of having your pet at your wedding and having your pooch play a starring role in your dog-friendly ceremony (we'll get to that later), but before you get to far into the planning process, you will need to carefully consider what your pet can comfortably handle when sharing in your big day.

Weddings can be big days for people, let alone pets. Here are some things to consider when making initial plans:

With live music, photo booths, children laughing and playing, endless interactions (pats and tummy rubs) and potentially being fed sneaky treats by well-intentioned guests, weddings can feel like sensory overload or even downright scary for some pets.

Start with deciding together which parts of the wedding you would like to include your pet in and what holds the most significance for you both. With a little bit of planning,logistics and playing to your beloved pets strengths, you can have them perform their 'pawfect part' in your wedding celebration without sacrificing their comfort.

Personalising the best fit for your pet-friendly wedding begins by asking these questions:

Can your ceremony space and reception venue accommodate your pet?

If you plan on having your dog at your ceremony or reception, ask if it will be allowed inside the venue and if so, in what areas and for how long?

If you are bringing a horse to the venue ask questions like: Will there be ample space to park a horse trailer?

Will there be an area available for your horse to be safely cared for until it is required for the ceremony or wedding photos?

Does your pet adapt well to unfamiliar environments?

Is your pet prone to getting triggered by new environments or situations?

If performing an important role (such as ring-bearer)are they likely to be distracted by new scents or sounds and get diverted mid-task?

Does your pet happily respond to strangers or large numbers of interactions?

On your wedding day be prepared for your pet to steal some of the limelight. Assess how comfortable you feel they will be with all the extra love and interactions that will be coming their way.

If your pet is highly sociable, have them be part of the 'meet and greet' party on the way in and allow them to indulge in the added attention. But if not, consider having them be part of your morning preparations only and just be included in your 'getting ready shots.'

As an integral member of your family, snuggles and photos with your beloved pet before your wedding can offer you the added comfort and support you just may need to settle any anxiety or last-minute nerves.

Does your dog love the sound of his own voice?

Are they likely to get excited and interrupt crucial moments such as the vows or speeches during the reception? While the sight of you walking down the aisle may bring tears to your partner's eyes, it also may be too much for your furry friend to handle and they may want to make themselves heard.

Consider how your pet will respond to the musician, singer or amplified voices being played through a sound system. You want to avoid having these moments compete with barking, whining or panting.

Is your pet energetic and inclined to activity or more placid and relaxed in nature?

Is your dog used to being on a leash or roaming free?

How will they handle being restrained or, alternatively, enjoying their new found freedom at your wedding?

If your dog is usually your jogging companion, sitting at your feet patiently at the signing table may not be for them. Instead, try going for a quiet walk together as a couple just after the ceremony with your dog. This can provide them with the opportunity to stretch their legs and your photographer with the chance to get some great photos of you all together - just make sure it fits in with your photographer's timeline.

What are my wet weather options?

While your wedding venue should provide wet-weather alternatives, your pet, on the other hand, may not be so easily adaptable. If they're taking a lead role in your celebration, you will need to have a viable back-up option in case of rain, wind or storms. Wet paw prints can wreak havoc near a white dress. Wind and rain may distress horses with even the calmest of temperaments.

Insider Tip: No matter the weather remember to pack a lint roller to collect any stray hair that may end up on dresses or suits

Pre-wedding

Don't despair if you've now decided your pets' size or temperament isn't suited to attendance on the day. Engagement photos, save-the-date cards and invitations are a unique way of including your pet early in the wedding process.

Engagement photos intimately capture the moments spent as a little family before the wedding and allow for a less intimidating setting in which to include your pet.

Bespoke invitations featuring your pet will help set the theme and can pay homage to your best friend who may have to stay at home for the festivities.

Insider Tip: The wedding invitations are a great place to mention that your pet will be joining you on the day and that you will be bringing your dog to the wedding service. If you have any specific instructions about how you would like your guests to interact with your pet - this is the place to put it. It is also a helpful notice for people with allergies and guests with children.

Just here for the company or playing a starring role?

You've weighed it all up. Honestly considered temperament and personality and now your planning on having your pet play a starring role in your wedding ceremony rather than just making a cameo appearance.

So what are the ways that I can include my pet in my wedding ceremony?

Honorary pooch, flower dog and ring bearer are all key roles that your beloved furry friend can fill.

Best done with a leash the 'dog of honor' can proudly walk down the aisle with the wedding party. To ensure your pooch looks as polished as the bridal party coordinate attire or garnish their leash with harmonising florals from the bouquet.

Insider Tip: Do not have the bride or groom walk the dog down the aisle. You could instead choose to have a member of the wedding party, say your maid of honour, walk them instead.

But what do I do once we are all down the aisle?

Once down the aisle (and after the ooohs and ahhhhs have stopped) have them hand your dog over to the pet assistant, allowing them to be ushered away for some quiet time and reassurance before the photos begin.

Flower Dog - while the old adage may be 'don't work with dogs or children' nothing could be furrr-ther from the truth. Prepare for all kinds of unparalleled cuteness by having your flower girl spread petals down the aisle from a basket carried by your pet. Just be sure to check with your florist that all flowers are non-toxic.

Ring Bearer - Who better to pass (or rather paw) you the rings that will signify an eternity spent together than 'man's best friend?' Just remember to use replicas and then have the groom swap them out for the real ones (safely stowed in his pocket) once they get lovingly delivered down the aisle.

Front Row Seats - If you feel your dog is better suited to a more discreet role give them pride of place in the front row in their dashing dog wedding attire and be sure to make mention of them in your ceremony - we are confident they will be listening.

The secret to success: Preparation and assistance on your wedding day

Having your pet be a seamless and enjoyable part of your wedding celebration comes down to prior preparation. If possible, taking your pet to the venue, having them get familiar with it will be highly beneficial to you both. Your initial site visit and wedding planning appointments are a great way to include and familiarise them with the location.

Multiple visits may be necessary, and a final visit in the days leading up to your wedding will help identify any trigger points that may potentially distract or distress your pet.

This is essential:

Include your pet in the dress rehearsal and have them practice their role multiple times. Offer praise and reassurance when they have completed it successfully.

Insider Tip: Remember to take the seasons into account - a pet that visits a venue in winter may return in spring and find themself allergic to some of the pollens or allergens in the gardens. Alternatively, a pet that initially visits in summer may need to wear a coat if attending an outdoor ceremony the following winter.

To make sure your day flows as effortlessly as possible consider hiring a pet assistant:

A pet assistant in an excellent investment. Pet assistants allow the wedding party and guests to enjoy the festivities of the day while still having your fur-baby get the extra attention it needs.

The last thing you want is key members of your celebration getting distracted by the needs of your pet, or alternatively, your pet being neglected in the busyness of the merriment.

A competent pet assistant service will be able to support you on your wedding day with the following:
  • transporting your pet to and from your wedding and any additional photoshoot location

  • Supply, fitting and presentation on the day of your pet in their preferred wedding attire

  • Co-ordination with photographers for photoshoots

  • Co-ordination with the celebrant for the appearance of your pet in the ceremony

  • Supervision and care for your pet throughout the entire event

  • Walk, feed, water and give regular potty breaks to your pet

  • Return your pet to your home/accommodation and ensure they are settled in for the night after their busy day.

  • Providing premium pet care experiences, First Class Pet Wedding Assistants also offer a complimentary meet and greet in your home. After your wedding, they can also curate honeymoon care packages for your pets continued care.

Capturing the experience

Just as important as having your furbaby by your side on your wedding day is having someone that can masterfully capture each of the moments spent together. Your photos are one of the most important parts of the wedding day so it should be high on your wedding planning priorities to have a photographer that can work with you and your pet to capture the magic.

While yet to photograph a lion at a wedding (who knows maybe this could be the year??) Ryan from Feather and Finch Photography has had the opportunity to capture his clients and their beloved dogs, cats, camels, turtles,snakes, owls, llamas....the list goes on.....at exotic destinations all over the world. He 'personally loves weddings where guests bring their pets, and considers it a very special thing when you have your furry friend with you as it brings in your story to the photographs.'

With that in mind we've handed over the reins to get a few insider tips to ensure you get the best photos of your furry (or scaly) friends:

Let us start with the photographer: Yes, I mean the person photographing your wedding day! Could you imagine if your photographer had allergies that prevented him/her getting close enough to capture photographs? Contact your photographer and ask how they would feel being around your pet and if they have issues, eg. allergies, fears etc. You will know straight away after speaking with them how interested they are on capturing these special moments for you.

Logistics are also a key factor in deciding if you should have your pet attend your wedding, I mean if they are super important, I think its a big YES, but things can go a little wild if you have not thought about logistics.

Some additional things to consider:

Is a horse/llama/camel considered a pet? (Make sure the venue allows the type of animal you are considering bringing, especially if it is a little more unique)

How are they in front of the camera?

How will the type/behaviour of my pet affect the timeline for my photos?

Ensure you have time during sunset without them for just you two.

Entertainment - If your furry friend might be a little distracted or is not the most obedient kind, having a distraction (maybe a friend with a few toys, treats etc) could come in handy in getting the best photos possible.

Styling options

On your wedding day, it goes without saying that your pet should look just as glamorous, or as dapper, as the rest of the wedding party. With so many styling options to choose from for your dog themed wedding, it can get a little overwhelming trying to narrow it down to just one. Along with our guide on how to dress your furry friend on your wedding day here are a few to looks to choose from that'll ensure that your furry friend is on-trend and putting their best paw forward:

All about those gorgeous florals

Floral Halo - adorn your pet with a handcrafted floral halo. Choose key decorative elements from the bouquet to coordinate with the bride and bridesmaids or, keep it simple with intertwined greens for minimalist vibes.

Again, preparation is critical, before the wedding have your pet practice wearing a halo to get them familiar to the feel and weight on their head. On the day, make sure to save the halo for key moments and for the photos especially.

Insider Tip: Ensure that all florals and greens are non-toxic and pet-friendly.

Bring on the bling

Embellished lead/collars - Suppose your pet isn't too keen on adding extra accessories. In that case, an embossed collar or garnished lead will ensure they are looking fabulous and feeling comfortable for the entirety of the day. Add a little frosting to their look with decadent sequins, pearl trimmings, light-catching crystals or metallic embellishments.

Want to say it with style?

Bow ties, tutus and message plaques - Have your pet carry a personalised sign down the aisle or have them greet guests with a bespoke welcome plate as their pet wedding attire. Have your pet coordinate their bowtie with the groom or match style elements from the brides dress to give your pooch a polished look.

Insider Tip: Just remember to stray away from anything too restrictive, too tight or too hot.

Other ways to include your pets

Sometimes, unfortunately, despite your very best efforts, it just may not be feasible to physically include your beloved pet on your wedding day. Your venue may not allow them, you may be planning a destination wedding, the health of your pet may not allow travel or some of your guests may be allergic.

If this is the case, don't despair:

There are still many ways to pay homage to the furriest member of your family and to make sure they aren't forgotten.

Welcome table - If your photogenic pup can't be there to greet guests in-person place their photo on the welcome table.

Personalised pillow - Have a cushion made featuring the favourite image of your pet and have it placed front row at the ceremony and reception. As an added bonus you'll be able to repurpose it at home as a wedding memento.

Photo Booth - Why not have everyone take a photo with your pet!!! Have large playful cut-outs of your pet made as photo booth props for everyone to enjoy.

Cocktails - Get creative and craft a custom cocktail named after your pet, like 'The Jack' - a charming play on words.

Cufflinks, rings and other things - Have images of your pet on the groom's cufflinks and socks or consider getting pocket squares tailored in the likeness of your pet.

Beautiful customised stationery to elevate the inclusion of your furry friend

Custom stationery opens up an abundance of avenues to be creative and incorporate your furry friends into your special day. With a passion for creating wedding suites that bring the couple's vision of their wedding to life, Jana Collier founder of Pepa Press has given us a rundown on inspiring and unique ways to further include your pet.

" One of my favourite additions to suites is a custom illustration - like the one featured above in Primrose and Andrew's invitations it is a great wedding idea for dog lovers. It may seem simple, but they are an affordable custom piece that can be reused throughout all of your items from the save the date and wedding suite, into your on-the-day items such as menus, place cards and signage. If you're looking for a more gentle tribute a custom envelope liner, wax seal or stamp are also beautiful additions.

"At the moment, I am loving the use of animal trinkets as part of place settings, and it is a great option for the bride who is looking for a DIY element. Another favourite is coasters and custom printed napkins with your furry friends' faces!

"My advice is to not shy away from custom stationery as it doesn't always mean more money. It is an opportunity to allow your stationer to incorporate personal tributes throughout your pieces, so be open and honest as you never know where it may lead!'

Wishing Well - If you are passionate about animal welfare or perhaps your pet was from a rescue or rehoming shelter contemplate setting up a donation table instead of a wishing well. Alternatively, charities such as Second Chance Animal Rescue in exchange for a donation will supply you with a choice of personalised wedding cards. Give these to guests as wedding favours and help fund animals in need.

The Gabbinbar Experience: the ultimate pet-friendly wedding experience

With the entire estate and its sprawling gardens and grounds your home for the day, your pet will enjoy being indulged with their very own 'Gabbinbar Experience'. We want your pet to feel comfortable at the Homestead and love it as much as you do.

Will my pet be welcome at my initial estate viewing?

Our wedding planning team delight in the inclusion of pets and encourage them being involved in our initial estate viewings, planning meetings and ceremony rehearsals. They can even recommend pet-friendly accommodation within a stone's throw of the front gates.

Can I have my pet at Gabbinbar by my side for the whole day?

As a pet-friendly wedding venue, they will be welcome at the Homestead for the entirety of your wedding day and can be at your side as you prepare and get pampered in our luxurious bride's retreat. While you are sipping champagne and being served breakfast, our planners will be on hand to make 'puppycinos' for your pooch.

Will my dogs meals be specifically catered for during the day as well?

Throughout the day, your dog will be served doggy treats in our monogrammed bowls followed by a mouth-watering steak during the garden party and reception. For equine lovers, the spacious grounds allow for the safe unloading and loading of your horse in preparation for the wedding ceremony. While our stables and historic buildings provide the perfect backdrop for unforgettable wedding photographs.

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