I wish I married this couple! My dear friend Madelaine on her wedding day w/husband Jarrett & Corgis Henry & Penny. The bride & groom are lovely but those puppies make the picture! Read on about adding dogs to your wedding!

It was our second meeting. The bride was lovely – organized & beaming. Her fiancé was nice too. He cheerfully nodded while we cooed over vows. When the bride stepped out to take a call I asked him how he was doing. “Fine”, he replied. “It’s getting close.” I started to say their vows were almost ready, but he went on, “Maybe you could call me at work tomorrow? I want to ask you something.” He was trying to be nonchalant. “Sure” I said “I’ll call you in the morning.” He instantly looked relieved.

When we spoke, it was my turn to be relieved. He wanted to know if their dog could be in the wedding ceremony. He wanted to fly the dog, a bossy Jack Russell Terrier, to the venue (about a 2 hour flight) and surprise his new wife with their dog as the ring bearer. Of course I told him we could.

It’s become very popular to include pets in wedding ceremonies. But any vet, trainer, breeder, owner, sitter should tell you don’t do it! Regardless of how chill your dog is, and how emotionally close you are to each other, the animal will be happier at home. The risks of traveling with animals are enormous. But more importantly, on a wedding day, the focus is on a show that has to go on. That doesn’t include checking who last saw Fido.

Gracie Ann Mooney and Cara Mia at Claire's wedding

Claire’s Flower Girl, Gracie Ann Mooney visits with happy but tired Flower Dog, Cara Mia. Cara went back to the hotel for a nap right after the receiving line.

There. Now that my sound advice is out of the way, I must admit that I had a dog in my bridal party. Her human was my bridesmaid and it just made sense to have Cara Mia up at the altar too. A B&B near our venue welcomed dogs. It was warm that weekend & the reception was outside, so we made sure Cara Mia had shade, water, and a ride back to the B&B right after the ceremony where she napped, ate granola pancakes & listened to Steely Dan with the proprietors all afternoon.

Ashley and Popeye, her dog

This is Ashley Perkins with her handsome husband & beautiful dogs!  Popeye is on the right. Glorious wedding photos like this make it all worth while!

Portland-based professional Dog Trainer & owner of Gooddogz Training, Nancy Freedman-Smith agrees. “There is no right or wrong answer to the question “should my dog be in my wedding.” It is a very personal choice.” Nancy adds, “These days dogs are ring bearers, best men, maids of honor, and guests. Some dogs require extra training to fulfill these roles and others are naturals.”

There is a downside. Remember the saga of Popeye? A small Australian shepherd, lost after a NYC couple’s wedding in Maine. They actually had to return to NYC without their beloved Popeye. He got loose in Portland, ME, and travelled 30 miles to Brunswick, ME over the next 21 days. By a miraculous stroke of luck, Popeye was found and is now back home. I found Popeye’s owner, Ashley Perkins on Facebook and asked what she now thinks of dogs in weddings. Ashley instantly replied “I am actually a big believer in having dogs in the wedding party! Popeye went missing 5 days after our wedding when my sister was watching him in Portland, so thankfully not after or during the ceremony. We consider our dogs as family members and I don’t think I would have wanted to do the ceremony without them. I think our friends and family know too how much they mean to us and it made the ceremony even more personal, especially when he slept on the back of my gown!

Here are few tips to consider before you leave:

Professional advice. Talk to your vet or dog trainer. See if they have any precautions to share about traveling with your dog.

Pet-friendly or Pets Only airlines. Seek recommendations. Select an airline that will give you & your pet the best travel experience that you can afford.

Travel gear. Seek recommendations for the safest, most comfortable products. Allow time to break in new equipment. You and your dog should be comfortable with your travel apparatus before the travel date.

Pet-friendly Hotels. Hotels in venue-rich areas book up fast. Find a pup-friendly hotel & confirm your reservation early.

Emergency Vet. A quick on-line search can get this info on your phone or check with your hotel. They will likely have contact info & directions for the nearest vet.

Emergency Groomer. True story: Dog yanked tablecloth, punch bowl fell on dog, dog now pink. Check on-line or with your hotel if an emergency groomer is needed.

Hire a Handler. One person – unrelated to the wedding – who is at the other end of the leash at all times. They make sure there’s ample water, shade, food, and walks when needed. They can also limit commotion, grabby children & consumption of party food.

Brief appearance. Don’t make your dog stay for the entire celebration. The Handler should take your dog back to the hotel after a brief but memorable appearance.

These are just a few recommendations to consider. Nancy Freedman-Smith sums it nicely: “Whether you hire a professional Wedding Dog Handler, or enlist the help of family or friends, as long as your dog’s needs are tended to during the big day, I say go for it, if that is what makes you happy.”

Savoir Claire wholeheartedly concurs. Please share your stories & photos of pets in your weddings!