How to plan a pet-friendly wedding

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Couples are increasingly including their beloved pets in their weddings – so what’s the best way to hold a pet-friendly wedding that your best friend will enjoy too?

Our pets are a massive part of our lives and we naturally want to include our best friends in the big day. And while pets at weddings might once have been a rarity, these days it’s not uncommon to see a dog trotting down the aisle with the wedding rings attached to a floral collar, or taking pride of place in the wedding photos.

There are so many ways to include your pet in your big day – we’ve seen doggy ring bearers, hounds accompanying their owners down the aisle dressed up in their finest collars and even cats taking a starring role in the photos.

Our pets can help out the ushers as they guide guests to their seats, dress for the family photos or even simply be depicted in the stationery, wedding cake toppers or signage. We’ve even heard of one bride who had her veil embroidered with the image of her dog.

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You can dress up your pet for the big day with a floral wreath, wrap their lead in greenery or go for a sharp doggy tux or a bow tie.

But the Dogs Trust has some vital advice for making sure your pet enjoys the big day as much as you do. 

They suggest thinking ahead about what the big day will look like from your pet’s point of view – map out the key events of the day and think about how your pet responds to similar situations. That will help you to identify the moments when your pet might be having a great time and when they might need a little extra TLC or time out, and you can plan ways to help your best friend have fun.

Whether your pal is a dog, cat or even a rabbit, it’s worth creating a cosy den at the venue where they can relax undisturbed – maybe their bed, with their favourite toy to occupy them, as well as a non-spill water bowl so that they will have a drink available at all times.

Make sure someone your pet knows and trusts is on hand to help look after them – weddings can be a crazy whirlwind of catching up with relatives, posing for photos and listening to endless toasts, so your best friend will need someone to undertake pet duty for the day.

This person should spend a little quality time with your pet beforehand and get to know them so that they can recognise when they are feeling uncomfortable or over-excited.

Make sure your guests know your pet will be present during the day – this will allow parents and people who are scared of animals to prepare in advance.

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Prepare your pet in advance as well – if you have a dog, you can teach them key behaviours to help them enjoy themselves, such as learning not to beg or steal food, knowing how to settle and how to greet new people correctly. The Dogs Trust has lots of dog training tutorial videos on its website, or you could enrol your hound in classes beforehand.

Teach your dog to be careful around food, and be aware that many of the flowers and bouquets could be toxic.

Do be aware that your pet could become over-excited or overwhelmed during the day – situation-stacking is when short-lived and separate situations come in rapid succession and all those feelings of excitement or anxiety stack up. It’s important to factor in short breaks away from the action and make sure your pet gets out for mini walks.

It’s important to remember that some pets may simply not be comfortable being part of your big day, and it’s vital to put their feelings first. Don’t worry, you can still incorporate them into your big day by depicting them as cake toppers or using pictures of them for your stationery or table centrepieces.

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