How to involve your dog in your wedding: the ultimate guide for celebrant weddings
So you’re currently curled up on the sofa, with one hand stroking your pooch’s soft ears, and the other hand frantically googling “how to include dog in wedding ceremony? Well then, I have great news for you. There are so many things to love about a celebrant wedding (if you love it so much, Meg, why don’t you MARRY IT – see what I did there), but a huge one is that we can definitely involve dogs in a wedding!
In fact, we can not only include dogs in wedding ceremonies, but we can do it in a multitude of different ways (because all dogs are different, and ironically, that’s what makes them all so perfect.)
I’m writing this post about how to involve dogs in weddings as not only a humanist celebrant – and someone who’d love to lead this kind of celebrant wedding for you – but as a huge animal lover too. Mr Senior and I welcomed our little pooch, Nergal, into our home after we got married so he wasn’t there on the wedding day - but had he been around then, we would have LOVED to have had him.
So, let’s get into it:
Things to check before you involve your dog in your wedding
Before you can include a dog in your wedding ceremony, there are a couple of questions you need to ask yourself (or, you know, your dog, if they can speak…)
Does your venue allow dogs?
Will your dog be happy with the new environment (if not, could you take them for a pre-wedding visit?)
Is your dog good with lots of humans around?
A resource I find really useful for assessing whether you should involve your dog in your wedding is this advice from Dogs Trust.
5 ways to include your dog in your wedding ceremony, if they’re able to physically be there:
So, if you’ve gone through all the above and you know your dog will be happy and safe, let’s look at how we can involve your dog in your wedding!
As the ring bearer
I mean: HOW CUTE. Don’t worry, there's a secret trick to attaching the rings so it doesn't go wrong – ask your celebrant and they will manage it for you.
Accompanying you and/or your partner on the walk up the aisle
This is an especially good way of including your dog in your wedding ceremony if you’re feeling a bit nervous or shy about walking down the aisle - your pet will totally steal the show, giving you a bit of breathing space.
With their paw of approval
If you’re having a celebrant wedding, your celebrant can invite your dog to give a paw of approval for your marriage. Obviously, this works best if you can teach them, or they already know, how to give a paw. But even if they get a little stage fright and can’t quite manage it – it’ll still be adorable!
As an usher
You could involve your dog in your wedding by having them welcome your guests as they arrive at the ceremony area.
Involving your dog in your wedding photos
Don’t just include your dog in the wedding ceremony; why not have them in some of your photos too? They're a huge part of your life/your family, so they’ll fit right in. You'll probably want some pictures just the two of you as well, but if you're nervous in front of the camera then start with pooch around. They’ll take the focus off you, and you’ll be able to relax into it.
Alternatively, you may well have your own idea for how you want to involve your dog in your wedding. For example, one of my couples has a Pomeranian named Biscuit who collected advice for marriage from guests as they arrived. During the ceremony, I invited him up to share it with his humans. I translated what he told me in my ear (I understand dog-speak, naturally) and it was a funny little poem of advice! Of course, this idea is pure cheese, but as you can imagine it was extremely cute.
How to ensure involving your dog in your wedding goes smoothly
If you’ve decided you’re going to include your dog in your wedding ceremony, there are a couple of steps you can take to ensure both your furry and non-furry friends are as comfortable as can be.
Book suppliers who are comfortable around dogs. This is especially important when picking your celebrant and your photographer, as they will need to be confident interacting with them on the day
Appoint a guest to look after doggo during the ceremony, so you can totally relax
…or book a wedding pet sitter (yep, they exist!)
Remember to take your dog’s favourite treats, and put water down for them
Consider letting your guests know that your dog will be attending on your invites, so that they can prepare if they have allergies
3 ways to involve your dog in your wedding, even if they can't physically be there
Sometimes, for whatever reason, it’s not possible to have your dog at your wedding. However, this doesn’t mean they can’t play an important role! Here’s 3 ways you can still involve your dog at your wedding, even if they can’t physically be there…
Let your celebrant know that it's important to mention them in the ceremony
If you have a celebrant wedding, your ceremony can be totally personalised to you. I’ve had the honour of shouting out many dogs in their humans’ ceremonies this year: Katie and Chris' rescue Fred (the cleverest dog in Sheffield), Holly and Matt's beloved Peach, Ginnie and Bonnie who brought Will and Debs together, and Sherlock who likes to travel in Greg and Chris's motorcycle sidecar with his goggles on.
Have a cardboard cut out made of them
…or bring a soft-toy version, to embody your pooch. One of my couples is planning to do this, and attach a GoPro camera to its head. That way, as the fluffy pal is passed around the guests, it’ll capture candid footage of the wedding (and if you’re thinking, “Wow, Meg’s couples are the best, aren’t they?” The answer is yes, yes they are. Come join us!)
Bring them to your pre-wedding photo shoot
And if you’re not having one, you might want to consider having a post wedding shoot (sometimes called a "trash the dress" shoot - even if neither of you is wearing a dress!) where they can join in too.
Want to include a dog in your wedding ceremony?
Now then, let’s circle back to you on the sofa, googling “how to include dog in wedding ceremony”. With a celebrant wedding, the answer is: absolutely however you want. It’s super easy to include a dog in a celebrant wedding ceremony, as you can talk with your celebrant in advance about your dog and their needs, and can work together to create a plan that works perfectly for both human and hound.
Oh and one last thing... You didn't think I'd write a whole blog post about dogs without including a photo of my beloved Nergal, did you?
You might not have considered a celebrant wedding before, so if you're thinking "What is a wedding celebrant?", then have a read of this. And if you like the idea of a celebrant wedding, firstly: YAY!; and secondly: I’d love to hear from you! Tell me all about your plans – and pooches – here.
*(to talk about your dog / your wedding / dogs generally / other immensely cute pets)