Your dog is your first baby. You even take them to daycare, to the park, to get their hair cut & nails done! Since pets are part of their fur-ever family, many couples are increasingly choosing to include them in their wedding day.  Being a huge animal lover, rescuer, foster mama & on the board of the Humane Society of Louisiana, I obviously fall into this category.  I can tell you from experience that my dachshund, Anya Colleen, really just thought we had a big party for her with all of her favorite humans invited.  All night she was carried around by various friends & family, gave kisses to everyone, ate doggy cake & enjoyed herself just as much as we did!

Photo by Julia Bailey Photography

If you’re lucky enough to be able to have your pet as part of your ceremony or reception, there are a few factors to consider before springing for flower pup attire. It’s always best to first think of the comfort of the animal and their level of sociability. Will they be uneasy with a large number of strangers or with loud music? Are they well enough behaved to not lunge at guests or try to steal food?  Even if they are, you may want to consider having a handler for them on the wedding day.

It’s not uncommon for guests to “accidentally” drop food to your baby and at one such wedding we ended up with a pup with tummy troubles after eating quite a few donuts “generously” given by various guests from the sweets table.  Angela Portera, owner of Puppy Love Daycare in Metairie, offers services for just such occasions. She is available to handle your pet prior to the wedding, including making sure they potty, have water, are dressed and there on time. She brings a bag of items including treats, travel water bowls, clean up bags & various other items that may come in useful during the day. She can either assist your pet down the aisle or act as the behind-the-scenes handler before and after they strut their stuff. Angela can also take your pets back home, or to stay at Puppy Love, if you’d like them to participate but not party all night.  Your baby can even have a vacation of their own while you’re on your honeymoon, complete with spa, treat & toy options and a web cam so you can check in on your pup.

Scarlett & Lucy posed for photos at the hotel prior to the wedding back in 2005.

If your pets are social party animals and stay at the reception instead of leaving after the ceremony, plan to have a quiet space separate from the party for your pet to go to eat, drink or lay down for small breaks during the night. Having a crate, their bed or favorite toy can help ease their nerves if they are feeling a bit overwhelmed. When excited, many pets will get thirsty so make sure to let them drink plenty of water so they don’t get dehydrated. And lots of water means lots of potty breaks! If you don’t have a professional handler for the reception, plan to have a family member or friend who the pet is familiar with who can help take them outside and also get them home at the end of the night.  You should also make this person aware that they might have to unexpectedly leave the party should your pet become upset or anxious & need to return home.

Colorado Wedding

Winnie was the flower pup & stayed to party all night.

Photo by Mary M. Cinema

If you’re looking for attire for your fur baby, Etsy is the perfect place to find vendors who can make a custom creation or provide ready-to-wear attire whether that is a suit, tie, dress, skirt or collar/harness & leash.  One of my favorite features on Etsy is the ability to search for local vendors so you can support a local business.  To make sure your attire will fit properly, make sure to have your pet’s measurements handy.  Additionally, if you have a “low rider” like I do, you’ll want to specify that as well to make sure the clothing doesn’t drag on the ground, have sleeves that your pet will step on & be mindful of the larger chest size.  To determine the proper size for your dog, measure your dog’s neck, chest and back with a sewing (flexible paper/fabric) tape measure following the instructions below.

1. Neck girth is taken by measuring the circumference of the neck (where the collar sits).

2. Back length is measured from the base of your pet’s neck (where the collar sits) to the base of the tail. When measuring the back length it is very important that the pet is standing in normal position.

3. Chest girth is taken from the widest part of the pet’s chest, usually behind the front legs. Measure closely all the way around the chest.

Keep in mind that if you want to use flowers with your pet, such as on their collar or leash, you need to make sure they are non-toxic.  Popular wedding flowers that are safe to use for dogs include orchids, roses, pansies, jasmine, celosia, alstromeria, aster, daisies, marigolds & zinnia.  Toxic flowers for your dog include:  baby’s breath, carnations, iris, ivy, tulips, wisteria & larkspur.  Possible signs of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, increase urination and thirst or not eating.  If you suspect your dog has ingested flowers that are making them sick, call your vet immediately for treatment.

Now, if you really want to go “doggone” wild, you may also consider incorporating your pet into your reception in other ways. You may want to include a photo with your pets somewhere at your wedding or with a special note to your guests in your ceremony program.  I know that for us, having our two dogs, cat and hedgehog with us all in one photo is not going to happen!  If you have animals who can’t be together in one sitting, consider a collage of photos or have an artist do a cute drawing or painting of your family with all of you in it.  At another recent wedding, we had photos of the couple’s cat mixed in throughout the ceremony & reception which was a huge hit as their cat is as popular in their circles as my doxie is in ours!

Some couples forego a gift registry or favors altogether and instead contribute to a charity.  My husband and I contributed to a local special needs rescue group & provided a pamphlet of information for guests who wanted to follow suit, with our other dog Akhila (a rescued feral junkyard mutt) on the cover, showing off her before & after rescue photos since she could not be at our wedding.  Additionally, since we were combining two households anyway, when friends or family asked if we were registered anywhere, we simply requested they make a donation to the special needs rescue group if they felt so inclined.

Photo by Julia Bailey Photography

If you do want to provide favors at your reception, pet treats (that are well labeled so there is no confusion!) for guests to take home to their own pets get a cute New Orleans twist from Amis des Paux bakery, who offers themed treats like canine king cakes, snowballs, red beans and “Pauxlines”. Feline families, don’t worry!  Amis des Paux also offers cat treats in flavors such as tuna, salmon & “Dat Shrimp & Grits”.  My own dog’s favorite is the special order event cakes which come in individual or large sizes and are made with all natural, human quality ingredients that are not only pet safe but delectable, with your choice of flavors, icings and colors.  We ordered one for our dachshund & placed it next to the groom’s cake so she had her own treat during the cake cutting.  Let me tell you, she was not shy about digging in & she eventually got hoisted in the air as guests cheered & clapped for her.  Bet you can’t tell she’s spoiled not only by us but everyone else too, huh?!

Photos by Julia Bailey Photography

If favors for the humans themselves is more your style, try cookies decorated like your pet, koozies with their likeness on them, personalized temporary tattoos with you & your pets on them or chocolates or other items whose proceeds benefit animal rescue.  I’ve also seen cute little soaps in the shape of ferrets or various other animals but make sure your guests know they are soap and not candy!  I remember back when little wedding cake shaped favors were popular and the soap vs. candy issue was always tricky!

Cookie Favors in the shape of dog

Dachshund cookies by Melissa’s Fine Pastries
Photo by Zoeica Images

Finally, if your baby can’t be at your wedding but you don’t want to just set out a photo of them, don’t fret, you still have plenty of options!  Consider adding something to your attire to commemorate them such as custom printed socks for the groom, your pet’s photo printed on the back of his tie or onto a piece of fabric that gets sewn inside your dress.  You could also incorporate them into your flowers by using a small locket sized photo or a tiny vial with your hedgehog’s (naturally lost) quills inside.  Also consider some fun options like drink stirrers with your pet’s likeness on them or a life sized cut out (or face on a stick) to go with your photo booth props.  Again, Etsy will be your best friend to find lots of cool personalized options!

The most important thing to keep in mind, of course, is the comfort of your pet.  If being part of your wedding will stress them out or if they aren’t well behaved enough to attend, they will certainly enjoy a night at home or at daycare more than being the center of attention in the midst of loud music.  I hope these ideas help you jump start your creativity & whatever way your pet is included, your day is a joyous celebration as you start your new family together!



Proud mommy moment:  My babies Anya Colleen (dachshund), Akhila (feral junkyard dog), Mr. Tigglesworth/Tiggy (hedgehog), Sully (manx cat).

Remember: adopt, don’t shop!



Originally published on New Orleans Weddings Magazine Blog