How to include your canine companion in your wedding

Sean and Emma Haggerty’s dog friendly Wedding
Photo taken by Grace at Puddle Lane Photography

The covid-19 lockdown starting to subside, and life is slowly starting to get back to normality. Many holidays, events, shows and weddings are now beginning to resume, and wedding bell’s may once again be in the air for all those who have been held off marrying their life partners due to the recent pandemic. As the excitement of a wedding day may be coming around for some, the question may be to ask, who will be attending from your family, and will your beloved family pet be joining you to be part of your big special day?

As dog ownership is becoming more popular, dogs are working their way into our homes, our families and into our hearts. Dogs are much more involved in our families and our everyday lives than say 30 years ago. It is not just our everyday lives they are becoming part of, but they are increasingly becoming part of the bigger events in our lives too. Due to this, there are now a whole host of dog friendly venues, from cafes to hotels and even for wedding packages.

Is it possible to have your dog attend your wedding? Be the ring bearer? Walk you down the aisle? Be part of the professional wedding photos? Of course, it is and here is what is available in 2020.

There are a vast variety of dog friendly wedding venues around the UK. In this internet filled generation, finding a dog friendly venue is easier than ever. Just a simple search will bring up a stunning range of different pet friendly wedding venues. The website www.hitched.co.uk has an easy to use search engine to put in your desired venue location. Scotland has 125 venues listed on this site. England venues listed are over 2,400 different venues.  This is a growing industry and there are more and more venues allowing dogs every day. Dogs are part of our families and it is only natural to want them to be part of your special day.

Photo taken by Grace at Puddle Lane Photography

Once your venue has been chosen, it is time to arrange hotel stays. Some venues offer accommodation on site however some you may need to look further afield for your stay. There are hundreds of different hotels, B&B’s or cottages which offer a dog friendly accommodation. Glamping may also be an option. Occasionally there may be a nightly surcharge for dog’s stay due to the cleaning of the property after your stay and in case of any damage, ensure you add this into your wedding costings. Another common issue is that dogs are not allowed at the breakfast areas or to be left alone in the room’s, if they are not attended. In this case, remember to check your specific dog friendly accommodations pet policy and have provisions in place to work around this.

It is typically easy to arrange dog friendly venues and accommodation. The main logistical problems arise the night before the wedding, the day of the wedding, after the wedding ceremony and before you go on your honeymoon. What happens with your beloved dog when you are both busy getting ready for the wedding, travelling to the venue from your accommodation, arranging with florist and photographer, meeting and greeting guests, liaising with your wedding planner, sorting logistics of walking the dog down the aisle and so on.

Well the simple answer to this is employing a Dog Handler Wedding Professional. This is a novel concept to most, but it is the same as say hiring a bird handler to release Doves at your wedding. Dog professionals offering wedding packages is a more recent progression within the dog industry but if you look for it, its out there!

As a Dog trainer I too have supplied this service, in the past, along with many other pet professionals around the country. Dog wedding packages are bespoke, they are created around, not only your needs, but the needs of your dog.

Weddings can be stressful for the owners but also for the dogs. The dogs are in a new and unknown place with heavy footfall, a lot of noise, hustle, and bustle. All dogs are individual and will cope in different ways so it is important to have a pet professional who can assess your specific dog’s needs and tailor their service to keep the dog as comfortable and happy as possible. The last thing you want on your special day is to worry about your canine companion.

Photo taken by Grace at Puddle Lane Photography

I have assessed, organised, tailored and provided dog wedding packages several times in the last couple of years. Each client has loved having their dog be part of their special day. Due to the bespoke service, the dogs have remained happy and stress-free too.  Each package has been completely different and the dog’s role within the wedding has been varied. Some have been more integrated into the ceremonial proceedings than others, but it is all part of the service offered by a wedding dog handler.

When looking for a dog handler, as with any services, its important to do your research. Ensure your pet professional is insured and police checked. Other desired attributes are first aid trained, knowledgeable around dogs and dog behaviour, or experience of providing wedding packages previously and good client reviews.

Having your dog at your wedding can be a dream come true for a lot of pet owners. It is extra work and planning but extremely rewarding. If you find a good dog handler, they will have the knowledge and experience to help you along the way and acknowledge what would be best for the individual dog. Some packages dogs can be ring bearers and walk you down the aisle, others would rather the dog sat at the side lines until after the ceremony.  Its down to personal choice and your dog’s personality.

Dog handler packages can also include many different aspects of the wedding related to the dog such as transportation of the dog to and from the different venues and hotel, dog overnight stays or transportation of the dog after the wedding. grooming and preparing the dog for the event, walking the dog down the aisle and more, assisting the professional photographer to include dog within the wedding photography, keeping the dog happy and settled during the ceremony and much more.

One package was at a beautiful historic property situated in Heritage village, New Lanark Mill Hotel. This venue also stunning had on site dog friendly accommodation. I had the pleasure of being part of their special day with their canine companion, a lovely little Shih Tzu, everyone including guests and venue staff were incredibly pleased to have him attend. The owners had a fantastic wedding and created happy memories to last a lifetime!

New Lanark Mills Hotel and Wedding venue
Photo taken by Grace at Puddle Lane Photography

If you want your Canine Companion to attend and be part of your special day, then it is possible. There are many different services, venues and accommodations which are pet friendly and able to assist with the planning and logistics of a dog attending your event. Hiring a dog handler wedding professional will also ensure your dog remains relaxed, content, and stress-free during the event including arranging bespoke packages to best suit your needs.

Written by Deborah O’Neill at Mizz Pawz

Published by mizzpawz

I'm a professional dog trainer and Canine coach. With an interest in article writing from the dog training aspect of dog ownership

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