The Curious Case of the Dog in the Wedding

Among the mail pinned to my corkboard,  the card that’s sparking conversations is a traditional “Christmas family and pets” photo with a twist – a couple snuggled up with their goats. Pets are an important part of our lives, and it’s not surprising that people want to include their pet/s in the wedding celebrations.  Horses, dogs, pet rats, and yes, even goats can be included in your celebrations, but depending on the pet, that can be sweet, hilarious, or a tornado of chaos.

Here are some things to consider before sending your pet an engraved invitation:

First up is perhaps a stupid question, but: Will the venue allow it?  Make sure you have clear approval, preferably in writing, for your plans before you hang your heart on them.

Try to be objective about their involvement. To be frank, it’s rare for the people involved to have a clear picture of how cute and well-behaved [or otherwise] their beloved pet will be. Sometimes it simply comes down to size or cuteness – in the same way that a three-year old can pull off behaviour that on a seven-year old would be considered atrocious, the smaller and cuter your pet, the more likely you are to get away with any possible behavioural glitches. Even the best behaved animals may benefit from some extra coaching before the big day.

“Won’t someone think of the animals?!”  Even more important than the question of how cute or well-behaved the animal may be –  How social is your pet, and will it actually enjoy being the centre of attention in an unfamiliar place and among a crowd of people? Any animal that’s nervous will also be unpredictable, and sometimes even dangerousAt the very least, plan a couple of practice visits to the venue, with as many guest stand-ins as you can rustle up.

Try to maximise the time you’ll have with your pet on the day, but at the same time, be pragmatic about the amount of time that it is reasonable to expect them to hang about for. Make sure you pack a doggy bag for your animal so that they will have access to food, water, and comfort toys etc during what will be for them a long and mostly boring day.

Prevent possible wardrobe malfunctions – in the same way that you’re breaking in your wedding shoes by wearing them around the house, make sure your pet has plenty of opportunity to get used to whatever they may be expected to wear. Even something as simple as extra ribbon bows can inspire hijinks – and while it was hilarious to watch the baby goat contort herself trying to nibble the flowers tied to her collar, it was a terrible distraction from the ceremony.

In my opinion, it’s hardly ever a good idea to have an animal as your ring bearer. I think human kids aren’t that great either, since we’re speaking of it, and often recommend a bit of sleight of hand between the fake rings in their care and the real rings in the best man’s pocket. At the very least stitch the rings on, and use a small pair of scissors to release them – I’ve seen too many ‘super secure’ bows that actually weren’t.

Who will be in charge of the animal/s? As in, who will pick up the poop, make sure they’re fed and watered and under control? No matter what, that person cannot, must not, be the bride, groom, or even one of the official bridal party. They have quite specific roles already, and cannot be spared for wrangling duties.

Even the best-behaved, most well-trained pet can have a bad day. Make sure you have a robust back up plan that doesn’t need you or your fiance’s permission to enact. And on the day, make sure you don’t hold on to your dream beyond what’s realistically possible: One of my brides came far too close to breaking her pelvis on the way up the aisle because the wind was making her horse skittish, but she was determined to ride him anyway.

Even more importantly, make sure that that person in charge of the animal/s has the authority [your permission, and/or the animal’s compliance] as well as all the resources needed[transport, house keys, leashes, etc] to take care of your pet – including being able to autorhise removing the animal from the property, even returning them back home, if necessary?

Finally, make sure you let your photographer and video guy know exactly what you’ve got planned – even if it’s meant to be a surprise for the rest of the guests. It’s especially important if your animal is playing a specific role in the ceremony or entrance of the bride, as well as if your four-footed friend will only be at the ceremony for a short time, so that you capture as many fantastic images as possible.

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