Something old, something new, something barking, something blue -- wait a second. Something barking? Yes. According to trend forecasting website WGSN, more couples than ever "are bringing pets with them to the ceremony" or incorporating farm animals in their rustic barn wedding venues.
For product researcher Kristine, 27, her wedding in September 2017 would not have been the same without her German shepherd, Nittany, as the flower girl. "She's always been a part of our family," says Kristine. "We decided it would be strange to have such a large life event without her."
This personalization fits into a bigger movement of weddings today. According to The Knot Real Weddings Study, weddings cost an average of $35,329. Couples are focusing on the experience for each guest, driving costs up and guest lists down, "The average number of wedding guests has decreased to 141, down from 149 in 2009, while the average cost per guest has increased to $245, up from $194 in 2009." Adding pets, considered by most to be members of the family, is another way to make things more personal.
The first step in deciding to add your pet in your wedding day is to reach out to the venue to see what's possible in advance. Most indoor or religious venues don't allow fuzzy friends unless they are service animals. Also, give your guests a heads-up in case there are people with allergies. No one wants to have a room full of sneezing attendees with itchy eyes.
When thinking about incorporating your pet, it's also crucial to consider your pet's personality. If you have a skittish pet, think about limiting his role to the photo ceremony. On the other hand, if your well-behaved pet doesn't mind crowds and loves attention, then perhaps she can stay the whole day -- ceremony, photos and reception.
For Kristine, the boundless excitement of her dog was worrisome. "She has tons of energy and jumps on people. I was worried that I'd be covered in mud for the rest of the night," says Kristine. So, recognizing her dog's need to run around, Kristine's soon-to-be mother-in-law "took her to a local pet-boarding place to tire her out" before the late-afternoon ceremony. Having her mother-in-law taking care of the pup left Kristine and her husband free to enjoy their day.
Erin Askeland, training manager and behavior expert at Camp Bow Wow, echoes the advice of having a pet chaperone in an article for Mother Nature Network: "Designate someone as the animal's sitter who will take on the responsibility of walking and caring for your pet during the wedding." This will also limit the chance of your pet getting into the food at the reception, snacking on potentially dangerous floral arrangements or taking a dip in the nearby koi pond. Couples, guests and venue people will all appreciate a smooth transition.
Askeland also recommends taking your pet to your wedding location in advance. That way, they're comfortable in the environment. Too many unknown factors can startle or overstimulate your pet. For example, to match her wedding party, Kristine purchased a new pink leash for Nittany. However, it wasn't as secure as her usual leashes, and "our poor friend who walked her down the aisle got dragged around." However, the funny moment was a highlight of the ceremony, and the pictures turned out great.
Much like marriage, incorporating your pets in your big day "just takes some planning, time and effort," says Kristine. And perhaps a lint roller or two.