What It’s Really Like To Have Your Dog In Your Wedding
“She came right up to us and leaned on my leg, and right then and there, I knew she was the one!” Everyone who has a pet likely has a story similar to this of when their pet stole their heart. Janel Solanki, who got married last year at The Grandview in Poughkeepsie, shared this love story she and her husband Nick have with their dog Sadie, the adorable 9-year-old German Shepherd/Collie rescue in the image above. “Even though we’ve only had her for two years,” Solanki says, “I feel like she’s been with us forever…She is wholeheartedly a member of our family!”
“We wanted him to be at our wedding because he is always by our side during our daily lives and why would we want our wedding day to be any different?” says Natalie Feist about her dog Brego, who’s been a part of her and her husband Mike’s lives since he was eight weeks old and played an important role in their wedding at Crested Hen Farms last year.
There’s no denying pets bring a special kind of love into our lives, and of course, it’s natural to want them to be part of the biggest day of our lives, but we learned that having your pet in your wedding is not always as easy as it sounds. There are many variables that play into you being able to have your “best friend” by your side. From the venue, to the sights and sounds, to your pet’s personality, there are many things to consider.
We spoke to Janel and Natalie to learn more about the roles Sadie and Brego played on their special day and tips and advice they have for any couple who wants their dog in their wedding.
What role should your dog have in your wedding?
There are hundreds of wedding venues in the Hudson Valley, but the majority are not pet-friendly. That doesn’t mean that venue owners don’t love pets, it just means that the venue may not be the safest or most comfortable for a dog to hang out in for hours at a time (except, of course, if it’s a service animal). If having your dog in your wedding is a deal-breaker for choosing the venue, the first thing you need to do is to check with the venue first to see if it’s pet-friendly.
“I loved the idea of having her in our wedding, either carrying our rings or standing up with us while exchanging our vows,” says Solanki, who ended up not having Sadie in her wedding. Many things came into play for them to decide to keep Sadie home that night. What the venue allowed, the 200-plus guest list, and the formal evening affair made them reconsider. However, not all was lost as they made Sadie a prominent fixture in many of their photos which were taken at home prior to the ceremony.
Brego, on the other hand, was living it up at Feist’s wedding, since Crested Hen Farms is a pet-friendly location partly because it has a lot of acreage for a dog to run around on. “Brego walked Mike down the aisle. While we were getting ready he ran around exploring Crested Hen Farms, and occasionally would run back to the bridal suite to check in with us,” says Feist.
What do you do with your dog during the reception?
The ceremony is just one part of your wedding. If you want your dog in your wedding, you need to have a plan for the dog during the ceremony, which can last another five to six hours after the ceremony and can make for a very long day for a dog to be away from their familiar surroundings.
“Our dog is accustomed to large crowds and loud music, so he handled it fairly well,” said Feist. However, as the night went on, things changed. Feist says, “We noticed later in the evening, as the party got more raucous, he started to become stressed, so we had a friend take him home.”
For Solanki, who kept Sadie home that day, they asked their neighbors to watch her. “Sadie is so well house-trained that we left her at my parents’ house where we were staying and had a neighbor check in on her throughout the night.”
Do you have a plan for your dog? Do you have a neighbor willing to pet-sit for the night? Do you have a friend willing to leave the party to take your dog home? If any of these questions make you worry about creating an “escape route” for your dog, you might want to reconsider their role in your wedding.
Tips for having your dog in your wedding
Both Solanki and Feist, who had very different experiences with their dogs, have some great, practical advice for any couple thinking of having their dog in their wedding.
Every dog is different, so it’s never a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to “rules” for having a dog in your wedding. Personality is huge! Solanki says some questions to consider are: “Is he well socialized? Does he get nervous and skittish around crowds of people, kids, loud music? Is he well trained in basic obedience or does he jump on everyone he sees?…Is he a constant barker? A counter surfer? Imagine your dog trying to take a bite out of your wedding cake!” If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might want to be safe than sorry and leave your dog home, and have them in pictures only.
Feist says pet-sitters are a must! Remember, you don’t want to be in charge of your dog that night; you want to have fun. She says, “Ask multiple people if they are willing to take turns as leash-holders, that way one person doesn’t get stuck with the job all night!” She also says to make sure the leash-holders are also familiar with the dog and willing to leave the premises if necessary to take the dog somewhere more comfortable. “We asked people who were familiar with our dog and how he signals his needs. Also, make sure that there is someone available to take your pet to a safe and quiet space if necessary,” says Feist.
“While you may love dogs, your guests may not,” says Solanki. That’s a very valid point. Just like with music…just because you love heavy metal, that doesn’t mean your guests will and so you need to play music everyone will like. Just because you love dogs, and many people do, not everyone does. What if you have a young child at your wedding petrified of big dogs, or someone who sneezes at just the thought of a dog. These are things you may not think of, but need to take into consideration.
The “formality” of your wedding
Solanki also says to take a look at the “formality” of your wedding. “A formal indoor evening event won’t be appropriate for a dog, no matter how quiet and well behaved he may be,” she said. “But an outdoor, casual afternoon celebration might! Ultimately, the venue, type of wedding, and personality of your dog will determine if he should be part of your day.”
So, we want to know if you are having your dog in your wedding. What made you decide to have him/her be part of your day or what made you decide to keep him/her home? What role is your dog going to play in your wedding?
Featured Photo Credit: Red Pepper Shots