What you need to know before including your dog in your wedding

They say a dog is man’s best friend. As a cat owner, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say cats are best friends too. Anyone who’s ever owned an animal – cat, dog, other – knows just how much they become part of your family. It’s hard to imagine them not being part of your lives. So why wouldn’t they be part of your wedding day?
 

We’ve all seen wedding photos with pets or animals (such as farm animals who reside on the property for barn weddings), but there is a lot more that goes into having your “best friend” in your wedding than you might think. So we asked a few pet-friendly Hudson Valley venues, who have had dogs, fat sleepy cats, a parrot perched on the groom’s shoulder, a mini therapy horse and an occasional pig as guests, share what they’ve learned to help you and your pet have a fun, safe and stress-free day.
 

What does it mean to be a pet-friendly venue?

 

Baghdad and Cairo. Photo Credit: Crested Hen Farms

Ken Snodgrass, executive director at Locust Grove in Poughkeepsie, a 200-acre historic estate  once home to Morse Code inventor Samuel F. B. Morse, says, first and foremost, any venue will be able to accommodate service animals, “but for pets that are there for more ‘entertainment,’ you just want to make sure they (the venue) can accommodate them (your pet).”
 

So, what does it mean to be pet-friendly? Ripley Hathaway, owner of A Private Estate Events in Germantown, a National Register 1856 estate which was the former barn complex of the famed Livingston family, says, “A pet-friendly venue can vary in meaning. We allow couples’ pets to participate in their ceremony and to stay in our Carriage House on the property with the couple…We do not allow guests to bring their pets.”
 

Richard Rozzi, venue manager at Crested Hen Farms in High Falls, a National Register 36-acre former dairy farm founded in the 1790s, says, “Frank (venue owner) and I are both animal lovers and know how much they mean to people and become part of the family.” On property, they have 85 chickens and two Abyssinian cats named Baghdad and Cairo. “Since they are like family members we made the decision to allow our clients to bring their pets and include them in their ceremony and/or reception.”
 

RELATED: WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING COUPLES OVERLOOK AT WEDDING EXPOS?

 

Is your pet wedding-friendly?

 

Photo Credit: Arius Photography

Just because you want your pet(s) to be in your wedding, that doesn’t mean THEY want to be. Rozzi says, “Make sure that it is in their (the couple’s) pet’s best interest to do so. Some pets can be stressed out by crowds and lots of people that they are not accustomed to. As long as their pets are socialized and people friendly then we strongly encourage it.”
 

You know your pet(s) better than anyone and you’re ultimately the ones that need to decide if you want them in or at your wedding. Snodgrass says observing your pet in different situations can help determine how they will be at your wedding: “How do your pets react in non-traditional environments, do they really like a lot of people or do they freak out in a dog park?”
 

“Do they do well with strangers approaching them? Do you walk them or do they walk you?” asks Hathaway. “There is a lot of wildlife on our property from squirrels to birds to deer. Would your dog decide to chase them instead of walking down the aisle with you?” She says you also have to consider who’s going to tend to the dog. “Is there a really close friend or family member who would be willing to miss part of your reception to take the dog home…while you party for eight hours or more? If any of these questions make you doubt how well they will behave perhaps you should include them in your engagement photos when it’s just you and them.”
 

What if you want your pet in your wedding but know they won’t be able to handle it?
 

Photo Credit: Arius Photography

Hathaway brings up a good point: If your pet is not good in a crowd situation, you can use them in photos – either your engagement photos or wedding photos. Snodgrass says that happens a lot. “They’ll (the couple) bring their pets for photos before the ceremony.” He says that while it’s always a fun idea to include your pets “I think it’s good for people to have realistic expectations about how their pet is going to react to 100 plus people with loud music and loud conversations.” He recommends the ceremony might be better for your pet than the reception, but you would need to make sure you have a plan in place for someone to bring your pet home after the ceremony.

 

What are the “rules” and fine print?

 

When pets are involved, there’s more at stake. You need to be respectful of the space you are in and use the same rules that apply anytime you bring your dog out in public. Snodgrass says to always check what venue regulations are as they vary. At Locust Grove, he says, “Just keep them leashed so they don’t run for the Hudson River a half a mile away and tidy up after them.”
 

Hathaway says at A Private Estate, “All pets must be on a leash at all times… Couples are expected to pick up after their pets. Couples do need to fill out a pet release form stating their pet is up to date on his/her shots and that their animal does not have a history of biting.” She also says “There is a fee for pets staying the Carriage House as we want to make sure any dander or fur is gone before the next guest so the cleaning takes longer and we charge accordingly.”
 

At Crested Hen Farms, Rozzi says, “The only thing we ask is that the clients pick up after their pets and as long as they (the pets) are well behaved, leashes are not necessary. Of course, we also ask that they prevent them from doing anything destructive to the property i.e. digging holes, chasing our chickens etc.”
 

RELATED: HUDSON VALLEY WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS SHARE 6 REASONS WHY YOU NEED ENGAGEMENT PHOTOS

 

Other Tips

 

Here are some final tips if your pet will be attending your wedding. Snodgrass says to look for shady spots on the property where your pet can hang out and cool off while everyone is getting ready. He also says to be aware of the ceremony locale…is it inside or outside? He says, “We ask people to be considerate with their pets and so we usually think pets are going to be most comfortable outside.” Dogs and hardwood floors don’t always mesh well and can be dangerous. Plus the floor is cold and hard as opposed to softer outdoor spaces.
 

Are you planning on having your pet in your wedding? What kind of pet do you have and what role do you want it to play? Join us next week when we talk to couples who had pets in their wedding and what their experience was like.

 

Featured Photo Credit: Arius Photography

3 Comments
  • So many great points to consider before including your pet in your wedding. I love a good dog ring bearer but never considered how it might affect them to be in the ceremony. Maybe just a photo would do ?

    April 12, 2018 at 9:17 am
  • I really wanted my dog at my wedding but the hubby wasnt happy about it, looking back he probably was right it was hard enough looking after my kids on the day! Also I had a big wedding my dog probably would have got nervous.

    April 13, 2018 at 9:20 am
  • I have a goldendoodle that was (is) WAY too hyper to participate in my wedding. You definitely have to consider if the animal will be well behaved.

    April 14, 2018 at 9:14 pm

Post a Comment