Weddings are an important ceremony that are part of the marriage process that brings two people together as one couple. The legal part of this act has very important benefits and protections for both of them, regarding everything from financial and property rights to inheritance and medical decisions.
The wedding part of it isn’t legally necessary at all, and some people do skip it, but a lot of people don’t. It’s a big part of celebrating the creation of a new family with your old family and friends.
Nowadays, but particularly with millennials, people had pets long before they had someone to marry or will have children, so those pets are a part of the family, too. That’s why it’s a completely natural instinct to want to include your fur babies in the big day as well.
The good news is that you can, and 38% of couples surveyed said that they did include their pets in their weddings, often times as a participant in the festivities. That number may even go up thanks to limitations created by COVID. “Minimony” is now a thing. This is a scaled-down wedding, and they’re ideal for including pets. In fact, 45% of couples planning for this intend to include their pets, too.
Don’t get carried away!
Perhaps the minimony is an idea whose time has come. A lot of weddings can be elaborate, and in 2020 the average couple spent around $20,300, down $4.400 from the previous years, again due to COVID.
The highest state average was in Massachusetts at $30,489, while the lowest was in Arkansas at $12,426. The U.S. average cost per guest is $307, by the way, although it might not appear like that to, well, the average guest. (Remember that when you’re buying the gift!)
The vast majority of that goes toward renting the wedding venue, although ad campaigns have convinced people to make the engagement ring the second costliest item. The total spent on weddings in the U.S. in 2020 was $25.7 billion, although this is way down from the five-year high of $60 billion spent in 2016.
The costliest weddings
Individual weddings can sometimes get out of hand, too, and the Guinness World Record holder happened in Versailles, France in 2004. It was a six-day ceremony that did not involve royalty; royal weddings happen on an entirely different level.
Of course, there have been elaborate dog weddings, too. These are wedding ceremonies in which the happy couple are a pair of actual dogs. The priciest one happened in New York’s Central Park in July, 2012 and the final cost was $158,187.26.
The proud mother at the ceremony was animal activist and TV personality Wendy Diamond, and the couple were Baby Hope Diamond and Chilly Pasternak. Chilly was selected via voters online in a competition set up by Diamond.
It is possible to have a huge, extravagant wedding without spending a fortune, though. In 2016, Canadian couple Louise Veronneau and Dominic Husson flew to California to have a simple ceremony with a guest list of 1,100.
But don’t worry — those guests didn’t cost them over $300 each because every one of them was a cat. The venue was the largest cage-free cat sanctuary in North America. It’s known as The Cat House on the Kings, named for the river it sits next to.
Pets and human weddings
- Find a pet-friendly venue
Obviously, you can’t have pets in the ceremony if the venue won’t allow it, so this is the first thing to check and should be one of the main criteria for selecting a venue.
If, for whatever reason, the venue choice was not up to you, then contact them ASAP to find out if they’re pet-friendly. And, in all cases of pet-friendly venues, be sure to get their specific rules in writing first, so you can be prepared.
This also applies to any hotel rooms rented out for the wedding party, of course.
- Know your pet
Nobody knows their fur kid better than their pet parents, and this is when you have to honestly ask yourself, “What can my dog or cat actually deal with during this process?”
Are they shy or skittish around lots of strangers, or are they very friendly and outgoing? Can they sit quietly for extended periods of time, or do they feel the need to wander? Do they have any history of biting or scratching people? (That one is probably a deal-breaker, by the way.)
Once you’ve determined that your pet can handle the ceremony, decide which role they’d be best-suited for — more on those roles later.
Since our pets pick up on our energy and tend to reflect it. How are you going to react to the stresses of the day? If you’re going to be a nervous, high-strung wreck, then it might be a good idea to not include your pet or, if you do, have them kept separate from you with their handler (see below) except for those moments when they’re participating in the ceremony.
- Inform your guests
It’s just common courtesy. If you’re going to have your pets in your ceremony, indicate this in the invitation. It should be something along the lines of “The happy couple will be accompanied in the ceremony by their (dog/cat) Name, who is a (length of fur, breed). Please indicate below if you have any pet allergies.”
This will allow you to accommodate them at the ceremony or give them a free choice to not attend. It’s really no different than including the standard meal options of beef, chicken, fish, vegetarian, or vegan.
- Have a dog-handler
Simply put, if it’s your wedding, you’re going to be pulled in so many directions at once on the big day that you can’t possibly also supervise your dog, so bring a long a trusted friend that the dog knows or hire a trainer if necessary.
It will be their job to take care of your dog or cat when it’s not taking part in the festivities. This includes keeping them calm, making sure they get plenty of water, walking them or taking them to a litter box when necessary, and so on.
Don’t forget to have them bring treats to distract your pet if they seem to feel the sudden need to drag themselves to your side.
You can bring your dog or cat to the reception briefly — they should be part of the receiving line, of course, and can join in on the couple’s first dance — but before the party really gets started — especially before the hors d'oeuvres come out — have the handler take them home or up to the hotel room.
Finally, most importantly, your dog or cat should be on a leash or in a carrier, the former at all times and the latter when they’re not involved in the ceremony. This is especially true if your dog or cat will be walking down the aisle with you. No telling where they might wind up otherwise.
Have you made it through the checklist and determined that it’s a go for having your dog or cat in the ceremony? Great! Time for the next step.
Determining your pet’s role
The nice thing about weddings is that dogs and cats can be equal participants, and there are a lot of roles they can play as a part of the wedding pawty. They can take on a traditional role, like Dog/Cat/Pet of Honor or Best Dog/Cat/Pet and can wear an outfit to match.
Another popular choice, in lieu of having a young relative do it, is ring-bearer with the rings on a pillow securely harnessed to your pet. Note, though — as with a human ring-bearer, don’t give them the real rings if you want to be sure they make it onto the couple’s hands. You can find cheap but passable imitations for a few bucks online. This is the one job where a dog would probably out-perform a cat, though.
Flower girl might be a harder role for a pet to fulfill, since they can’t really strew petals as they walk. Designing some sort of automatic flinging device is probably out of the question, too, as it would probably make sounds and motions that would spook your pet.
The best solution is to simply have a young relative walk the dog or cat down the aisle while the human strews the petals.
Finally, “pet bouquets” have been making appearances at weddings recently, and it’s pretty much what it sounds like. At its most basic, the bride will carry her cat or small dog instead of a bouquet.
This has also expanded into something that may not include your own dog or cat, but which can help pets in general. People have been arranging with shelters to have all the bridesmaids or even the entire wedding party enter with each one carrying an available puppy or kitten, which are then available for adoption at an event after the ceremony.
Just remember one important thing if the bride does choose to carry a furry, cuddly bouquet: She should not toss it over her shoulder to the crowd at the reception.
And remember: Don’t leave your pets out of the photos of the wedding party!
Having them participate when they cannot be there
If your pet didn’t pass muster or the venue wouldn’t allow it, they can still participate in the ceremony in a different way. For example, include their image in the wedding invitations and “Thank You” cards, as part of the table décor.
One unique idea is to use different photos of your pets as the Table Number Signs. You can also include a large cut-out image of their face as a prop in the photobooth (if you’re going to have one), print their picture and name in the guest book, or even include a cake topper in their image.
Finally, you can also include a mention of them in the wedding vows or have a toast or tribute to them at the reception.
A special day for everyone
If it’s suitable to your pet and at all possible, including them in your big day is almost a no-brainer. After all, they are part of the family, too, just as much as Aunt Ruth or Grandpa Sam or all of the parents, siblings, niblings, cousins, and so on, including your chosen family that you call friends.
You just have to be sure to be prepared, make all the necessary arrangements and accommodations, have your pet trained and ready for their role, and above all stay calm for their sake.
I know that it can be difficult for either half of an about-to-be married couple to stay calm when there are so many things that could go wrong to worry about. But remember: Short of the venue burning down the night before or the caterer not showing up, any problems that whole day are probably going to be only minor inconveniences at worst.
Take a deep breath, relax, and then turn to your furry friend, because that’s their actual job at this party — helping you cope with and avoid the stress.
You know. Just like they do every other day.
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