bride and groom outside with a dog on a leash

Our pets are our best friends; they love us without judgment, trust us implicitly and are the first to celebrate with us when anything big happens. So when you’re planning your wedding — the biggest day of all — it’s only natural you would want to include your best friend in the festivities.

But as difficult as it might be to find a dress that all the bridesmaids like or organize a seating chart that doesn’t offend anyone, including your furry friend in your wedding can have its own challenges and difficulties. At the same time, though, having your pooch or kitty walk you down the aisle or pose for photos with the family can make your day even more memorable and special. It’s all a matter of how you plan.

With This Pup, I Thee Wed

When Audrey Castagna and her fiancé, Mike, tied the knot, their 2-year-old Wheaten Terrier, Ricki, was an important part of their day. After all, Ricki had been part of their relationship from the beginning — literally: On Audrey’s 30th birthday, Mike surprised her with an engagement ring and a puppy.

It seemed only natural then that Ricki should be included in every last detail of their wedding day. She got ready with the groom and groomsmen, and wore a tag on her collar that said “I Do” and a crown of flowers on her head. Ricki even posed for photos with the wedding party.

Even though Ricki couldn’t stay for the entire reception, she was there in spirit: The couple displayed a watercolor portrait of Ricki on the gift table and had an ice sculpture of her at the reception, and the bride’s parents surprised them with a life-size photo cutout of the dog. “It started at the cake table,” Audrey says, “but ended up being the hit of the dance floor and photo booth!”

Best-Dressed Pets

watercolor of dog

Even if your ceremony is very simple, there are ways to make your pet part of your special day. Darcy Miller, editorial director of Martha Stewart Weddings, says that a traditional and fun way to include your pet (no matter what kind of creature) is as a ring bearer or flower girl — or simply to have your pet accompany you down the aisle.

Like the rest of the wedding party, Miller advises that pets be dressed appropriately. “Put him or her in special clothes, or add flowers that match the palette of not only the wedding but the pup,” Miller says. “Ties are great on boy dogs, or you can add floral embellishments on the leashes or wreaths of flowers for her head.”

And don’t be afraid to think beyond a fancy collar or doggie sweater. “One of the most unique pet outfits I’ve seen was in one of the weddings we featured [in Martha Stewart Weddings] of Randi Brookman Harris,” Miller says. Harris “put large white pearls tied with a black satin ribbon on her black-and-white pup. So chic (as is she) and fun!”

More Ways to Include Your Pets

If your pooch isn’t big on dressing up, or your cat refuses to walk you down the aisle, don’t despair: There are still some fun and stylish ways to include your pets in your big day — starting with the proposal. If you are planning to pop the question, consider making a sign to hang around your dog’s neck or take a photo of your cat asking for your significant other’s hand in marriage.

dog ice scuplture

Once you’ve decided to say, “I do,” send out a save-the-date with your pet’s picture on it. And consider including your pet’s image on all your wedding stationery, including invitations and thank-you cards.

Want your pet to be part of the wedding even if you’re not sure he’s up for a big party? Personalized cake toppers are a big seller on and are popping up all around stylish weddings. Why not include your pooch as the icing on the cake?

And, of course, make sure you also include man’s best friend in the engagement and wedding photos.

Make the Wedding a Success for You and Your Pets

When it comes to the big day, Miller says it is important to plan ahead and keep your pet’s needs in mind. Consider how much time your pet can realistically give to the wedding and the surrounding festivities. Remember, he still needs proper bathroom breaks, food, water and rest. Don’t push him too hard.

Think, too, about your pet’s personality. Not all pets love crowds — make sure yours is up to the task before the big day. If the day’s events are going to be too overwhelming for your pet, consider having him spend some part of the day with you (for example, participating in photos before or after the ceremony) and then sending him home with a trusted pet sitter.

If your pet is a party animal who loves being with people, find him a date — or at least someone to keep an eye on him during the wedding and reception (and everything else you have scheduled for the day). Designate someone to wrangle your pet on the big day; as happy as you will be to have your pet with you, you will be busy greeting guests and posing for photos and may not have time to monitor your pet or tend to his needs. If your guests are helping with your pet, arrange for them to take turns watching Fido or Fluffy, so they can enjoy the party as well.

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