5 THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN INVITING YOUR DOG TO YOUR WEDDING

I have photographed quite a few cute & cuddly dogs (and cats!) in the three years I've been in business. From engagement sessions to wedding days, and lifestyle sessions too, I've gained some serious experience working with animals, and have learned a thing or two when it comes to including your dog in your wedding day. Here are five things to consider (from a photographer's point of view) when doing exactly that!

Angus was a perfect gentleman for portraits!

Angus was a perfect gentleman for portraits!

1. YOUR GUESTS

Your dog is your child. I get it, I do! As a mother to children of both the human and canine variety, I know it can be super difficult to accept your child's behavior if it isn't especially agreeable in the eyes of others. And while it is YOUR day, you most likely will have quite a few guests attending, and they deserve to be safe--especially curious children-- as do your pets.

If your dog is skittish around others, is known for his bark, a feisty attitude, could possibly bite/nip others, or even has a little anxiety, you should most definitely keep your pup home, or with a trusted care taker. A canine cameo should be reserved for the most well behaved. Besides, who wants the distraction of a misbehaving dog, or the ire of a bitten guest on a wedding day? 

2. YOUR TIMELINE

I may be in the minority of photographers, but I don't pressure my couples to do a "First Look". I inform them of the pros and cons of both, and then let them decide for themselves whether or not they'd like to have one. One benefit of having a First Look, especially when an animal is introduced to the day, is that the timeline opens up a bit more to allow for portraits with the pup. Including enough time (realistically) to finish hair/makeup, get dressed, see each other for the First Look, and take portraits are all essential for your wedding day, regardless of whether or not your fur-baby will be in attendance. However, when you introduce a dog into the mix, you have to be even more considerate of your time. I recommend sharing with your vendors and bridal party that this is important to you, so that they too are considerate of the timeline.

If you don't elect for a First Look, it's still possible to get great portraits with your dog! I always recommend that whomever is handling the dog be ready immediately following the ceremony. At that point, I take AT MOST 10 minutes to photograph the dog and the couple. Almost all wedding days are full of excitement, and that atmosphere in addition to loads of familiar/unfamiliar faces can be overwhelming even for the most good natured animal, so I try to keep the portraits quick, simple, and relaxed. 

3. ACCESSORIES

I'm not talking about a mini tux. I'm talking about collars and leashes. (And don't forget poo bags, water bowls, treats, etc., etc.) One thing I've found is that while many plan out what their dog(s) will wear--be it a sweet bow-tie or a a garland of flowers--they sometimes overlook the leash and collars. If you aren't going to buy something especially for the wedding day, I highly recommend ensuring that your dog's leash and collar are clean and in good condition. If it's dirty or frayed, it will most likely show in photos--especially next to a bright white dress! Grooming your pet is always a good idea, too, especially those nails, which can easily get caught up in delicate lace or layers of tulle. 

Also, it's a good idea to make sure your bring along a toy or a bone for them to chew on to keep them busy and not distracted by any number of things. If your dog is part of the ceremony, it's not likely he/she stay still as a statue, so having something there for him to enjoy is not only smart, but considerate to your animal.

4. LOGISTICS

There are so many things to consider when introducing your dog to your wedding day. One is your location. How far are the venue(s) from your home? Where your dog will be boarded? Will there be a lengthy car ride, possibly with traffic? (Totally a reality if you live in an area like Hampton Roads, NYC/NJ, Miami, Los Angeles, etc.)

Will you have a friend or relative who isn't attending the wedding handle the dog and chauffeur them back and forth ? (And how do you manage that conversation?!) Is your dog good with a pet-sitter, and is it normal for him/her to be in the company of one? How about the weather? 

If you have a destination wedding, how will the dog arrive, and how will you ensure that he is cared for each and every day? 

All of these things need to be thought through. If you dog has anxiety over car rides, you may need to get a prescription for him/her. If it's hot, you will need to be able to provide adequate water and/or shade. (And LOTS of bathroom breaks).  If rain is in the forecast, are you willing to take the risk of getting muddy paws on you? Do your animals have any issues with rain/thunder?

If you're having a destination wedding, finding a pet sitter  is most always necessary. Knowing where the nearest emergency vet clinic or veterinarian is important as well. Peace of mind that comes from being prepared is always worth the extra few minutes it takes to lay out a Plan A & B. (Sometimes even a Plan C). 

Perhaps the most important aspect of having your dog at your wedding day according to Missy of Antonia Christianson Events, is ensuring an "exit strategy" for your puppy pal. Almost always, the dog comes in for a short time, and locking down his/her departure makes things go smoother for everyone.

5. DON'T FORGET...

Your animal isn't an prop. They are living, breathing beings who don't think, or react, like we do. They don't know (or care) that you're in a big fancy dress that is totally white. Or that this is a wedding, not a day at the park. Chances are, if they haven't seen you on the day-of (and even if they do), they may jump on you. They may drool on you, or get hair on you. If they're super excitable, they may even get a little pee on you. (I've got one of those). These are things you absolutely must consider before introducing your dog to your wedding day. It's completely unfair to expect your dog to be on their best behavior... because dogs. If you aren't OK with any of those scenarios, you should reconsider your animal's role on your big day. 

Bringing your best fur-bud along on your wedding day can definitely be a joyful, spirited experience, and can most certainly produce gorgeously unique images. It's definitely one of my favorite trends in the wedding industry, and I LOVE being able to work with so many cute pets. That being said, it's always best to carefully weigh the pros and cons for your specific event, and remember to be flexible!