One thing I have noticed over the years is that so many of my couples have dog and I love it. Maybe fellow dog people attract other dog people… Who knows! The Baltimore area is a fairly dog friendly area which means a lot of the locations I shoot in, both inside and outside the city are dog friendly as well. I get a lot of couples asking me if their pups can come along to their engagement session or if I am ok with including their pups in their wedding photos – and the answer is always YES! I love when dogs tags along. Here are a few tips for including your dog (or cat for that matter) in you wedding celebration.
Does your venue not allow dogs on site for the wedding day? No sweat – Lets include them in your engagement session! This can be a wonderful way to incorporate your fur-family into your wedding celebration.
A few other things you can do to include your dog in your wedding if he cannot attend:
- use an engagement photo that includes your dog for a save the date.
- I had a client do custom cookies with their dogs face as their wedding favor.
- Have a “family picture” on a the guest book table of the three of you.
- Include a note about your dog on your program.
- I’ve had couples make Fathead style cut outs of their pets (cats & dogs) to brig with them and include in fun creative ways on wedding day – Think getting ready photos and reception introductions!!
Bring a friend (a human one)
Let’s be honest, dogs have a mind of their own especially in a new environment. So, if you want to include them in your engagement session or wedding, you’ll want to have an extra set of hands around whose sole job is to babysit the dog! After all, you will want SOME photos of just the two of you! Have a friend or family member tag along to offer distractions, treats, toy squeaks etc. Your friend can also help us transition effortlessly between having the dogs in and out of photos. When they are not in photos they can take your dog on short walks to get some of their sillies out and keep them entertained during the in between moments with just the two of you.
Please, whatever you do, do not forget treats or toys. Pack up a bag that includes whatever motivates good behavior in your pup. Photos can be a lot for a dog – lots of commands going on, lots of distraction and new smells, and of course that block box that makes noise pointed right at your pup. Bring along something to motivate them and help keep them focused and if you forget, I always keep dog treats in my car! #dogmomtotherescue
So fresh and so clean…
Have your pup freshly groomed. Just like I would suggest that you two look your best, make sure the pup is looking their best as well. They will probably get a little dirty running around outside while we shoot, but starting off with a freshly bathed pup can make a world of difference! If you’re planning to have your pup at your wedding, consider accessorizing them so they fit in with the rest of the bridal party. Floral wreaths to sit around their neck or to decorate their leash are a great place to start! If you’re not into big florals, maybe consider a handsome new bow tie that matches the bridal party.
Decide your dogs role
I thought this was particularly good advice from the AKC’s website so I wanted to highlight it here. Decide the dog’s role. Depending on his obedience level and personality, you have lots of options.
- Pup of Honor — He can walk down the aisle with the wedding party and then sit alongside them for the ceremony. It may be best to keep him on a leash; get creative and decorate the leash to fit your wedding theme.
- Flower Dog — She can carry a basket of flowers in her mouth, as the flower girl spreads the petals. Be sure the flowers are safe and nontoxic for dogs, in case she decides to sneak a taste. Or add a floral wreath around her neck for extra flair.
- Ring Bearer — Naturally, your dog doesn’t have opposable thumbs or pockets, but you can tie the rings to his collar with a ribbon or find a custom-made ring holder on Etsy or somewhere similar.
- Honored Guest — If your dog is better suited to a calmer, more restrained role, give him pride of place in the front row, sitting with someone he’s familiar with.
If you do include your dog in your wedding day it may be a good idea to let your guests and wedding party know a dog will be present, so that those with allergies or a fear of dogs can plan accordingly.
Practice makes perfect
It may be a good idea to practice a few basic things before your session or wedding. If you plan to have your dog wear something around their neck, give them a change to get used to it a head of time. Also, practice having your dog sit between you two, especially if he trained to be on a specific side. Maybe even see if your venue will allow you to bring your dog for a site visit to familiarize himself with it a bit before your big day.
Hire a pet sitter
Consider having someone take the dog home after your portraits & ceremony are over sometime having them at the reception can be too much for them. Even the most well behaved dogs can be unpredictable at large events with lots of new people for long hours. If having someone make a run home isn’t realistic, consider hiring a boarding service that will come pick the dog up and keep them overnight. If you’re in the Mid-Atlantic area i would highly suggest looking into Furever & Fur Always.
Dogs will be dogs…
Lastly, dogs will be dogs. Please try and remember that you can only control your pups behavior to an extent! Even if their behavior doesn’t line up with your expectations, stay focused on making sure we get great photos of you and your partner and on having the best day of your life! I promise that even if your pup does “cooperate, we’ll still get beautiful and fun phone of the 3 of you to document this time in your lives… Besides, it will make for one hell of a story!
Looking for a photographer that loves dogs as much as you do?? As a dog mom myself, I am thrilled when i get to meet clients fur-family as well. Inquire here and tell me all about how you plan to include your pup in your big day and lets welcome them to the #JHPPUP family!
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