I have been planning weddings in Central Park for five years, and a huge number of the couples I work with are pet owners. We have had a handful of marrying couples bring their pets to their wedding, and myself and my husband brought our dog to our wedding in Central Park. We didn’t think too much about whether we should bring him, he loved Central Park so it would seem like a shame not to.
My last post about including children in a wedding got me thinking. Lots of marrying couples have children, either the children of both the bride and groom, or of just one of the couple from a previous relationship. But many more couples getting married that I work with are pet owners, and I know that because in many cases the pets are important enough to them to mention them in their ceremony. So, I wanted to share some advice about how to include your beloved pets in your special day. Many of the couples I work with have traveled to New York City, so may not have their pets with them, but there are other ways to include them in your wedding.
Check if they are permitted.
This is pretty important. If you are a guest at a wedding and you are considering bringing your pet, ask the couple first. This goes without saying, right? No, apparently it doesn’t, I could share a few stories of guests surprising couples by bringing along their pet. Pets aren’t allowed everywhere, and it may turn out to be quite difficult to include your furry friend in a wedding. If a marrying couple want to include their pet in their wedding day, they should check that it will be permitted at every location they will be going to, including any transport they will be using. In the case of Central Park, pets are allowed, but dogs must be on a leash. So, a guest should be nominated to have the responsibility of holding the leash at times when the bride and groom cannot, and when they should be concentrating on the important promises they are making to each other.
Also, check if there might be anything that could be dangerous to your pet in the area. Some plants are poisonous to some animals. Central Park is full of wild birds and animals. Keep in mind how this may affect your pet, and how your pet might affect these creatures. Central Park is home to a huge number of birds, and some popular wedding locations are close to the homes of turtles, such as the Ladies’ Pavilion. I have seen raccoons in various locations in Central Park, the most memorable was one little guy who made an appearance at a wedding ceremony rehearsal we were doing at sunset at Wagner Cove.
Include the pet as a guest.
If your pet is well-behaved, then they could attend the wedding along with the rest of your guests. Someone who knows your furry friend well could be pet-wrangler for the day and make sure that they stay calm and enjoy the fuss. If they are small enough (for example a rabbit or very small dog) you could perhaps have a guest carry them in a nice bag. I have seen brides arrive with or on their horses, but this tends to be at very large outdoor events that would allow such a thing. It looks amazing, though.
If you do include your pet as a guest, then let your photographer and/or wedding planner know in advance. They will need to factor that in to any plans, and the photographer can think about great ways to include your pet in your wedding photos.
Include the pet in the official wedding party.
Your pet could be a normal guest, just like everyone else. But, they’re not just like everyone else, are they? They are your special companion and part of the family, so maybe they could walk a bride down the aisle, or be a best man. A more common way to include a pet in the bridal procession is for a bridesmaid, flower girl or ring bearer to hold the leash and to have the pet (dog, usually) walk in with them. The dog actually becomes a bridesmaid, flower girl or ring bearer in this case, depending on how you think about it.
Decorate your pet
If you are going to the trouble of including your pet in your wedding day, then you ought to make the most of the opportunity to make them look cute. Florists will be able to make a bespoke collar for many pets that would be prepared to wear them. Other pets could possibly wear a cute sign around their neck with a message about the special day. Smaller pets could be in a bag as mentioned earlier, or in a cart decorated with flowers. A bow tie is a popular accessory for a pet, and I would suggest this would be by far the easiest thing to persuade an animal to wear. I love this smart tweed bandana with bow tie from Giddings Gifts.
Mention them in your ceremony wording.
This is a little easier, and can work for those who are able to bring their pet to their wedding, as well as the more common situation of those who cannot bring their pet. I write the wedding ceremony wording for each wedding especially for each couple. I ask them a series of questions that allows me to write an introduction about who they are as a couple, what their past has been and what they hope for their future to be. In many cases they mention their pets, and it is clear that pets contribute hugely to making a home for many couples. We can mention them in the introduction to their wedding ceremony, and some couples also mention them in their vows. Some couples choose to say the simple and straightforward “I do” basics, and some choose to say something more personal that they have written themselves. I have had many couples make promises to their partner on their wedding day that include their pet.
Accessorise your wedding with your pet.
This is another suggestion for those who cannot bring their pet to their wedding. Couples can honor their pet by including a photo charm of them in the bridal bouquet, or worn on the wrist. A pet can be featured on the wedding stationery, as a cake topper, as table decorations, and many other ways. I love the custom cake topper pictured below from Peg and Plum on Etsy. If you are unable to have them at your wedding and in your wedding photos, but if you are having an engagement photo session, then you could include them in that instead. Then your pet could feature in your save the dates or wedding invites.
Check with restaurants that the pet is permitted.
In New York City, pets are not allowed inside restaurants and bars that serve food. However, many restaurants in New York have an outdoor patio, and they may allow pets on that patio. If they do not allow them inside the fenced patio area, then they may put a water bowl outside the area and seat you at the edge of the fenced area and allow you to tether your dog nearby and safely within sight of the party. In my experience, Uptown restaurants tend to be more pet-friendly than the busy Downtown ones with less space.
The most popular type of pet to bring along to a wedding by far seems to be a dog. All of the couples whose wedding I have been involved in and who have brought their pet have been dog owners. The photos I have included in this blog as examples of animals with brides and groom in Central Park are only of dogs, and several are myself and my husband, but I would love to hear of anyone including any other type of pets in the comments. The couple with the snake in their photo met that snake on their wedding day in Central Park, but I wanted to include the photo to provide relief from all the dogs!
If you do want to include your pet in your wedding, then give lots of consideration to their personality and what they might make of it all. If you want to give them a bigger role, do you think they will do what you want them to on cue? Or do you think they might get nervous and not perform on the day? Remember that our human rituals can be strange to our animal companions, so do not to expect too much of them. They might get stressed and not enjoy the experience. Remember their animal nature. Bring water and treats for them. And keep in mind their shortcomings as a wedding guest; a dog might get his dirty feet all over your train – mine certainly would!