Including Your Dog In Your Wedding: 9 Tips For Doing It Right.

San Juan Capistrano Wedding, by Matt Haines Photography

I met with a couple earlier this week, and they asked me if it was a good idea to have their dog be part of their wedding. The answer is “Yes! But…” I have had a number of couples incorporate their dogs in either their wedding or engagement session, and so I have a few tips to share if you want to bring your “other best friend”.

1. Know Your Dog. Not all dogs are suitable for weddings. If your dog is skittish or unpredictable, leave him or her at home. The crowds, noise and strange new locations can be overwhelming even for humans, so make sure your dog won’t suffer or be a problem at your wedding. If your dog can’t handle the local farmer’s market or the dog park without getting worked up, a wedding is probably not the best place to be. Bring your dog to the rehearsal and see how it behaves. If you don’t think it’s going to work, err on the side of caution.

2. Have a Back Up Plan. Is your dog going to be your ring-bearer? Make sure you have a ‘Plan B’ if it doesn’t work out. Think of your dog’s participation in your wedding as a “nice to have”, not a mission-critical part of the day.


3. Keep Your Dog on a Leash. Yes maybe your dog is so well trained that he or she never runs off. But you don’t want your wedding day to be the one day he DOES run off. Also, if you run into any venue rules that require the dog to be on a leash, you’ll be prepared. If your dog is the ring-bearer (see above), the leash is even more important. You don’t want your expensive wedding rings running off with your dog.

4. Get a ‘Dog Wrangler’. Assign someone – preferably someone NOT in the wedding party – to be in charge of your dog for the day. You could even hire a professional dog sitter. Whatever you decide, you should not be the one responsible for your dog on your wedding day! You’ve got enough to handle without worrying if your dog needs a potty break or is barking too much.

Malibu Wedding by Matt Haines Photogtraphy

5. Be Prepared. Make sure your ‘dog wrangler’ has supplies such as food and water the day before, so you and they are not scrambling to find a dog treat or a little plastic bag for clean-ups.

6. Find a Safe Place. Make sure your dog will have somewhere to stay other than the wedding site. A friend’s house, a dog-friendly hotel, a kennel or with a dog sitter etc. If something happens and your dog is not welcome at the venue (or simply is too exhausted or panicked), make sure you have a predesignated safe place for your dog.

Cowboy Chic Wedding at Limoneira Ranch, by Matt Haines

7. Skip the Reception. Your dog I mean, not you! Little dogs and drunken dancing guests do NOT mix well. I’ve seen little dogs get stepped on, and it’s not pretty. Your dog will probably be exhausted from all the excitement anyway, so consider letting your dog have a rest during that part of the day.

8. Get the Picture. Tell your photographer ahead of time that you want to get some photos with your dog at the wedding. Either as part of your portraits, or the family group shots, and of course some candid moments as well. If you prepare your photographer, you’ll get those shots you want.


9. Be There In Spirit. If the venue is too formal for your dog, your dog can always be there in spirit. Consider displaying a large print of your dog on an easel at the reception. You will get lots of oohs and aahs even if your dog can’t be there in person.

Hey I love dogs too! So I say why not incorporate your dog into your wedding day? The tips above should make it go smoothly, but remember: your dog is not a human. No, really! Dogs don’t behave like humans do, so if something doesn’t go quite right, just laugh it off as something funny to remember about your wedding day.

All of the above images were shot on film. Dogs look better on film, and so do people! If your dog is looking for a wedding photographer, have him or her contact meĀ here.

And here’s a photo of one of my dogs, “Dizzy”….


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