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Planning a wedding with your dogs involved? I could not be more excited for you — having your sweet furry friends along on such a special day is one of the most fun ways to make special memories of the day you get married.
Of course, bringing your pet along for your wedding or elopement brings its own set of challenges. Many venues or elopement locations won’t allow pets, and making sure you have all the pet supplies you need with you can easily slip your mind in all the excitement. In this guide, I’ll give you all my best tips for having your wedding with your dogs, including how to find the best location, tips for making sure they’re not overstimulated, and activities you can incorporate especially for your pets.
Bring Someone Along Who Can Be Your Dogs’ Assigned “Handler” for the Day
I typically recommend to everyone planning on having their wedding or elopement with dogs to bring someone along who can take care of them. In an already hectic time, the additional tasks of taking your dog to the bathroom, giving them water and snacks, etc., is added stress that can make your day harder and pull your focus from the important part — getting married to your best friend!
There are lots of ways you can go about finding someone for this job. If you have a friend who wouldn’t mind taking on that responsibility during your wedding, awesome! You can also ask your preferred dogsitter if they would be willing to come along on your wedding day. A dogsitter can be especially helpful if you plan to spend any parts of your day without your dog.
Another option is to have a hired “assistant” for the day, which is a great option when you plan to have your dog incorporated in lots of parts of your wedding. A designated dog-wrangler is going to make your day so much smoother!
What to Pack for Your Wedding with Dogs
Making sure your dog (and whoever is minding them) is prepared for the day will also contribute to a smooth experience. As an experienced pet owner, I’m sure you have their supplies list down pat, but always double check before you head out.
- Water, food, and collapsable bowls for easy transporting
- Treats! This helps a ton with getting your pups to cooperate during photos
- Leash or harness and poop bags (consider getting a neutral leash or one that matches your wedding colors. Neon orange will stick out like a sore thumb in your wedding album! A hands-free leash that can attach to your belt or around your waist is also a great option.)
- Booties or other paw protection if necessary
- Sweaters or other temperature-regulating materials
- A towel, brush, and even a doggy first aid kit, just in case
- Something to carry your pet in if they’re small and tire out easily
- Toys, of course!
Consider any Special Needs Before Making Concrete Decisions About Your Wedding with Dogs
As a pet owner, you are super familiar with your dog’s behavior, quirks, likes and dislikes, and so much more. Before you get too deep into planning your wedding or elopement with your dogs at your side, make sure you consider all the things that might cause your dog to get nervous or overstimulated so that you can avoid any disasters or big scenes.
Are your dogs active and do they like hiking with you? Are they good with crowds? How about other wildlife? Keep these in mind when picking your location and any activities! This ensures they’ll be safe, happy, and comfortable.
Does your pup have any sort of separation anxiety? It’s absolutely heartbreaking when they’re taken away for the ceremony or for exploration time and they’re crying uncontrollably because they don’t want to be away from you. If it’s going to be too much for them to be taken away from you for any period of time, consider leaving them behind during your elopement entirely. I know it can be hard to leave them out when you want them to be involved, but if they aren’t going to have a good time, chances are they’ll bring your mood down, too.
Do they travel well? Does your elopement location require a plane ride, long drive, or rough roads? Weigh the trade-off of bringing your dogs if they’ll limit your options more, versus being able to explore as far and wide as you like but leaving them at home.
How to Have a Wedding with Dogs — Without Your Dogs
Once you’ve thought through these additional considerations, it’s okay to be hesitant about bringing your dogs with. No matter how much you might want them with you on your elopement day, sometimes it just won’t be a good fit.
But don’t be too disappointed! There are always ways to still incorporate your fur babies into your day. This is intentional, special, thoughtful, and personal. Here’s some ideas for how you can still feel your dogs “with” you on your wedding day:
- Doggy cake toppers (or the little statues that stick out from under the cake)
- Cookies with your pet’s face on it
- A cocktail recipe in their honor
- Socks/pocket square/tie/cufflinks with your pups on it
- Photos of them to include in your detail shots
- Write your vows on the backs of a photo of them
- A dog-shaped ring holder/trinket dish
- Bring their name tags and attach them to your bouquet
- Facetime them
- Get a tattoo in their honor
No matter what you choose, you can still have fun on your elopement day with or without the pups.
Where Can You Have a Wedding with Dogs?
Location can be one of the biggest hurdles when planning your wedding or adventure elopement with your dogs. So many public lands and other venues do not allow pets, so finding places to go with your pets to get married is often difficult! Fortunately, I’ve been an elopement photographer for a long time, so I have all the deets about beautiful elopement locations that are pet-friendly.
In general, national parks aren’t super pet-friendly, and many will only allow pups on paved roads or wherever cars can access. Below are some of the more pet-friendly options that allow dogs more room to roam!
- Acadia National Park, Maine
- Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
- Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
- Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
- White Sands National Park, New Mexico
- Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado
- Congaree National Park, South Carolina
- Yosemite National Park, California
- Death Valley National Park, California and Nevada
- Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
- Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
National Forests and State Parks
Great options that are very welcoming of pets! As with any location, check the rules on which areas may be designated off or on-leash zones. In Washington, here are some pet-friendly spots:
- North Cascades
- Mt. Baker
- Snoqualmie National Forest
- Parts of Olympic National Park
What to Do at Your Wedding With Your Dogs
If you’ve decided that your dogs will be great additions to your wedding day, it doesn’t stop there!! There are so many parts of the day that you can add them to, and you can have them be part of everything, or just certain moments. Here are a few ideas to get you started!
- Do a first look!! Doggy first looks are some of the cutest things I’ve ever seen.
- Dress them up!! Get them a little doggy tuxedo or bow, or even ask your florist to make them a flower crown or collar.
- Make them your ring bearer, or dog of honor.
- Have them sign your marriage license as a witness or even as an officiant! Dogs can be official witnesses on your marriage license in some states. Make sure you practice this in advance with pet-safe ink!
- Bring them along in the kayak/helicopter/boat/other activity!
- Play! Have fun! Bring lots of their toys to play fetch or run along the trail with them.
How to Get Great Photos with Your Dog at Your Wedding/ Elopement
The simple truth is that, a lot of the time, dogs aren’t perfect subjects in photos. A lot of movement, derpy expressions, etc. Don’t worry about this. The less you stress about getting your dog to pose perfectly for the camera, the happier everyone will be, including your dog.
Give them lots of exercise to help get their energy out. This allows them to explore the area and be less on edge and distracted, too. Once they’re comfortable with the terrain and have run out some of their excitement, they’ll be better able to focus on your commands.
I also recommend bringing their favorite treats and toys. If I have these in my hands at portrait time, it will be so much easier for me to get and keep their attention, and reward their great behavior!
Leave no trace. This is always important when eloping, but especially when you have pets. Bring lots of doggy bags to clean up after them, and keep them on-leash and on-trail at all times.
Give yourself and your dogs lots of grace. This is a new experience for your dog, so they won’t be on their best behavior at all times. Your wedding with your dogs is going to be an incredible experience, so try to relax and lean into the imperfection!
I can’t wait to chat more about what you have planned for your elopement or wedding with your dogs. Reach out to me here for elopement photography in Oregon, Washington, and beyond.