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Here Comes the Dog

More and more couples say "I do" to including their four-legged friend in the wedding. Here are some tips on how to include your best friend in your big day.
Written by Cathy Herholdt | Photography by Amelia Soper and La Vie Photography
Five-year-old Koby was the perfect ring bearer for Kelly and Henry Wassenmiller’s July 2006 wedding in Mazama, Wash., and he was the only one they ever considered. “We knew Koby was going to be in the wedding even before we were engaged,” said Kelly of her chocolate Lab. “He’s been my little shadow, my little buddy, I couldn’t get married without him.”

Koby roamed the grounds of the Freestone Inn and participated in every part of the weekend, from the Friday evening rehearsal to Sunday’s brunch. And when it came time for him to take on his role as ring bearer, he performed flawlessly. After walking down the aisle with Henry, carrying the rings on his custom collar made of foliage and berries, Koby sat patiently as Kelly and her dad rowed across the lake in a canoe. When Kelly’s dad took his seat, Koby lay down next to him and watched the ceremony.

“It lightened the atmosphere and made it more personal,” said Kelly. “It was absolutely wonderful.”

After the ceremony, Koby hung out at the cocktail reception while the wedding party had photos taken. When it was his turn to be photographed, once again, he shined. “Some of my favorite pictures from the wedding are the ones with him in them,” said Kelly, who recommends brides planning to include a dog in their wedding hire professionals who not only work with dogs, but are also dog owners themselves. “If she didn’t (own a dog), she wouldn’t get good pictures,” said Kelly of her decision to hire photographer Blair deLaubenfels to shoot her wedding. Aaron Horton, who videotaped her wedding, also knew how important it was to make Koby the co-star to the couple. “They all knew he was the love of my life,” she said.

When the wedding was over, Koby’s involvement was a treasured memory. Kelly preserved his foliage collar her florist had created, knowing flowers would not have worked for this boy. “He’d be very embarrassed. He’s very masculine,” said Kelly, who didn’t even keep her bouquet.

When the bride and groom checked out of the inn, guests had left notes for them. “Every one of them commented that the dog was so great,” recalled Kelly.

As weddings are becoming more personal and individualized than ever before, and as dogs are increasingly integral members of their owners’ lives—traveling and tagging along to the office with many—it seems fitting that more couples are including their four-legged counterparts in their most memorable day.

“So much of what weddings are about is incorporating family and community,” explained Blair deLaubenfels, who is also cofounder of Junebug Weddings, an exclusive Seattle wedding resource and online magazine. “What better way to incorporate family than to involve the most precious members, dogs?”

Blair and Junebug partners Kim Bamberg and Christy Weber are all wedding photographers who have shot many successful nuptials with canines involved. Of all the ways to include a pet in a wedding, photos are the most common. From engagement announcements to formal shots after the ceremony, dogs can enhance and personalize photographs.

Kim always lets the owner direct the dog, which has led to some wonderful shots of brides interacting with their dogs, she said. As with taking photos of kids, it’s important to know how dogs respond to get their attention, and to take lots of shots very quickly until you get a good one.

Couples who choose to include their dog in their wedding usually have well-trained dogs and always know their dog’s limitations, said Blair. “Owners know the level their dog can handle,” she said. Even still, dogs are animals, and as such, can be unpredictable. Luckily, even unexpected actions lighten the mood.

Kim recalls one ceremony held at a riverfront home in Issaquah. “My favorite part was when the dog was done with his ‘duties’ bringing the rings down the aisle, he went and ran through the river. It was such a dog thing to do,” she said. From peeing on a bush to bounding off after a bird, a dog’s actions create funny memories.

“They add this totally adorable and sentimental aspect to weddings,” said Blair. “Of all the dozen or so weddings I’ve seen with dogs, it’s always a positive thing.”

The beloved pet of a bride Kim worked with passed away just before her July wedding. “They had been so close and she had hoped to have her dog in the wedding,” she said. She ended up having the florist incorporate her dog’s tags and collar into the handle of her bouquet so her pet was with her in memory on that special day.

Both Blair and Kim have been to dog-friendly receptions too where guests were invited to bring dogs to outdoor gatherings.

Local wedding planner Lisa Chambers, owner of Chambers & Company Signature Events, planned an unforgettable wedding at Rosario Resort on Orcas Island last summer. The couple’s border collie, which Lisa considers “the best behaved dog ever,” wore a daisy collar all day, lined up with the wedding party, walked down the aisle by himself and sat patiently during the ceremony, then partied with the guests all night until the reception ended at 2 a.m. “He was a rock star,” she said.

Another couple, with a not so well trained standard poodle, hired a trainer six weeks before the wedding to help prepare their dog to walk down the aisle —which he did, and then proceeded to lay down and tear his floral collar apart.

Lisa suggests the following tips for including a dog in matrimonial matters: Know your dog and her limitations; designate someone to be responsible for your dog; determine ahead of time where your dog will go after the wedding; make sure a water dish is available, especially at an outdoor wedding.

Dana and Brian Marlow assigned Dana’s dad to take care of their 4-year-old basset hound, Moondoggie during and after their March 2006 wedding at the Marysville Opera House. The ceremony, which included Moondoggie as ring bearer, went off without a hitch.

The two were having a hard time choosing a ring bearer since there were no little boys in their family. Brian suggested Moondoggie and Dana was thrilled. “It was a great idea because he’s my baby,” said Dana, who ordered a doggie tuxedo off the Internet, complete with a cummerbund, bowtie and top hat. “He was all done up,” said Dana, who had a friend make a special pillow for the rings that tied onto the cummerbund.

Moondoggie didn’t seem to mind all the fuss. “He knew he looked handsome so he was good with it,” she said.

Despite his foot slipping out of the tux when he was walking upstairs for the ceremony, and having to go potty outside during the reception, Moondoggie fulfilled his role perfectly.

“It was nice having him there. It was kind of de-stressing,” said Dana. “All the guests loved it. There wasn’t a better way to do it.”

Create your wedding wish list at the CityDog Shop.

More Information
Junebug Weddings
Amelia Soper Photography
La Vie Photography

For wedding-themed dog collars, canine clothing and cool accessories, click here.
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