Pets at weddings: cute or cat-astrophe?

I now pronounce you husband and… woof? If your pet is part of the family, you might be tempted to invite them to the wedding. Sarah Gillespie weighs up the reasons fur and against

Honesty is the best policy. That’s why the Valentine’s card I sent my other half recently had the message: ‘I love you almost as much as I love the cat’. If you’re getting married, it’s because you’ve found true love – but what if both of you already share your heart (and your bed, probably) with a four-legged soulmate? And who is more deserving of a place at your wedding: a) some distant relative who’s never met your other half, or b) the pet you adore?

If you’re prepared to break that golden Hollywood rule (‘Never work with children or animals!’)  to accommodate your cousin’s screaming weans, why should anyone insist that you leave your fur baby at home? That being said, even as a flag-waving member of the Pets Are Cooler Than Kids club, I accept that some creatures are naturally more suited to weddings than others. Let’s call them party animals (sorry).

A loyal pooch can easily be trained to act as ringbearer, but even the best cat in the world is unlikely to give you any more than a condescending side-eye stare when you plead with it to perform a task. Snakes and lizards make famously docile pets, but it’s a toss-up between them and rodents for the title of ‘most likely to cause your guests to run screaming from the ceremony room’.

You’ll also need to consider the venue. Will they be cool with your dog running about? Even the most chilled-out chihuahua can turn into a Tasmanian Devil in a busy room with lots of noise, food and tipsy humans. Talk to the venue’s wedding co-ordinator and outline exactly what role you see your pet playing. Even if they’re not allowed inside, you may still be able to reach a compromise.

Susan and David Clelland were one couple who couldn’t imagine getting married without their dog there. Although nine-year-old boxer Balou wasn’t permitted inside their venue (The Vu, in Bathgate), he was allowed into the grounds for the photographs. “He’s in all my favourite pictures,” smiles Susan. “We’d had a pre-wedding shoot on the beach with our photographer Karl Double and we brought Balou along so he could meet Karl before the big day – I’d definitely recommend doing this.”

*High res CREDKarl Double

David, Balou and Susan on the big day

She bought Balou a collar, bow tie and buttonhole to wear, which won a lot of compliments from the guests. “He was very well behaved. All our friends and family are used to Balou coming everywhere with us, so nobody was shocked to see him there on the day,” she says. “In fact, I think some of them half-expected Balou to be David’s best man!”

Getting the dog to organise the stag do would be the stuff of legend, but David reluctantly went for a human in the end. Nevertheless, as Susan puts it, “If your pet is a part of your family, they should absolutely be included in your big day.”

Amy and Michael Guthrie were another couple who wrestled with this sentiment. Michael had his heart set on their cats Gizmo and Luigi being at their wedding, but logistically it just wasn’t possible. “I wanted to find a fun way of including them somehow,” recalls Amy. Searching for readings, she came across a website where you could commission poet Rebecca Strecker to write you a personali­sed cat poem.

Figuring it was worth a try, she contacted Rebecca and sent her lots of information about herself and Michael, their wedding and the cats. The groom had no idea until bridesmaid Olivia stepped forward to read the poem mid-ceremony!

“I imagined that everyone would think it was cheesy – Olivia confessed she did, but, being a good bridesmaid, she was happy to do it for us – but the cats are part of our family so we had to find a fun way of including them somehow,” says Amy.

Hand-made silk flower Cupid collar, from £23.95, Boutique Blooms & Royal Stewart tartan dog kilt, from £28.50, Dugz

Hand-made silk flower Cupid collar, from £23.95, Boutique Blooms; Royal Stewart tartan dog kilt, from £28.50, Dugz

If you can’t bring your pet along to your wedding, there’s still scope for precious mantelpiece-bound snaps. Your photographer could capture some pictures at the house before you head out (just remember that claws plus tulle equals tragedy). Or, if you’d both like to be there and you are properly crazy about your cat or daft about your dog, you could organise a post-wedding shoot in all your finery.

Your venue might be okay with your pet coming along (best get it in writing, just in case), but there’s lots more to consider. Who will look after them? Where are they going afterwards? Is there anywhere they can take a paws (sorry, again) if it all gets too much? If you have a pet sitter or a dog walker and your wedding is reasonably close to home, why not enlist their services and ask them to pop in with your pet for an hour?

Jennifer Aniston sent her dogs Dolly and Sophie to a doggie spa before her wedding to ensure they were picture perfect, but if your budget won’t stretch to this, a quick trip to the groomers is advisable. While you’re at it, save money on bridal party outfits and copy Robbie Williams when he married Ayda Field – they had the couple’s eight dogs as their bridal party. Aw.