When your dog is a part of your family, it can be hard to imagine leaving them behind when you get married. Especially if you’ve raised your dog together, having your four-legged child by your side on the most important day of your life can make it even more special. If you want to tie the knot with your furry companion by your side, there are a few things you’ll need to know first.
As an elopement photographer, Certified Vet Tech, and fellow pet parent, I’ve got the scoop on keeping your pup safe and happy, and some tips for planning a dog/pet friendly elopement. I also have a whole guide to visiting POrtland, Oregon with your dog – so check that out too!
As well, I am very passionate about educating all wedding vendors of the importance of keeping pets safe and happy through understanding pet’s needs and behaviors. i hope that this elopement and wedding industry can use these tips to provide better care for clients pets and make it a more pet-friendly experience!
Choosing a Dog-Friendly Elopement or Wedding Location
Step one to planning a dog friendly elopement with your pooch is to find a dog friendly elopement location! Before you commit to one spot, do some research and make sure you’ll be able to bring your pets.
National Parks and dogs
Most national parks, for example, aren’t dog friendly at all. They’ll allow dogs in parking lots, paved walkways, overlooks, and campgrounds (basically anywhere that cars can go), but other than that, dogs usually can’t be on the trails or anywhere else in the park.
If you are wanting to elope in a National Park with your furry friend, check out other options than hiking trails like logging roads, forest service roads, or choose a more “pet friendly” National Park such as Great Sand Dunes, Acadia, Petrified Forest, or White Sands.
National Forests and State Parks
National forests and State Parks on the other hand, almost always allow dogs on the trails – as long as they’re on a leash. As an added bonus, they tend to be much less crowded than national parks, and are usually less strict about where you can have an elopement ceremony!
Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
Bureau of Land Management, or otherwise known as BLM are great options for pet friendly elopements. Most of these public lands allow pets and are much less crowded than nearby national parks. The best part is that these lands are usually located near national parks – so you can get the best of both worlds by splitting your time between both spaces!
Another great option for dog friendly locations are at your lodging location. Choosing a unique or well decorated Air BnB, VRBO, resort, or hotel is a great option to include them for photos. Especially if your pet is not going to be safe in the outdoors like birds, cats, or exotic pets – taking photos with them at your lodging location is a perfect place!
Remember to Check Rules and Regulations
When you’re looking at potential elopement locations, make sure to research if they allow pets! Rules vary from park to park and sometimes even trail to trail, so always double check. After you’ve confirmed that your fur baby is allowed to join, make sure that they will be safe to do so!
Ideas For Including Your Dog in Your Elopement or wedding
Whether your pet will be present for your wedding day or you will be incorporating them, here are a few fun ways to get your dog involved in the big day!
Get your dog Wedding Attire
Most dogs aren’t into wearing a three piece suit (but if yours is… go for it!), but that doesn’t mean they can’t get a little dressed up for the occasion. A bow tie is always an adorable addition, or a floral collar. You can ask your florist to make one for your dog to match the bouquet!
Make your dog Your Ring Bearer or Flower girl/boy
Ring bearers aren’t bears, but they can definitely be dogs! Traditional weddings have a flower girl, and so can yours! Attach the rings to your dog’s collar or load up a basket with flower petals and have your pup carry it – you’ll have everyone melting from the cuteness!
Create a “First Look” With Your Pup
We all know that a standard first look involves you and your partner seeing each other in wedding attire for your first time, but what if you broke that tradition with your beloved pet? It can be such a fun and cute way to get their reaction to you and vice versa.
Have Your Dog Sign Your Marriage License
This one might be surprising – but yes, your dog can be your witness! But only in some states. Marriage licenses always have room for two witnesses to sign, but some states only require one, or even none! Double check the marriage laws of the state you’re eloping in, but if that’s the case, you can bring an ink pad and have your fur baby stamp their paw print on the witness line!
Colorado and Hawaii don’t require witnesses at all, while Nevada only requires one. You can check the requirements for every US state here to find the best location for your dog friendly elopement!
Give Fido the Camera
Fido probably won’t be replacing your professional elopement photographer, but putting a Go Pro camera on them can get you some unique footage! This will be super fun to watch, and you’ll see your elopement day the way your dog did!
Bring a Photo or Cardboard Cutout of your dog
Sometimes the elopement location you choose doesn’t allow you to bring your pet safely and that’s okay! It doesn’t mean you can’t make them a part of your day. Bring a photo of your dog and take some photos that way or you can even be a little silly and bring a cardboard cut out of them!
Where to Get Your Pet Cardboard Cutout:
Make Them a Part of Your Attire
Putting your dog’s or pet’s face on your wedding attire can be really cute and make it feel like they are there with you all day long. They could be on your socks, tie, cufflinks, jacket, blanket, or even underwear! Check out some of my favorite sites to get your pets on your clothes here:
- Pop Your Pup (Apparel)
- Pup Socks (Socks and Blankets)
- Pictures Art (Underwear)
- Anavia Design (Cuff links)
- Purple Rose House (Ties)
Keeping Your Dog Safe During Your Elopement
I know safety is always the number one priority when it comes to your four legged child, and your elopement day is no different. Here are some tips for keeping your dog safe!
Keep your dog Leashed
Even if your dog is a well behaved angel, it’s important to always keep them on a leash unless permitted. You never know how other dogs will react, or you may even run into an animal on your elopement day hike! Your pup probably doesn’t have a lot of experience fighting off bears, so keep them close and keep them safe.
Bring the Proper Supplies
Your dog will need a few things, especially if you’re hiking or incorporating a physical activity! Here are a few things to remember to pack with you.
- Food & water + dishes
- Treats (to bribe your pup to pose for photos)
- Paw protection (if you might run into snow); we recommend these at my vet clinic
- Leash & harness/collar –> Check out these cute macrame ones **Make sure to bring or buy leashes that are neutral color or match your wedding attire. This will make a difference in your photos. I always recommend slip leashes instead of retractable ones as they look bulky in photos and are harder to control your dog**
- Poo bags; I prefer these ones from Amazon
- Optional: Fido Pro Pack (for emergencies)
- Accessories: Bow ties, floral collar, handkerchief, or even a veil!
Remember to practice leave no trace when you are in the outdoors with your dog
Just because your dog is tagging along, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t practice the leave no trace principles. Making sure you recreate respectably is important so that you and your fur babies can enjoy these special places in the future.
dispose of your dog’s feces properly
ALWAYS be sure to clean up your pet’s feces whenever you are outside. it may not seem like a big deal if you are out on the trail, but once one person leaves it – others think its okay.
not only is it unsightly and smelly, but it can actually spread deadly diseases like the parvovirus and intestinal parasites – which can live for years in the environment.
Lastly, always pack it out! Never leave a doggie waste bag behind. just because they are “eco-friendly” or “biodegradable” does not mean you can leave it behind. They still take years to decompose, and in the meantime can contaminate your local drinking water!
how to Be Prepared to keep your fur baby safe
My number tip to keeping your dog safe on your elopement, is to make sure you Do your research before deciding if they should attend your elopement!
Research your hiking trail or elopement location
If you’re hiking, check if there are any tough rock scrambles or spots that might be difficult for non-humans. It’s important to bring up your dog’s hiking ability before deciding on a location!
Stay alert for wildlife, mystery plants that your pup might be tempted to eat, and anything else that might distract your fur baby.
Properly trAIN AND EXERCISE BEFORE
IF YOU ARE HAVING YOUR DOGS DO ANY TYPE OF PHYSICAL ACTIVITY, EVEN IF YOUR DOG IS YOUNG AND HEALTHY, MAKE SURE THEY TRAIN WEEKS TO MONTHS BEFORE YOUR ELOPEMENT DAY IF YOU ARE. AN EXCESSIVE GAME OF FETCH AT THE BEACH OR LONG TRAIL CAN MAKE THEM INCREDIBLY SORE IF THEIR BODIES ARE NOT CONDITIONED WELL.
IF THEY ARE NOT ABLE TO HIKE OR DO BIG ACTIVITIES – THAT’S OKAY! SNUGGLES AT YOUR AIRBNB OR SHARING A YUMMY TREAT TOGETHER CAN BE A FANTASTIC OPTION. You know your dog best, so trust your instincts and decide if bringing them along is the best decision. IT’S ALWAYS BEST TO KEEP THEM SAFE!
Getting Great Photos with Your Dog on Your Wedding Day
Having your dog tag along for your wedding day and including them in photos can be a challenge, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get great photos with them! As a Fear-Free Certified Veterinary Technician, I’ve been through hours of training and education on understanding animal behavior and how to make them comfortable in new situations.
So here’s my tips to getting great photos with your pets!
1. Exercise your dog
A lot of photographers don’t understand that most dogs will just jump right into holding still and taking photos with their humans. Letting your pup run around at your location or taking them on a long walk/hike can be a great way to make them feel free.
Your wedding day will also not reflect a normal routine for them and a lot of times they’ll be hanging back at your lodging location or napping in their kennel. So, it’s important to incorporate their exercise into your wedding timeline. Think about strolling along the beach near your cabin or even visiting an off-leash dog park where your dog can explore with you without crowds.
Exercise is extremely important for dogs and will result in them being more engaged with you and your photographer when picture time comes. It’s also a great opportunity to get those candid shots with your dog!
2. Incorporate Their Favorite Treat or Toy
After you’ve let your dog play around and get some physical activity done – be sure to make this day special for them too! Bring their favorite treats or toys along with you so that your photographer can use these to their advantage during the photos. This also helps engage your dog and makes them feel extra loved today.
This could look like letting them lick out of the peanut butter jar or throwing their frisbee in the backyard of your lodging location.
3. Provide Mental Stimulation with Tricks and Commands
Although obedience training starts a long time before taking photos with them, having the basic commands of “Sit, Stay, and Come” are extremely helpful in getting those adorable shots of you and your pup. It’s also a great way to provide mental stimulation to your pet which helps them get their “energy out” in a different way than just exercise alone.
This is especially true for puppies as they have much more energy than an adult dog does!
If you are looking for resources on training your dog before your wedding day, check out this info here:
*If you decide to bring more than one pet to your elopement, I like to bring my husband along for those pet portraits. This way I can focus on photographing you all while he will hold the treats, toys, and help with positioning. It’s such a great help and really does make a difference in your photo experience!*
4. Let your dog Warm Up to strangers & their environment
As mentioned before, your wedding day is not a typical day for you or your dog. Their entire schedule will feel different to them and especially if you have traveled long distances. It’s important to arrive at least 1 day before to let them get adjusted to the new schedule and environment to calm their stress.
It’s also a great idea (if your schedule permits) to arrange a time for your dog to meet your photographer before your elopement day. This is especially true if your dog is anxious or scared of strangers.
5. Let your dogs Be Themselves
A lot of the time, couples are solely focused on getting their dog to look at the camera the entire time. That’s exhausting for your pet and for yourself and is unrealistic.
I focus on capturing raw and candid photos throughout your entire elopement day and this is still true when incorporating pets into your wedding. I’ll be sure to get you some amazing images where you are all smiling and looking adorable, but I’ll also allow your dog to just be themselves.
Sometimes that means letting them run alongside you for “break time”, sniffing around, or even letting them explore on leash while you two are cuddling. I think this is a great way to show off their personality too!
how to incorporate a pet into your wedding without them there
sometimes when you choose to elope, you can’t always bring your furry friend along. maybe they aren’t great for the outdoor adventures and travel or they have now passed away.
so, here’s a few ways you can honor your pet or still have an animal-friendly elopement!
pet-friendly elopement ideas without them present
- facetime sometime throughout your day
- bring a framed photo of them
- get a pet pocket square
- put them on your socks
ways to honor your pet on your wedding day
- place their collar around your wedding bouquet
- embroider their name into your elopement attire
- lay your framed photo of them to have at your ceremony
- include memories of them in your vows
enjoy an animal excursion instead
whether you can’t bring your pet to your elopement, or you don’t have a pet but love animals – don’t forget that you can still have an animal-filled adventure!
this could look like horseback riding, snorkeling, visiting a llama farm, backpacking with goats, or doing a whale watching tour.
Planning Your Dog Friendly Elopement
You’re in luck! As an elopement photographer, my job is to help with dog friendly location recommendations, getting the right permits, and building a timeline. But along with being your adventure guide and taking photos of the big day, I’m also ready with an animal CPR/First Aid Certification as Certified Veterinary Technician and Fear Free Certified. I’ve had over 6 years of experience working as a vet tech – so your pet will be in good hands.
It’s important to decide if you are bringing your pet to your elopement, so make sure to let me know as soon as possible so I can get all the logistics and tips to you right away!
Bringing your dog along can feel overwhelming, so I’ve provided a sample timeline of what your all-day dog friendly elopement day could look like below:
- 8:00 am – Cook breakfast together
- 9:30 am – take a walk/play fetch
- 10:30 am – Getting ready
- 11:30 am – Create a first look with you and your dog
- 1:00 pm – Enjoy a picnic + kayaking
- 5:00 pm – ceremony
- 5:30 pm – Sunset portraits
- 7:30 pm – End with a private chef catering
All-Pet Friendly Inclusive
I know dogs are most popular for couple’s elopements, but don’t forget about including your other pets like cats, snakes, birds, horses, etc. I have extensive knowledge in all kinds of pets and would LOVE to have them be a part of your day.
Here’s a photo of my sweet hedgehog, mango, that has now passed.
Remember that each pet is unique in what they are comfortable and safe with. If this means leaving your pet at home instead of traveling to your elopement with you, that is more than okay. Their happiness and safety is the most important thing! As you can see, that doesn’t mean they can’t still be apart of your wedding day.
whether or not you choose to bring them along, let’s chat more about how we can make your elopement day animal-friendly!
Ready to get started? Contact me!