Downeast Dog News
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Considering a Canine Wedding Attendant?

By Susan Spisak | Jul 01, 2021
Photo by: Joshua Atticks Photography Matthew, Alan and their Goldendoodle, Henry

Congratulations, you’re engaged and preparing for the big day. You want a memorable event that says “you.” Including your favorite canine can bring a touch of joy and whimsy that’s undeniably unique. After all, what could be more special than having your fur bestie by your side? While not all traditional indoor venues are going to allow your favorite boy, there are creative ways to incorporate him as area couples have done.

Portlander Victoria Royall treasures her 9-year-old Goldendoodle named Griswold. “Yes, just like Clark,” she said, referring to the funny lead character in the zany Christmas Vacation movie. While he was initially her dog, he has a great relationship with her fiancé, James Packard, and they adore him together.

The couple is getting married in front of one hundred guests at Newagen Seaside Inn in Southport this August. Since the Inn isn’t dog-friendly, Victoria, a Senior Grove Guide for Grove Collaborative, made sure their boy will have a lasting presence in their memories. “He’s our best friend, and since he is not able to be in the wedding, we wanted to make sure he was still included in some way.”

So, with the engagement photos scheduled for a bright spring day at Ferry Beach State Park, Griswold was shined up and rode along for the shoot. She joked, “He also would have been very upset if we went to the beach without him.” He was a star, and the pictures prove how well-behaved he is. “If he was going to be in the wedding, I have no doubts that he would be terrific. He’s the sweetest guy and super laidback. He would just want to make sure everyone there was his best friend in hopes of getting some extra pets and maybe some cheese.”

Matthew Alan Alonzo and Alan Matthew Roy tied the knot three years ago after being together for six years. (Matt was quick to notice their name connection when they met, “I took this as a sign he was my person.”) The guys, who live in the Back Cove neighborhood in Portland, acquired their Goldendoodle, Henry, together. He quickly became their universe, their child. Henry goes everywhere with them, especially their Big Boyd Lake camp where he loves to swim, so it was imperative that he be included.

“Our entire wedding strategy revolved around Henry,” explained Matt, who works as a Principal Customer Success Manager for a software firm. Starting with the magnetic “Save the Date” that depicted Henry with the caption, “My Dads Are Getting Married,” to their pet-friendly venue. “We chose the Inn by the Sea (in Cape Elizabeth) due to their progressive dog policies.”

The wedding, with one hundred and fifty guests (many were out-of-state family), was on the Inn’s lawn. Henry walked with his dads down the aisle - the couple had a two-handled leash to symbolize their family unit. In addition to a monogramed “Best Man” harness, Henry sported a lobster-themed collar and bowtie. Their handsome boy sat quietly through the vows, was attentive for the pictures, and made an appearance at the reception. Matt said the occasion, especially with the inclusion of Henry, was “simply spectacular.” Their photographer, Joshua Atticks, owner of Joshua Atticks Wedding Photography, understood their desire to include their pet, "They really are precious creatures in our lives."

Kayla and Mike Sterling were married this past March at The Glen House at Sunday River in Newry. A three-night destination wedding event, the nine-bedroom pet-friendly estate had plenty of room for their sixteen guests as well as Tesla, the bride’s 4-year-old Pitt mix, and Grizz (as in Grizzly Bear), the groom’s 9-year-old Lab-Chow mix. While their “fur babies” didn’t have official roles in their “low-key” affair, they were honored guests and had festive floral collars to match Kayla’s bouquet.

“It was great having them there,” said Kayla, who is a pharmacist at MMC in Scarborough. After all, when the couple met three years ago, their love of dogs drew them together. And the energetic Tesla and happy Grizz have become quite the chums, often sharing the same bed, chasing tennis balls together, and enjoying their hikes at the Lake Sebago family camp – the couple’s temporary residence until they find their dream home.

I Do’s and Don’ts

Don’t include your pal if he’s skittish or barks. As important as it may be to have him part of your big day, you don't want him to upstage you and your partner.

Do check with interesting sites that will allow your bud – think rustic barns, farms, gardens, and wineries. If you choose a spot that isn’t dog-friendly, think outside the box. Have your ensemble portraits off-site or include him in your engagement shoot as Tori and James did.

Don’t overlook an intimate backyard ceremony, especially if you’ve put off the tying the knot this past year. A plus – your canine is on his home turf and is probably familiar with the guests. To amp the happiness, send an evite to other friends and include them virtually. Once you say “I do,” they can toast you from afar.

Do look for pet-savvy photographers – the shoot will go smoother. Debra Bell, owner of Bell’s Furry Friends Photography, said to choose one who specializes in pets and/or has weddings with dogs in their portfolio. “Tell the photographer that you’ll be including Fido and how you envision doing so,” she added.

Don’t forget to notify guests that your dog is in the wedding party – some may be allergic or fearful. Perhaps add a line to your “Save the Date.” Or choose a whimsical keepsake like Matt and Alan did – the dog message was subtle, but clear.

Do dress him festively. “From fresh flowers affixed to a collar, to specialty items created by a dog attire company, coordinate your pet’s look with your wedding and its style,” Debra recommended.

Do decide what role your dog will hold, be it a flower carrier, ring bearer, or guest. Choose a handler or dog walker who is comfortable with your dog and can transport him to and from the ceremony. (It may alleviate stress if someone else is caring for your bestie.) Remember the basics of water, a bowl, and coordinated-colored leash.

Do treat him to a pre-wedding shampoo, bath, and nail trim, said Debra. “This is especially important for breeds that have special grooming needs. After all, you’ll make sure you look great, so shouldn’t Fido?”

Don’t forget to exercise him more often the week before and the morning of the wedding. Exercised dogs are less excitable and easier to control, especially in a large group of people.