Weddings today have really gone to the dogs – literally. In recent years, it’s become increasingly common to for couples to feature their four-legged companions as part of the big day.

This trend of including pets in the wedding is due in large part to an evolution in dating, says Veronica Silva, Founder of Pawfect for You, a professional pet sitting company.

“The dating scene has completely changed,” she explains. “Nowadays, you meet somebody and date for months before you consider going exclusive. Then, after that, you might move in together, you might buy a house together, you might get a dog together – then you finally get married.”

One of the most popular ways to incorporate pets is as a member of the wedding party. There’s nothing cuter than a furry ring bearer or floppy-eared flower girl trotting down the aisle.

Of course, including pets in an event as big and important as your wedding is more complicated than simply showing up with your pup in tow.

1. Talk to your vendors

With an event as meticulously planned as a wedding, the last thing anyone wants is a surprise. So, make sure to discuss your plans to bring your pet with your vendors – especially the venue.

“I’ve heard the horror stories where the dog shows up and the venue says we don’t allow dogs on site,” says Silva. “That could have been mitigated months in advance.”

2. Designate a pet wrangler

Since the happy couple is understandably preoccupied with getting married, the big question becomes: who will watch the pet during the wedding?

“Anyone that you know and trust is really on your guest list at that point. It’s hard because you don’t want to impose on somebody to leave the reception to bring the dog back home,” says Silva. “So that’s really where we help out.”

If possible, Silva strongly recommends hiring a professional pet sitting service like Pawfect for You. “Much like you would hire your florist, it’s not something that you do every day, bringing your dog to your wedding,” she adds.

If it’s not in your budget, be sure to assign a specific person to be your pet handler and provide specific instructions about where to be and when.

3. Think through all the little details

Put together a packing list to ensure none of your pets’ essentials, like food, treats, poop bags and a water bowl, get left behind. As common sense as these items may be to a pet parent, they’re easy to overlook in the craziness of a wedding.

One of Silva’s sitters, for example, forgot to bring water bowls for her two pups the day of her own wedding. “So they had them drinking water of out champagne glasses.”

Silva also recommends dressing your pet to the nines for the occasion. Take them to the groomers to ensure their fur is clean and fluffed; buy a new collar and shiny nametag to feature in photos.

One detail many owners overlook: the leash. “When I get on calls with clients, I ask ‘what leash are you going to give us the day of?’” she says. “You’re paying thousands of dollars for pictures. Don’t give me the ratty leash that you’ve used for the last eight years.”

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