When Your Dog is a Member of the Wedding

 |  Jul 25th 2011  |   9 Contributions


Yesterday in New York City, in a big victory for marriage equality, the first of my home town's pioneering gay couples tied the knot. As far as I know, none of them had a dog present for the festivities, which is surprising when you consider that so many gay couples - like two of my favorite fiancs, John Bartlett and John Esty - are confirmed dog lovers.

But with marriage equality gaining ground, more and more of America's gay couples will be including their dogsas honored members of the wedding, whether as active participants (i.e. ring bearers) or witnesses or just guests.

Gay or straight, couples find that inviting a beloved dog to the matrimonial ceremony adds a poignant, personal touch to the occasion. It's a lovely, meaningfulthing to do. If I ever tie the knot again, I'm sure Iwon't say "I Do" without one of my K9s in attendance!

In Cathy Guisewite's comic strip "Cathy," Cathy and Irving included their two mutts, Electra and Vivian, in their wedding as ring-bearers and registered on The Big Day to benefit PetOrphans of Southern California, a Van Nuysshelter.

That's all well and good for fictitious couples. But in real life, managing mutts in the matrimonial ceremony requires patience and planning. Soit's high time for a discussion of how to prepare Spot for the big day. Making sure the dog stays on his or her best behaviorshould behigh on the list of prenuptial priorities.

The first order of business: Bone up on training basics. Whoever will be walking Spot down the aisle should practice by taking him or her to as many different public places as possible beforehand.

Have the dog sit and stay in busy, high-traffic areas that have no shortage of distractions, giving a reward when s/he complies. The goal is to teach Spot to stay calm while surrounded by people and activity.

Next, practice the down-stay routine, especially if your wedding ceremony will be on the long side, and your dog is a senior. For senior K9s wedding witnesses, lying down on the job is perfectly acceptable - in fact, it's adorable!

If you'd like your dog to wear a flower, bow tie, scarf, or some other form of collar adornment, put the ornament on for a few minutes every day, then reward with a treat - preferably something meaty. Repeat the process until the dog is totally oblivious to that strange object on his/her neck. This is especially important if the object in question is a real flower, for dogs' sense of smell is notoriously exquisite, and having something so pungently scented placed that close tothe snout can take some getting used to.

Fashion hounds who, like me, pooh-pooh pre-tied ties appreciate how dappera large dog looks wearing a traditionalwhite wing collar (pictured above) and gray or black silk bow tie. So consider buying a man's formal collar and tie from your friendly neighborhood haberdasher for your happy occasion. (In New York, A.T. Harris is the go-to place for this particular accessory.)

Tying the tie may take some practice, but the dashing effect - at once "individual and worldly," to quote the men's fashion authority Alan Flusser -is quite well worth it. Read Style and the Man, or any of Alan's other excellent books, for a reminder of why.

Training dogs is a piece of cake; training photographers, not so much. Many couples review their wedding pictures with mild disappointment when they realize that there are no good shots of Spot. This unfortunate outcome is easily avoided, however. Just remember to brief your wedding photographer on a list of desired dog shots - and askdog-loving friends tofocus their Canonson your canine. That way, you'll always have ample proof of how your four-footed attendant rose to theoccasion. Even if s/he calmly sat it out!

Do you have special memories of dogs at weddings, your own or someone else's? Please share them in the comments!

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