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Your wedding or vow renewal ceremony is a magical event, no doubt about it, and so many couples are increasingly including their pets in their ceremonies, even their elopements, which is wonderful. As I write this, I freely admit it, I am picturing Julia Roberts and Richard Gere riding off into the sunset in ‘Runaway Bride’ and James Fleet at the end of ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ standing happily with his bride and faithful old Labrador outside the family Pile, but you get the idea, right?

Movies aside, your day has got to evolve around what you want, but there are times when we can’t always get what we want exactly the way we would want it, so make a list of things you need to take into consideration before you buy that bow tie for Fido the Wonder Dog or that sparkly brow band for that impossible prima donna of a mare.

Cat at a Scottish wedding by a Scottish celebrant

Does your venue welcome pets?

It may not always be possible to bring your pet to your venue, especially a horse, so, the first things to do is check out whether your venue is animal friendly; pretty basic stuff.

Consider the distance:

The venue you’ve chosen loves animals and more than happy to accommodate your four legged friends’ needs; the next question to consider is, will your pet be okay for travelling. If they’re not happy travelling any distance in the car, is it worth subjecting them to a long haul? Also, if we’re talking about an elderly animal, how will they handle the journey.

You also need to remember, once they are at the venue, they will have to then cope not only with a strange location but with the excitement of the day. Will this stress them? Do they like being surrounded by noise, children, strangers and strange places? Even the most laid back of animals, when subjected to a lot of noise, bustle and, potentially, too many people, can have meltdowns. Do you really want to put them through this?

Even if you are planning a more intimate, laid back style of day, with fewer guests, you still need to take this into consideration.

Think about the entertainments you want to incorporate:

This is a day of celebration but your pets still need to be top of the list when planning your entertainments. They will need to be taken care of all day. How will you arrange this? What will you have in place for them at the reception? They need to be fed and watered every bit as badly, or more, than your other guests. Also, they’re not likely to want to be dancing the night away, but will need to go for the odd comfort break, what do you have in place for this? Will you have a series of pet sitters among our guests or will the venue offer a pet sitting service?

Are you considering having fireworks at the end of the evening? Will your furry friend appreciate this?

All these details need to be taken into consideration when you are looking at including your pets.

Couple at a Scots wedding performed by Scots celebrant

Having your pets with you in spirit, if not in body:

You may decide it would be unfair subjecting your pet to all this but you would still like to have them included in the day in some form. There’s also the possibility you do not actually own a pet but love animals such as squirrels, badgers, wolves, meerkats and would like to incorporate them as a motif to your day. Why not? This is your day, go for it!

There is also the possibility that sadly, your beloved pet is no longer here. There is nothing more bittersweet than losing a beloved animal; they were as much a part of your life as any other member of your family and it’s only natural you would like to remember them on your day so, no matter the reason why your faithful friend isn’t going to be there in person on your day, there’s absolutely no reason why they can’t be there symbolically.

Embrace tradition but make it your own

I make no secret of the fact I love working with couples who want to explore and incorporate ancient traditions into their ceremony and hand-fasting is undoubtedly one of the most popular. Not only is it a wonderful way of really underlining the commitment you have for each other; it can be a fantastic means of bringing your pet into your day.

Hand Fasting Options:

The first thing to remember is, hand-fasting cords do not have to be made of any specific material. Imagine using one of your horses’ lead ropes – I use the plural because I have yet to meet any equine addict who is content to only have one lead rope; inevitably there are always a few stashed away that are beyond any practical use but are still kept safely stored, just in case… The same applies to dog leads…. Show me an owner who doesn’t have a couple stowed in the house.

Likewise old collars. Who doesn’t have the odd cat or dog collar or old, broken brow bands from horse head collars lurking in cupboards or boxes? With a little imagination, and a good dose of humour, they can all be given a new lease of life as part of your cords. The same goes for old name tags and bells. Woven through the cords they add their own charm, humour and magic to your ceremony.

You can make your own cords, or have them made for you, and this is so much fun. Again, from a horse lover’s point of view, imagine weaving a few strands of your horses’ mane or tail through the the cords, or even a strand of baling twine. That is guaranteed to create one seriously indestructible knot!

Say it with Flowers:

The same goes for your flowers. Again, anything, with a bit of imagination and sense of fun, can be incorporated into them. How much fun would it be to have name tags or bells included in the buttonholes, or woven into the bouquets? You have a beloved parrot? Why not add a few colourful feathers. This is your day, have fun.

Let there be Light:

If you wish to include unity candles, why not have candles made with the image of your pet in them?

Sands of Time:

Sand Ceremony? Why not blend the sands in a glass that has been engraved with their name?

Who can top a cake!

Your cake? Again, anything goes. From the Topper to the finishes, your best friend can be remembered. Think pets, think flowers.

The Sky’s the Limit:

When planning your wedding day, there are no rules so embrace the animal lover inside you. How about incorporating images of your pets in photographic place cards for your guests when sitting down at the reception or, if you are choosing a more relaxed, buffet style meal, photographic cards detailing what the dishes are.

For your favours, why not use name tags or bells tied around the bags you give to your guests? Why not give a cuddly toy in the shape of your chosen animal to your guests as a favour? Who doesn’t love a cuddly toy!

No matter what you choose or why you chose them, these objects will hold so many memories for you, they may possibly be tinged with sadness as you remember an animal you loved that has now passed away, but, more importantly, they will be full of love and guarantee your pets, or favourite animal, will have been an integral part of your day and the memories you have will last a lifetime.

Couple with horses at a Scots wedding