With over 68 percent of Americans owning a pet in 2015, it’s no surprise that one of the biggest trends today is including pets in weddings and receptions. From informal, casual celebrations, to elaborate black tie affairs, our favorite pets are being groomed, accessorized and even dressed up so as not to miss the special day.

For Michelle Lee and her fiancée it was important to add some unique and personal elements to their wedding ceremony. Michelle gave special care in planning the day, and envisioned a captivating experience for her guests. She even wore her favorite golf shoes under her wedding dress and included her revered Boston Terrier, Chloe, in the ceremony, wearing a sparkling crystal collar.

“I couldn’t imagine not including Chloe in our wedding,” Michelle remembers. “The three of us would go to the dog parks, hiking, and even watching a movie at home, she was always there between us.”

An overwhelming number of brides and grooms agree; and it’s particularly true for millennials, who have especially strong attachments to their pets and do not hold back on making expensive purchases. This could explain why millennials have a major impact on the $59 billion dollar pet industry. In fact, according to Wakefield Research, more than 76 percent of those surveyed revealed they are more likely to splurge on their pets than themselves.

Stephanie Barnes DeYoung agrees. When thinking back to her countryside wedding, she remembers dancing with her adored Jack Russell Terrier, Tripper, a gift she had received from her future husband when he was just a pup.

“He was part of the family and we simply took him everywhere. In fact, he was my husband’s first child,” she says. “We took so many incredible pictures that caught the unforgettable moments with Tripper that I will always cherish.” Stephanie fully expects her children to include their pets when they get married as well. “It’s going to be a tradition for us.”

Award winning photographer Christopher Nealon, of Christopher’s Studio, understands why brides and grooms today want to include pets in their wedding.

“The purpose of creating special memories is to be surrounded by those you love, and who bring a smile to your face,” Christopher told MiLLENNiAL. “Pets do this every day so it’s fun and inspiring to capture this unique bond.”

Whether you have a furry or feathered friend, there are many ways to include your pet to give your wedding a unique and personal feel. After all, when you think about those you want to share this time with, isn’t your beloved pet at the top of that list?

Advice From A Seasoned Wedding Photographer

Pets in Weddings- millennials and marriage

In his over 15-year career, Christopher has had ample experience photographing pets in weddings. He has several recommendations when planning your wedding with your pet.

“It goes without saying that not every pet is suited to having a key role in the ceremony,” he adds. The number one rule? Christopher suggests “Keep some pet treats handy!”

It’s important to ask the following questions before adding your pet to the wedding party:

  • Is your pet comfortable around guests?
  • Are your guests comfortable around pets? What about your wedding party?
  • Is your pet obedient? Well behaved?
  • Does your venue and officiant allow pets?
  • Will there be a person designated to walk, chaperone, and get your pet from place to place?

Christopher notes that to create a successful portrait with your pets is to simply let them be themselves. While they can be easily distracted, he says it’s all part of the experience.

“A simple whistle can perk up your dog let’s say, and in that brief moment, you can get a great shot.”

Pets in Weddings- millennials and marriage

However, if you think your pet may not be a good fit for your wedding, that doesn’t mean they can’t be included. Here are a few clever ideas that will personalize your wedding while keeping your pet involved albeit from a distance.

  • Include your pet in a custom wedding cake topper.
  • Hand out wedding favors, better referred to as “doggy bags” with cookies from a specialty bakery designed to resemble your pet.
  • Include your pet in the engagement photo or “Save the Date” cards. In fact, Christopher says this is a very popular way to involve your pet because couples have control over the location. He suggests selection an area where the pet is familiar.
  • Carry a photo of your pet in your bouquet.
  • An image, drawing or photo of your pet can be used for table cards and thank you notes.

Including Pets In The Official Ceremony

Pets in Weddings- Millennial Magazine

Four legged ring bearers, flower dogs, pet birds in decorated cages, even a cherished animal walking the bride down the aisle, or sitting next to the groom as “Best Man,” are just a few of the clever ideas to consider when incorporating your pet into your wedding.

Cindy Prince-Manicini fondly recalls how her two Papillion pups almost stole the show at her wedding.

“Our wedding and reception were held outdoors in a beautiful rose garden. I walked down the aisle holding my pups and our male usher was holding their leashes.”

Cindy remembers well the reaction of her guests. “My wedding was several years ago, and this was a particularly unique thing to do at the time. But most of my friends are dog people and I know they got a kick out of seeing our pups at the wedding.  It was a great way to personalize our celebration.”

When determining your pet’s role, make sure it is appropriate for the type of ceremony you are having, and remember to be flexible. Always have a back-up plan if your pet doesn’t want to cooperate. Outdoor ceremonies are often more conducive, since pets may be more relaxed. If your venue is familiar to your dog or cat, then all the better, but if not, make sure they visit the site just before the big day. Include them in the rehearsal as well so they can practice their special part.

Dressing Up Pets in Weddings

As if you didn’t have enough to think about such as the bridal party attire, the choice of flowers, the type of music and a million other details, you must consider if and how you want to dress up your pet. For most couples, the answer is a resounding yes! What could be cuter than your dog dressed up in a doggy tux? Or a cat wearing a collar with a festive bowtie?

Pets in Weddings- Millennial Magazine- millennials and marriageJodie Vigor, a floral designer, noticed the growing trend of pets, particularly dogs, being included in wedding ceremonies. As a result, Cupid Collars was born.

“I’m a huge dog lover, and I found that when designing flowers for weddings, more and more couples wanted something for their pets. With Cupid Collars, I create custom collars, designed to match the wedding theme,” Jodie tells MiLLENNiAL.

Using high quality silk and foam flowers with luxury satin ribbons, the collars have a discreet Velcro fastening that attaches to the pets current collar to ensure comfort.

“The silk flowers are a great alternative to pets wearing fresh flowers as they are far more durable, and there are no worries about allergies,” Jodie adds. “You want your pet to be comfortable, and my products allow this.”

Here are some popular ideas for including pets in weddings that will give your guests something to talk about:

  • If your dog or puppy will be a ring bearer, a classic black and white tuxedo vest with a flower boutonniere is a timeless look. Include a small pillow attached to the collar to safely carry the rings.
  • If your pet is not one to be dressed up, a simple leash adorned with flowers or ribbon is a classic accessory. Another idea is for your cat or dog to wear a blue collar that can serve as the “something blue.”
  • A wreath around the collar that matches the bride’s bouquet and colors of attendants’ dresses blends the wedding party together.
  • Do you have a flower dog? A pooch with a tutu is a must!
  • A good idea however, is to keep the attire minimal so it’s easy for a pet to wear. Don’t allow them to wear it for too long, just enough for the ceremony and of course, the photos! Make sure all accessories are safe, and not too tight or uncomfortable. After all, you don’t want anything to threaten your pet.

Including your pet in your wedding nuptials is a millennial trend that has staying power. Pets in weddings create priceless memories that not only can be shared with your guests, but also complete your family circle. And frankly, your pet probably wouldn’t have it any other way!