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Many lives are affected nearly every day by the presence of children and pets—some of which cannot be described.  Television shows depict and focus on how marriage is sometimes a blending of families and pets.  But how will they behave—or shall we say misbehave—at a momentous event such as a wedding?  We want to share with you some tips and professional advice from those who encounter this in the wedding industry.

The Decisions

There are some decisions concerning children, pets and your wedding.  1. Are you going to have them IN your wedding or 2. are you going to have them AT your wedding.  3. Or—both of the above.  You and your spouse-to-be—may or may not—see eye-to-eye about this subject.  Consulting with your venue about policies and your dog or cat’s temperament must be considered.  Part of the decision may focus on the unpredictability of these beloved members of your family.  And that unpredictability can sometimes be the most exciting part to include in your wedding.  Some couples opt for an “Adults Only” reception.

All Dressed Up and Ready to Cry

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One of the most adorable aspects of having children and pets in or at a wedding, is dressing them up.  There are so many cute outfits available; but buyer beware.  There are some things to look for when choosing these outfits to help minimize discomfort.  First, children for the most part, are not accustomed to such clothing (unless they participate regularly in pageants or other formal events).  Some of it can be downright uncomfortable.  Before buying a little tuxedo or fancy dress, turn the outfit inside out and examine it.  If possible, take EVERY seam and rub them against the inside of your wrist.  Check the outside as well at points that may be bothersome.  If you’re being scratched, then so can your child.  Do the same for your pet’s wedding garb.  Just because your pet has hair or fur; it doesn’t mean they can’t experience irritation.  This is a time and money saving tip so that your dog or cat (unless you clothe them regularly) doesn’t tear your cute little outfit—to pieces.

If wedding clothing does seem capable of irritation, tack some soft materials such as felt or satin—on the inside.  Cut a small piece of your dog or cat’s favorite blanket or a piece of your old clothing you can spare and add it to the garment.  They will smell something familiar to them.  It doesn’t have to be fancy.  If you like, consult a qualified seamstress or friend who sews—they can do it for you.

Dress hemlines and pant cuffs that are way too long (although cute) are a no-no.  Children tripping and getting hurt, can bring your wedding to a stand-still.  Some children and pets may “act out” simply because they are feeling itchy or being scratched.  Also, having non-staining treats available to nibble on before the wedding (or pictures) can help with hunger pangs and keeping that “best dressed” look.

A Fabulous Pet-Friendly Venue

Chris Holmes of Bridge Street Wedding Chapel (which he and his wife Mary have owned for 10 years) share their experiences:

Most wedding ceremonies will include a ring bearer and flower girl or girls depending on their ages and confidence level.  We’ve seen children who did great at rehearsal—only to have a meltdown on the day of the wedding.  We have seen the opposite as well with children doing horrible at rehearsal—only to shine at the wedding.  Children will either revel in their roles, or have stage fright which can be very scary and intimidating for them.  Once at the altar, we have some suggestions that we share with clients:

  1. Source: Holmes Photography Studio. This if the brides daughter and she had a great time
    Both parents held her at different parts of the ceremony, but she definitely enjoyed the attention!

    Depending on the age of the children, they need someone dedicated to helping them make it down the aisle.  If they do have stage fright, don’t force them.  Let them retreat to the “comfort zone” of whoever is helping them.  This should be a fun and enjoyable event for everyone—including the little ones and sometimes they just aren’t ready—and that’s okay.

  2. If they [children] make it all the way up to the wedding party on stage, that’s a plus of course.  Now you need to decide (if they are very young), will they be held by a wedding party member, stand up there on their own, or go to mom, dad, or another family member that is seated.  There is no “right” answer.  However, I do know that trying to control a child who has no interest in being controlled (on stage)—is a losing battle.  As long as there is no safety issue involved, I suggest that you let them roam around a be themselves—within reason.
  3. Cute and curious children make the ceremony even better.  If they are a complete distraction, they need to be moved to a seat by someone other than the wedding party.  If there is a flower girl or ring bearer (perhaps a bit older), sometimes it is better for them to hold the younger child during the ceremony which is touching and reinforcing.  The most important thing, is that it’s all okay and to relax.  A wedding is a “human” and family event that are all different and no one is perfect.  Unless you are part of the “royal family” and everything has to be perfect, then it’s okay for children to be children and do what children do.

Concerning PETS At the Bridge Street Wedding Chapel:

  1. We are HUGE pet fans.  So for us it is absolutely natural and fun for people to involve their pets in their big day and after all—they are part of the family.  When I say pets, I am mainly referring to dogs.  I don’t believe we have ever had any other animals in ceremonies at the chapel.  Cats tend to not like walking anywhere on a leash—much less down an aisle with a bunch of strangers looking at them.  Pets have a calming effect for many people in general and they add an element of fun to the ceremony.  For many young couples, this is their “first child.”
  2. As with children in a ceremony, there needs to be at least one person who is charge of the pet(s)—NOT the bride and groom if at all possible.  The decision of whether the pet will remain up with the wedding party on stage or be tended to as a guest—should be made BEFORE the ceremony.  Understandably, that could change depending on how cooperative the pet is on the day of the wedding.  We suggest that it’s ok if they [pets] are struggling to get off stage or walk around.  Go with it and let them—as long as they are not a complete distraction.
  3. Before and after the ceremony, the pet(s) need to be taken care of as far as their traditional (potty) needs.  This includes walking outside before the ceremony to prevent accidents.  Have water available (earlier in the day if possible to prevent accidents) and bring materials to pick up after them should an accident happen—or they can use the outside area before or after the ceremony.  After the ceremony (or even before)—if they are only there for pre-wedding photos, someone needs to be in charge of taking them home and making sure they are cared for.  This is especially helpful so that the wedding couple can enjoy their day knowing their loved one is comfortable and they don’t need to worry about them.

Source: Holmes Photography

Source: Holmes Photography

Mr. Holmes summarizes:

The question of whether to involve children or pets is strictly a personal one for the wedding party and their families.  It will set the tone of the day.  For some, children and pets may be distracting and they just want to enjoy a day with other adults.  That’s definitely okay.

For others, pets and children are such an important part of their lives; they can’t imagine the day without them!  And for those looking for a pet-friendly venue; we are happy to oblige!

Written by Cheryl Jiminez

Co-authored by Chris and Mary Holmes – Bridge Street Wedding Chapel & Holmes Photography Studio

Choose Excellence! Choose the Lansing Bridal Association for all your wedding needs!

Are you planning to have children and/or pets in your wedding?  Let us know!

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