Words by Samantha Simma
“My dogs are my last goodbye and my first hello,” says Jenna Martin, an adoption counselor at Jackson’s Animal Adoption Center whose own AAC rescue dogs, Gunther and Pepper, were necessary witnesses to her and her husband George’s wedding in the fall of 2019. “Over the years, they have been there through thick and thin, and if they weren’t present [on our wedding day], the wedding would not have been complete.”
An already wildly unique community, Jackson Hole locals are equally devoted to their zest for adventure and their four-legged family members. “Whether it’s eating pastries outside of Persephone or hitting up Snow King before work, dogs are always a part of the plan,” says Martin. “When planning a wedding, you ask friends and family from all over the world to join you. So, why would you not invite your most important members to witness this new chapter in your lives?”
Dogs hold so many roles: pseudo-children, companions, and best friends. Whether a dog entered the relationship at the beginning or was a step along the way to the altar, he is as much a part of every couple’s love story as the way it began. But incorporating your furry friend into your special day takes some foresight. First, determine the role your pup will have. Will he or she play dog of honor, flower dog, ring bearer, or honored guest? Then, select a venue that is welcoming to pets—a step that is crucial to a smooth execution.
“We joke that our wedding was not ours, but Gunther and Pepper’s,” Martin says. “From the beginning, we were picking vendors and venues that were pet-friendly.”
It’s important that both your vendors and your pup are familiar with your plan. Prior to the event, give your dog the opportunity to familiarize herself with the venue. Dogs have a lot of sniffing to tend to in new spaces, and that could add distractions to an already chaotic day .
Consider the logistics of incorporating your pet. You will need a plan for getting your pup to and from the event, and must determine who will care for your four-legged friend throughout the day. For this, a dog sitter or pet handler—preferably someone your dog is comfortable and familiar with—plays a critical role. A handler ensures your dog gets the water, food, and potty breaks he needs while you’re tending to your marital duties. In the Martins’ case, dog trainer Eva Perrigo, of Star Dog Training, escorted Gunther and Pepper back to their accommodations after the ceremony. “Not only were they comfortable with her, but we knew they would get back safely so we could let our hair down,” Martin says. Additionally, George made sure both pups received some much-needed exercise before the festivities.
Once you have landed on a role, it’s time to choose your dog’s wedding attire. Adorn your proud pup with ribbons, flowers, leashes, bandanas, and collars that fit your wedding theme and color scheme. For the Martins’ big day, Gunther was responsible for the rings—which were attached to a personalized whiskey barrel harnessed to his chest—and Pepper was the flower girl, with a collar from Flowers by Chloe (non-toxic, of course). After being escorted down the aisle by the two maids of honor, Martin said both pups “exceeded their job expectations.”
Take into consideration your dog’s individual personality and temperament before deciding whether to include them. The Martins lucked out with two social butterflies who were ready to participate, but Jenna attests from experience when she says, “Big parties can be a lot for humans, let alone dogs. Understand your pet’s personality and what they can or cannot handle.” If your dog is shy or easily frightened by crowds and strangers, participating in your wedding could be an unnecessarily stressful situation. Think ahead: Speak to your vet, make a plan, and consider keeping over-the-counter medications on hand in the case of unexpected emergencies.
Weddings are wonderful, monumental occasions, but they are also highly unpredictable. Do your best to prepare your pet and yourself for their participation. If you decide that it’s not in your best friend’s interest to attend, incorporate them in other ways. Include their photo on save-the-date cards or invitations, order a cake topper with a personalized dog statue, or name a custom cocktail after your pet.
“Including our dogs in our wedding was something we took very seriously,” Martin says. Carefully planned logistics were key to the event’s success, and in the end, it was so worth it to have their entire family included in their big day.