How to Include Your Best Friend in Your Big Day

Happy 2021! While it's still a different kind of year, we are busy here at CVW working on new events, postponements and pivot plans. It's hard to believe that less than a year ago, we were looking forward to a busy 2020 wedding season! We recently helped the Chicago Green Wedding Alliance craft a COVID-19 statement and we echo the sentiments there: while these are trying times with so much heartbreak, we are counting our blessings and feeling grateful for our health and the health of our couples. We have been navigating the pandemic right beside them, helping to guide decisions and make this process easier. Our hope is that later this year, we will again be able to facilitate meaningful, safe celebrations.

This is a post that we wrote a while back and planned to share just before the pandemic hit. Now, as we kick off the new year with renewed hope, we wanted to share this fun and helpful advice in hopes that more couples will be able to take it into account as they get back into wedding planning. The Itty Bitty Wedding Committee podcast turned this article into this week's episode (airing Wednesday), so please feel free to follow along there too.

As wedding planners and designers as well as passionate dog rescue advocates, we plan about a dozen weddings each year (in a normal year!) that incorporate our couples’ dogs. This led us to write a guide for engaged couples so they can learn from our experience, and we made it more fun by illustrating our tips with furry models from one of our favorite local rescues!

Making your dog part of your wedding day has never been more popular, but how do you make sure you’re doing it right? With everything else you’re planning, you don’t want to add any more stress to your day. Follow these simple tips, illustrated by the dogs of Second City Canine Rescue, to make sure your pup is covered and your day goes off without a hitch!

Getting Ready:

  • If your pooch is getting ready with you, bring all the necessary supplies. Designate someone to make sure they’re being fed, watered, walked and kept out of mischief. Snacks, booze and flowers kept at dog level could be consumed and even lead to a medical emergency, so be careful about what your dog can reach!

  • Once delicate items like gowns, shoes and jewelry come out, Fido should go in another room. Even if your dog is well behaved, you don’t want hair on anything.

  • Just like your wedding day feels exciting for you, it’s exciting for your dog! All the changes can lead to stress, so make sure you’ve got a quiet space for decompression. If you have an anxious dog, check with your vet in advance about the best strategies.

  • Choose a pet-friendly hotel option for you and your guests. Your hotel will probably even have dog sitter recommendations!


  • Test out anything your dog is wearing in advance to see how long they will wear it. If flowers are being worn, check with your florist to make sure they are non-toxic!

  • Dirty paws and slobber wreak havoc on wedding dresses, and a dog who likes to jump can snag their nails on your gown too. Have someone else hold the leash and make sure they’re careful not to let your pup get too close to you, especially before the ceremony!

  • Always have a lint roller handy.

  • When you’re taking photos with your pup, have a wrangler other than yourselves and the photographer there at all times. Limit dog photo time and locations to make everyone’s day less hectic.


  • Show your love for dogs by incorporating them in your paper goods! You can do a subtle motif in your invitations, like including a dog in a whimsical wedding crest.

  • Go for the original take-home favor: a doggy bag! Along with treats for your guests, give out treats that they can bring home for their canine friends. It’s a fun touch that guests love!

  • Not interested in giving out favors? Consider making a sign letting guests know that you will be donating to your favorite dog rescue in lieu of favors.


  • If it’s hot, make sure your pup has plenty of water and a shady place to rest. Keep dogs in air conditioning wherever possible to don’t dress them up as it might make them overheat.

  • Rain and dogs don’t mix! If your dog could get wet, consider whether you still want them to attend. Even after it has rained, muddy paws can be a problem, so come prepared with towels and paw wipes.

  • Dogs who have anxiety during storms shouldn’t join the party. Keep Fido at home with a sitter if there’s thunder and lightning.


  • Have a plan A and plan B for your dog’s behavior. Someone should be ready to remove them from the room and stay with them elsewhere if they get too rowdy.

  • We love our pups, but they don’t make great party guests. Many venues will allow your dog at the ceremony but not at the reception, so have a transport plan to get your pup to the ceremony and to have them leave afterward.

Your dog is family and you can’t imagine your big day without them. These steps will help make their presence—and your wedding—a howling success!


Photography: Two Birds Photography, @two_birds_photo

Florist: Florist and Hound, @floristhounddesign

Catering: Northern Fork, @northernfork

Paper goods: Emily Rose Ink, @emilyroseink

Planning/rentals/venue: Chicago Vintage Weddings