Whether you own a dog, cat, or something more exotic, pets hold a very special place in our lives, and in our hearts. Research has shown that up to half of all Americans consider their furry friend as an official member of the family. (Coming as no surprise to most of us!)

As more and more of these “pet parents” tie the knot, we’ve seen an increase in couples honoring (and even including) their beloved pet on their wedding day.

If you love the idea of celebrating this amazing milestone with your pet (and your venue approves), here’s how to incorporate pets into your wedding for a day that’s incredibly meaningful.


bride and groom posing on quiet brick street with two dogs

Melayna and Thompson took wedding portraits with their Golden Retrievers, Leo and Kona | Photo by Cole Locurto


How To Include Pets In Your Wedding

The decision to include pets in your wedding should be made with careful consideration and your best judgment.

Even if your wedding ceremony and reception venues are pet-friendly, they will want reassurance that your animals are well-behaved and that they’ll be supervised during the time they’re on the property.

At the Lightner Museum, pets are permitted to arrive 15 minutes prior to the wedding to be a part of your ceremony. Post-ceremony, the pet may remain for pictures, but must depart immediately with their handler following the conclusion of photos. They must remain on a leash and have a handler assigned the entire time that they are on-site. In addition, we restrict pets to the first floor of the Historic Pool and on the Outdoor Terrace and Gardens.

A wedding day pet handler like FairyTail Petcare or Furever Us not only ensures that your dog or cat complies with venue guidelines, but they can also help keep your pet safe, comfortable, and calm. Make sure to also coordinate with a close friend or family member if you are planning on having someone walk your pet down the aisle.

Don’t forget to bring water and food for your pet and make any necessary arrangements to board them the night before your event or the night of. If you’re having a destination wedding, you’ll want to check that your hotel is also pet-friendly or find a reputable boarding facility.

If you are planning on having your pet wear any attire or floral adornments, practice wearing that outfit (or something similar) before the day of your wedding. You don’t want them to feel uncomfortable or panic when it’s time to walk down the aisle.

Finally, notify your guests which animals will be present, just in case you have guests with allergies.


black and white photo of Cayla and Kevin with their two dogs

Cayla and Kevin did a first look with their two pups. | Photo by Melissa Wright Photo


Give Your Fur Baby A Part in the Wedding

Once you’ve selected a pet-friendly wedding venue and taken care of all the details, there are a ton of opportunities to include your pet in your wedding!


Get Ready With Your Pet

Getting ready at your hotel or bed and breakfast is perfect for spending time with your closest family and friends. So why not include your pet in the fun?

Have your photographer snap some photos of you and your best friend once your hair and makeup are done, or after you complete your wedding day look. Bonus points if you have a matching dress or tux so your pet can get ready alongside you.


bride, bridesmaids, and golden retriever on bed getting ready for wedding

Chelsea had her sweet Golden Retriever Nala join her and her bridesmaids while getting ready at one of St. Augustine’s hotels. | Photo by Walls of Jerico


Do a First Look with Your Fur Baby

Looking for a sweet (and totally social media-worthy) moment to share with your pet on wedding day? Consider doing a first look! The genuine connection and excitement of seeing each other all dressed up and ready to walk down the aisle is perfect for candid wedding photos.


Bride and groom kiss while groom holds dog

Chandler and Matthew brought their dog Lucca along for their first look. | Photo by Meagan Gaines Photography


Have Them Walk Down the Aisle

Including your pet in the wedding ceremony is a beautiful way to bring the whole family together during one of the most important moments of your lives.

Depending on your pet’s personality (and your own preference), they can accompany you down the aisle, stand as one of the members of your wedding party, or act as a ring bearer or flower girl/boy!


Groom walking Great Pyrenees down the aisle

Giving new meaning to “man’s best friend,” our groom Kevin walked down the aisle with his Great Pyrenees, Ghost. | Photo by Bow Tie Photography

Groom trains dog to stand next to them during wedding ceremony

Jace, who is a dog trainer by trade, trained his dog Odin to expertly walk down the aisle and stand watch as he and Jenna said “I do.” | Photo by Kim Hearts Photo


Let Them Document the Event

Seeing things from a bird’s eye view is one thing, but what about seeing your wedding day through the eyes of your pet?

Attach a GoPro camera to your pet’s collar or harness and you’ll not only have a sweet video of the event, but you’ll also be able to see your friends and family’s reactions to your furry friend walking down the aisle.


Capture Your Pet in Your Wedding Portraits

After the wedding ceremony, most couples head outside to capture wedding portraits. Don’t forget to bring your pet along! Including your pet in your wedding portraits allows you to showcase the emotional connection you have with your furry friend. Pets can bring an element of playfulness and spontaneity to the photos. Their unpredictable behavior can result in candid and charming moments, adding a touch of joy and humor to your wedding album.


bride and groom posing with two Dalmatians

Kaela and Joey’s Dalmatians, Chief and Svedka, joined them for portraits in the Central Courtyard. | Photo by Meagan Gaines Photography

bride and groom standing next to giant letters spelling out LOVE with their dog as the O

What’s not to “love” about these sweet portraits of Tegan, Chad, and their dog Cali? | Photo by Angelita Esparar Photography


Honor Your Pets At Your Wedding

Pets can be a fun addition to a wedding, but if they are unable to join you, there are still plenty of ways they can be there in spirit.


Include Them In Your Engagement Photos

Many couples find that it’s easier to include their pets during the engagement photo shoot than have them there on wedding day. You can then use these images on your save-the-dates, wedding invitations, or on signage or decorations during the event.


Engaged couple with their dogs at the beach

Andrea and Kevin included their dogs in their engagement photos. | Photo by Brooke Images


Include A Model of Your Pet on Your Cake or Desserts

Wedding cake toppers with pets are a growing wedding trend that we love to see! Whether you prefer the minimal look of a sleek silhouette or a 3D rendering of your pet, this can be a fun way to remember your furry friend.

Another more subtle way to include your pet on your cake: have your baker add them to a “secret spot” on the side or back of your cake. A hidden model of your pet can be a sweet wedding day surprise for your significant other.

Planning on having a sweet treat as a wedding favor? Consider adding your pet’s face on cookies, cupcakes, or other desserts!


Closeup of wedding cake depicting a dog peeking from underneath the icing

Daniella and Chris’ cake included a small model of their pup peaking out from underneath. | Photo by Life & Love Studio


Name a Signature Drink After Them

His and hers signature cocktails are a great way to add some personality to your event. You can also honor your furry family members at your wedding bar!

We love the idea of choosing a signature mocktail based on your animal’s name, breed, or based on their personality. You can also add their picture to bar menu signs, drink koozies, and cocktail napkins for a unique touch.


Sign showing signature drinks named after the couple's dogs (and turtle)

Kaela and Joey’s signature drinks were inspired by all of their pets, including their turtle, Dribble! | Photo by Meagan Gaines Photography


Wear Something to Honor Your Pet

If your furry friend can’t be with you on your wedding day, you can still keep them close to your heart. For men, embroider a picture of your dog on a pocket square or wear socks with your cat’s face on them. Brides can carry a handkerchief or get ready in a set of custom pajamas with their pet’s face.


groom and groomsmen showing off their dog socks with the groom's dog

These groomsmen’s socks were a fun, subtle nod to this perfect pooch. | Photo by Rob Tesar Photography via The Knot


Create Custom Cutouts Of Your Pets

Custom cutouts of your pet’s face are a sweet and silly addition to reception photos. (They also make great photo booth props!)


bride and groom kissing a giant custom cutout of their pet

This custom pet cutout from Fathead.com was the perfect photo booth prop.


Help Animals In Need

Millions of animals are surrendered to pet shelters every year, but you (and your wedding guests) can help make a difference.

If your wedding registry site allows you to set up charitable contributions, request a donation to an animal shelter near you. Or better yet, encourage them to adopt a new pet of their own!


Sign asking guests to donate to local pet charity

Kelsey and Chase, who are HUGE cat lovers, supported Cat Crusaders on their wedding day. | Photo by Chris and Micaela 


Bring Your Love For Your Furry Friends To Your Wedding

Whether your beloved pet is present on your big day or only with you in spirit, sharing your love for them at your wedding is another way to add meaning to an already amazing day.

At the Lightner Museum, we love to see how our couples incorporate their pets in their wedding celebration. Our team is happy to provide guidance if you are considering including your pet on your big day, either in person or in spirit.

If you’ve already booked your wedding with us, reach out to your event manager for assistance. (You can email the events team at events@lightnerweddings.com.) If you haven’t selected a venue yet, schedule a tour today!


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