If your family or friends use a guide dog or have a pup who sticks close by in case of seizures, it’s important that those animals are welcomed and accommodated at your wedding. Certainly, you have a lot of other things on your mind, but to help a treasured family member or friend feel comfortable, it’s well worth it! Even though most service animals cannot be touched or petted while they are “on duty,” they can be a very cute addition to the experience, lending themselves to adorable pictures and at least a little attention from afar. Here are some ways to make your experience of having service animals at your wedding a great one for everyone involved.
Ask What They Need
Keeping a water bowl handy might be a nice touch for most service dogs, but if you aren’t a dog owner yourself, that might be the extent of your knowledge! If you know one of your guests at the wedding will be bringing a service animal, reach out and ask how the service animal does in unfamiliar places. See if there are any simple things, like knowing where ramps are instead of stairs, that make it easier for the animal. Owners of service animals will know what can make the animals able to do their jobs well. Pass those pieces of information along to your coordinator or planner. They’ve seen it all, so adding one more note to their organized lists won’t be a problem.
Make Entries and Exits as Clear as Possible
One aspect of helping out service animals is actually beneficial to all guests: since most will likely be unfamiliar with how to enter and exit the venue, include clear signs or people to point the way to the right wedding. While a service dog obviously cannot read signs, a flow of people in a particular direction will give both the guest and their service animal more clues to help them get to the right spot.
Notice Some Low-Noise Areas of the Venue and Share Them
Many animals benefit from having few distractions and sounds when they’re working as service animals. Weddings tend to be somewhat boisterous affairs, so it might help to figure out where the lowest-noise areas are in your venue. Letting your friend or family member know that they are welcome to spend time in any of these areas gives them a way to rest their service animal for a little while before rejoining the fun.
Offer to Doll Up Service Animals in the Wedding Colors
Sometimes, the service animal belongs to someone in the wedding party. I was once part of a wedding with a guide dog who belonged to another bridesmaid; without irritating the dog, we added a few green ribbons to her harness to let her be another bridesmaid herself! Obviously this is an optional element, but if your friend is open to it, it can be very cute to see a pretty collar or some ribbon decorations on a service animal that match the decor of the wedding. If the owner isn’t comfortable with this idea, they will say so, but you get the chance to try to include everyone (and every dog!) who is coming to your wedding in the festive atmosphere.
Enjoy Having Your Friend or Family Member With You
The most important thing to do when having a service animal at your wedding is to enjoy the mobility or safety that animal provides for your friend and family member, and making their attendance possible. It may mean a couple of small adjustments (or at least making room by the table for the dog to sit!) to the structure of the wedding, but overall, the biggest goals are to enjoy yourselves and to keep both dog and owner safe.
Having a service animal at your wedding can be a cute addition to your photographs of the festivities and can help members of your family or friends increase their independence and mobility. If you get the opportunity to make a service animal part of your wedding day, do your best to make them welcome and comfortable.