Your wedding day tells your personal love story and should incorporate unique elements that represent the two of you. Many couples choose a theme for their wedding that holds a symbolic meaning or that reflects their shared interests; some also choose to infuse their special day with quirky details that nod to inside jokes or maybe even a shared ‘fandom.’ One popular rising trend in weddings, however, adds an unconventional element: animals! Today’s couples are now incorporating their beloved furbabies, exotic animals or even adding an entire petting zoo to the reception celebration.
Animals can be soothing, comforting and just downright adorable! For stressed out brides and grooms, these furry additions can add an element of happiness to a hectic day. And, if the guest list includes kids, these cute and cuddly friends also can be a fun surprise. Of course, if the featured fur babies are lifelong companions of the couple, then incorporating them into the ceremony and the big day also allows them to be a part of the family photos!
However, while furry friends bring a lot of joy to the day, this option isn’t ideal for all couples. If you are considering inviting members of the animal kingdom to your wedding, here is everything you need to know about a wild(life) wedding!
Your Own Pets: Get Domestic
If you are a cat or dog parent, incorporating your furry friend might seem like an ideal option. But how do you do this? Your friend’s role depends on how well your cat or dog is trained. Many couples want their dog (or cat) to serve as a member of the wedding party (like a ring bearer or a flower girl). However, this means that your furry friend has to be able to trot down the aisle…safely! Some cats and dogs are perfectly behaved and well-suited to be an honor attendant for their owners. Others, though, might have a little trouble staying on the right path.
If your dog or cat is afraid of new people, has a history of aggression, is easily stressed or exhibits any other behavior that might put guests at risk, it’s best to leave your furry companion safely at home. Not every animal is comfortable around lots of people, and some animals may be temperamental or easily overwhelmed. You know your animal best, but if you have any doubt, then opt against the ‘pet attendant.’ However, couples also can investigate companies that specialize in helping you and your pet have the best wedding day experience.
If you plan to incorporate your furbaby during your wedding day, be sure that guests are aware. Some guests may have allergies to cats or dogs, and they need to be notified in case the pet-friendly setting is a no-go for them. Always be respectful to human guests and include the pet-friendly details and be understanding if guests need to decline the invite because of allergies or other issues.
“Yes” to Incorporating Your Furbabies:
- Your wedding pictures wouldn’t be complete without them
- They will help lower your stress
- You know they will behave
- They are comfortable in public and around big groups
Reasons to Reconsider:
- Your cat or dog is easily stressed.
- There is a history of aggression.
- New people make your animal anxious.
- You don’t have someone designated to pet-sit during the ceremony!
- Guests or family members have allergies to cats or dogs…and you really want them at your wedding.
Reptilian Romance: Snakes at the Wedding!
Some couples have a passion for the exotic. Reptiles like snakes and lizards offer a mystique that adds an unusual and dramatic touch to their ceremony, but they may also be incorporated as a symbolic element. Maybe you want to take your wedding pictures with a massive (and nonvenomous!) snake. Or perhaps you want your cute chameleon to sit on your shoulder.
Not all guests will be excited by the presence of slithery friends, though. So how you incorporate them depends on you and the overall ambiance of your big day. Also, be careful when handling those reptilian companions as they can spread certain diseases. Always wash your hands (soap and water!) after handling them! And make sure that guests do the same.
Say “Yes” to Reptiles:
- For unique pictures
- As a symbolic element (wisdom, etc.)
- If your reptilian pet is part of your family.
- Always wash hands after handling
- Use common sense and safe best practices (constrictors constrict…and could kill or injure a child)
- Obviously, avoid any venomous varieties!
Exotic Animals: Petting Zoos & Other Options
Not all couples want animals in their wedding, but, instead, want animals to add to an overall theme of their wedding or to celebrate their homeland or culture. No matter why you choose to incorporate animals, though, respect, safety and humane treatment should come first and be the ultimate priority. An animal is a living creature and should be treated with dignity. Keep this in mind before choosing to host animals at your wedding, and always be sure that any company or organization that you hire is fully committed to the care, comfort and happiness of their animals.
So what are your options for hosting exotic mammals? Some couples include elephants and ride atop as part of a ceremonial entrance. Camels may also be incorporated as a ceremonial entrance. Camels and elephants may add a pricey element to your wedding budget, so be prepared!
For a country wedding, couples may ride horses down the aisle. This is appropriate for open field weddings, and couples should be comfortable with riding on horseback before they consider this option. Horse-drawn carriages also are a romantic option and work well for a wedding exit.
Petting zoos also have become a popular option at some receptions. Petting zoos are a wonderful addition if you have the space, and furry friends also add a unique element for kids who might be added to the guest list. Again, though, be sure that the company you hire insists on proper care and treatment. Also remember that hand sanitizer or hand washing stations are vital to keep guests safe from any illnesses or bacteria.
So what animals make the best petting zoos? This is largely based on personal preference and geography, too, but rabbits, sheep, pot belly pigs, silky chickens and ponies are often popular choices.
Say “Yes” to Exotic Animals When…
- The company maintains humane treatment and best practices
- You have the space for animal friends
- The budget isn’t an issue (some options are expensive!)
- Younger guests are on the list (petting zoos are a fun option for kids)
Just Say “No” If…
- You can’t ensure the safety and humane treatment of animal guests
- Space is an issue
- Your budget is stretched
Beautiful Birds: Love Takes Flight
Birds are romantic and beautiful. These majestic creatures create a symbolic element at weddings. Doves are often included to denote peace and love. Or maybe you just have a beloved parrot who you want by your side.
Be sure that birds are kept safe during the wedding and reception by provide a secure enclosure. If you plan to release doves, be cautious about the birds you release into the sky. According to One Green Planet, many couples release doves that are “bred with no survival skills.” This means that they have no way to fend for themselves outside of captivity. So releasing these birds is quite the opposite of a romantic gesture.
Animal Welfare: The Big Debate
Saying yes to animals at any event brings up the debate about the welfare, safety and health of non-human guests. For many organizations and individuals, using animals as a form of entertainment is a huge ‘no.’ Although the inclusion of your own pets is a way to embrace their role in your life and your love for them, the addition of exotic animals or petting zoos might be seen in a different light to some of your guests. Understand that your decision to host a petting zoo or to include any animal at your event means that you need to also ensure that these furry or scaly guests are treated fairly and humanely. Hosting animals at your event may be divisive…so be prepared.
Also be aware that some wedding plants may be toxic or harmful to these non-human guests. If you plan to have dogs, cats or other animals at your wedding, ensure that floral arrangements don’t contain any element that can be harmful if ingested.
Other Options: Embracing Animals without the Controversy
If you love animals but don’t embrace them for entertainment, incorporate animal friends by helping to protect them or care for them. Add an animal rights organization to your wedding registry and encourage guests to donate in your name. One Green Planet also recommends that couples can host their reception or wedding at an animal sanctuary; this allows you to have amazing animals at your event and protect them at the same time! Check out all the sanctuaries in your area; some may help reptiles, others may protect birds.
Whether or not you choose to incorporate your pets into your big day or you wish to host animals and reptiles to embrace your own interests, animals always add a unique element to your wedding. Before you decide on an elephant entrance, a petting zoo or a dove release, always consider the safety of all animals at your event. If you are concerned about the ethical implications, host your event at an animal sanctuary or choose an animal rights organization as part of your wedding registry. There are many ways to embrace your wild(life) side on your wedding day, but the safety and comfort of guests and the animals should always come before that perfect photo opportunity…or the theme of your big day.