You love your betrothed. And you both love your fur baby. So it only makes sense to include all three of you in the wedding festivities. However, if you’re wary about inviting your pooch to the party, we visited with a set of pros—photographer Shelby Stewart of The Wedding Click and Kate Thomas of Dog Tired—to get the scoop on how to make things run smoothly. (Oh, and pssst! “Wedding nanny” is just a lovely way of saying dog handler.)
Charleston Weddings: How common is it for you to photograph dogs and couples?
Shelby Stewart: We do a lot more engagement sessions with dogs incorporated than weddings because a lot of our couples feel like they have more control than they would during a wedding. But if they are hesitant because they are unsure how their dog will react to a large crowd or what their attention span will be, I jump in and tell them about dog nannying.
Kate Thomas: We’ve been nannying for weddings since we opened in 2009.
CW: Are there certain times of the year—like summer—when you’d discourage couples from including their dogs in their weddings?
KT: I don’t know that I would dissuade that a dog be included. I would discuss the issue during our initial consultation and come up with a realistic plan that allows their dog to take part in the festivities while keeping him/her healthy and safe.
CW: Any other don’ts?
KT: Don’t put your dog into a situation they are not equipped to handle. If you know that your dog has high anxiety or doesn’t like strangers, opt to just take a few pictures and then let them go home. The last thing a couple needs to worry about on their wedding day is their dog not being happy.
CW: What can you tell us about dogs and florals—collars, leashes, etc.—and dress-up clothes? When should they get dolled up?
KT: Right before pictures. While some dogs love to get dressed up and feel fancy, most dogs will try to shake their attire off.
SS: Definitely make sure that any outfit is not too complicated to get in or out of (and pick one that will allow your pup to use the bathroom if they need to). And make sure any flowers used are not poisonous to dogs.
KT: We recently had a dog that was terrified of her mom’s bouquet and wouldn’t sit anywhere near the couple for pictures when she was holding it. The bride and groom had to squat down next to her or be in the background.
CW: How can you keep a dog from having accidents or jumping up on folks?
KT: Arrive early to walk the grounds so the dog can take in all of the new smells and do their business before it’s time to participate. To keep pups from jumping on the wedding guests, don’t stay in one spot for too long and keep the leash taut. Lots of treats and positive reinforcement help.
CW: What do you think about including a dog in the wedding party?
KT: If you think that sitting with the bridal party for the whole duration of the ceremony may be too stressful for your dog, then don’t do it. If you do include your pup in your ceremony, the person handling him or her should be someone that has a good relationship with your dog and is comfortable with the role.
SS: We tell our couples to put their dog with someone that he or she will respond to and listen to. Make sure that the person handling the dog can maintain control in different scenarios and keeps lots of treats on hand.
CW: If a couple is visiting during wedding planning, is it a good idea to bring their pup to see how they do with you all?
KT: Yes, absolutely. Boarding your dog a few days beforehand also helps in that it gives us time to get to know your dog, their likes and dislikes, and overall personality. And it gives your dog time to get to know and trust us.
SX: If they can manage bringing their dog down to incorporate them into their engagement session or for a meet-and-greet, that always helps. It gives the dog the opportunity to meet us in person and we can learn how to be best prepared for their behavior on the wedding day.
CW: What are the rates (based on one dog)?
DT: Rehearsals are $55 per hour; weddings are $85 per hour. Taxiing dogs vary according to mileage and time of day, but can range from $20-$50. Boarding runs $50-$60. Bathing and grooming runs $25-$55.
Dog Tired, which employs eight wedding nannies, averages about three events a week during peak wedding months.
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