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Getting married is one of the most life-changing moments people experience, so it stands to reason that people choose to spend it with their nearest and dearest. But many  will have noticed a subtle change in the wedding pictures peppering their social feeds of late: alongside the bride and groom are esteemed guests of a furrier variety. In fact, new research by Blue Cross reveals that as many as one in 10 people in the UK have given pets, including horses, a central role in their wedding ceremony.

When asked why, over a quarter (26%) said they did so because it helps them remain calm and overcome anxiety on the big day. They also said they involved their pets because they are such an important part of the family (20%) and some said they had to come along simply because they are so cute (12%).

When asked what important role their pets would be playing on the big day, a massive 92% of those in favour of pets’ involvement said they wanted to walk down the aisle with their pet as maid of honour. Almost a quarter of those who’d take a pet would consider their horse. Over half wanted their pets to have a starring role in wedding photos and video (56%) and, although their dinner speeches may leave a lot to be desired, they’re clearly doing something right as a close third came best man (54%).

Sheryl and her husband married in August 2016 at their local church in Nottinghamshire. The couple had adopted a horse called Dekota from Blue Cross in February 2014, she joined their family as an unbacked four-year-old who still had a lot to learn and needed to gain the trust of people. Just two and a half years later, Dekota was ridden to her new owners wedding to be included in the photos. “We could not imagine looking back on the day and Dekota not being in any of our photos or memories. It really was amazing and just made our day perfect. I was so proud with how well she stood for all the photographs and how patient she was whilst we were organising my wedding dress. I wouldn’t ever have considered a wedding day without her; she is part of our family.”

When broken down by species, dogs lead the way as most desired pets at weddings. With 36% wanting their dog as their best man, 40% had or would feature their dog in videos shown at the wedding, and more than half (56%) even choose to have their dog as their maid of honour, it’s clear that a dog really is man’s best friend. 

 Ryan Neile, Senior Animal Behaviourist from Blue Cross commented on the results: “Whether they are, companions, our best friends, or our comforters, pets play a huge role in our lives and it isn’t surprising to see how many Brits want to involve them in such an important moment. Even without weather worries, dress disasters, late caterers or missing rings to worry about, your wedding day can be an incredibly nerve-wracking experience and having your pet by your side might just help settle some of those jitters, as long as you take steps to ensure that your pet is comfortable too.”

“At Blue Cross we recognise that every pet we receive, rescue, rehabilitate and rehome is a pet that can enrich its new family’s life in return. Pets are just as much as part of the family as mums, dads and siblings and this is why Brits love them to be involved in important events like this.”

While it is great that pets are finding roles in their owner’s big days, it is important to remember that beyond the cute photos and special moments, their happiness and comfort is the most important thing whilst they’re there. Anyone considering involving a pet in their wedding day should follow the below tips to make sure that a stress-free day is had by all:

  • Your pet’s personality – when thinking about the role you want your pet to play, consider their personality. For example, you might want your dog to be maid of honour, but do they get stressed in crowds? Be sure not to put your pet through anything that will make them uncomfortable or scared.
  • Check the venue is pet friendly in advance – you would be incredibly disappointed if you turned up on the big day only to find out your beloved pet isn’t allowed inside - and yet, just under a third (32%) of people said they would not think to check to see if the venue was pet friendly.
  • Be treat conscious – although weddings are typically a time for you to overindulge on multiple courses of food, you should make sure that your pet isn’t doing the same. Give guests a heads up that treating your pet isn’t a good idea as they may not be aware what foods are safe for animal consumption.
  • Notify the photographer (and your pet!) – make sure your photographer/ videographer knows in advance that your pet will be involved in any shoots so they can think of some creative ideas of how to get them involved. Get your pet used to the camera too; give them a treat every time the camera makes a noise so they associate the sound with something positive and practice poses if you can.
  • Book a pet sitter – a wedding is tiring enough for a human and possibly even more so for your pet. Have someone familiar on hand that can take your pet home and away from the festivities after a couple of hours. The majority of those surveyed (62%) only allowed their pet at the wedding for two hours or less; this is a good rule of thumb.
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