Here comes the dog: It’s a ruff wedding season, with lots of snouty guests

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something … furry?

If you’ve been to a wedding recently, you might have been surprised by a fur-bearing ring-bearer. It’s become a bona-fide trend during the past several wedding seasons: Many couples incorporate their pets into the festivities.

Just take a stroll through wedding planning site The Knot, which has hundreds of “puptial” posts, mostly dogs, with a few cats and one or two goats. Florists design flower wreaths for canines of honor, tailors make custom cuffs and collars for wedding party pups, and bakers include doggie treats along with wedding cakes.

For your reading and planning pleasure, Colorado State University veterinary faculty, students and clients share their stories and tips for happily ever-after animal nuptials.

Dr. Meredith Owen and Jesse Owen


When Meredith was a fourth-year student in the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Program at CSU, she noticed her dog Wiley didn’t “seem right.” She rushed the dog to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, and doctors in the Flint Animal Cancer Center found a mass on Wiley’s spleen. It was an invasive hemangiosarcoma affecting the blood vessels. With her wedding just four weeks away, Meredith chose chemotherapy for her dog, knowing the average survival time for this cancer is six months. Wiley is now 11 years old, and Meredith is a veterinarian with Countryside Large Animal Clinic in Wenatchee, Wash.

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Dogs: Wiley, a Finnish spitz/lab; and Stockli, and Australian kelpie mix

Date: June 11, 2011

The wedding story: These dogs are members of our family, so we would have felt that something was missing if they weren’t there that day. I chose to treat Wiley’s cancer even though her odds of survival were slim. I couldn’t imagine walking down the aisle without her there. Wiley is super shy so instead of having her in the ceremony, we had her be the “hound of honor” in the pictures afterward. Stockli got a lot of response from the guests as he walked down the aisle and tried to do his job as ring bearer. He’s a total ham, so he stole the show.

What they wore: The florist made wreaths that matched the wedding flowers.

Advice: Let the venue know you want to have your dogs there. Some won’t allow animals. Ask someone who knows the dogs well to be in charge of them. They need a quiet, shady place for their home base. They need to go home before the party gets too rowdy.

Photo credit: Brenda Robidou

Jeruesha and Ken Nichols


Jeruesha is a veterinary technician in the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and its Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories. She has worked for the university since 1989. During the school year, Jeruesha coordinates and teaches large animal labs for veterinary students. In the summer, she travels the state, testing birds for the lab’s Avian Diagnostics section.

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Animals: Miette, a border collie/Dalmation; Maggie, a Jack Russell terrier; and Othello, a Thoroughbred/Quarter Horse

Date: May 26, 2001

The wedding story: The dogs were our children; they were a big part of our lives. We wanted them to be ring-bearers but decided that might not work out. So my sister-in-law carried the rings and led the dogs down the aisle. They were like bridesmaids. There was some laughing among the guests, but they know us and know animals are a big part of our lives. The wedding was at my parents’ farm – my father was a veterinarian, too. My mother wanted pictures of me in my wedding dress riding side-saddle, as I have ridden my whole life, so we took pictures with Othello. We had both dogs “sign” the marriage certificate with paw prints as our witnesses.

What they wore: It was a farm wedding, so Maggie and Miette wore bandanas.

Advice: Relax. Go with the flow because anything you plan, animals will do their own thing. Whatever they chose to do, just embrace it.

Dr. Justine Lee and Jason Kral


Justine is an emergency medicine and critical care veterinary specialist and toxicologist who came to the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s Critical Care Unit with her own dog, JP. At 12 years of age, he was diagnosed with a malignant, aggressive brain tumor and underwent stereotactic radiation therapy at CSU. He lived another 13 months. Justine lives in Saint Paul, Minn., and is the CEO and founder of VETgirl, a subscription-based veterinary continuing-education podcast and webinar service. Pit bulls hold a special place in Justine’s heart, as she has rescued several of them, so it was natural that she and her husband included Milo, their newest four-legged family member, in their wedding.

Date: June 1, 2013

Dog: Milo, a pit bull mix

The wedding story: Milo had the engagement ring pinned to his collar, and presented it to me when Jason proposed. We were just about to go out for sushi, and Milo was smiling up at me. I looked at his collar and there was the ring. As Milo is part of our family, it was really important for me, as a veterinarian, to have him in the wedding. He was the official ring-bearer, and our nephews and maid-of-honor escorted him down the aisle. He had a ball and trotted down the aisle, much to our guests’ surprise, but they loved it. Milo sat between us during our vows and the pastor’s sermon, helping join our special union that day.

What he wore: Milo is black and white, so he looked like he had a tuxedo on with a red bow tie.

Advice: Make sure you have a well-behaved dog, or it’s better off leaving your dog out of the wedding, as it can be very distracting. Feed your dog and offer water before the wedding so your dog isn’t anxious or begging. Have someone who can control the dog as they walk down the aisle. During our rehearsal, our original plan of having two young nephews hold the leash went disastrously as Milo pulled on the leash and the nephews went flying. Hence, the adult maid-of-honor on the end of the leash, too!

Photo credit: Megan Norman

Beth Boettcher and Josh Finke


In a whirlwind vacation over the winter holidays in 2014, Beth and Josh got engaged, returned home to find their dog Duffy was sick, and learned he had a tumor on his spine.

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At CSU’s Flint Animal Cancer Center, he underwent three days of radiation and four rounds of chemotherapy to fight the osteosarcoma, the most common form of cancer in golden retrievers. Beth and Josh planned their whole wedding around Duffy, and he lived to take part in the ceremony, happily surviving four more months before succumbing to the disease.

Date: Sept. 27, 2014

Dog: Duffy, a golden retriever

The wedding story: Duffy was the wedding entertainment. He participated in the wedding even after receiving a D-minus in dog obedience school. His trainer wouldn’t fail him because he had such a great personality. He wore a sign at the wedding that said “Here comes the bride” and ran around enjoying being in the spotlight.

What he wore: A tuxedo collar and matching cuffs.

Advice: Keep treats with you at the altar. Josh had treats the whole ceremony, and Duffy just sat there like he was an A+ student.

Photo credit: Melyssa Stouts