THE ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR COUPLES ELOPING WITH THEIR DOG(S)
What could be better than including your furry best friend on one of the biggest days of your life? If you are thinking about adding a four-legged member to your wedding party or having them come alongside you on your elopement day, then this blog post is for you. We will go over the best basic tips for eloping with your dog, how to include your dog in your wedding ceremony, the best locations to elope for couples who are bringing their dog to their elopement, travel logistic information and tips when traveling with your dog, we’ll talk about the best time of year to elope with your dog and what to expect for different seasons, what to pack for your dog so your furry best friend has the best day, and last but certainly not least we will go over which Leave No Trace ethics apply to couples eloping with their dogs outdoors. Alex & I (Kelly) have years of experience with adventuring outdoors with our own dogs. We’ve taken our dogs on long hikes in the snow, to the middle of the desert on a hot summer day, and even did hikes in the pouring rain. We are super confident that with our knowledge and experience with photographing elopements where pups were included – you will have the most special day, and your dog will have the best time also!
CAN YOU BRING YOUR DOG TO YOUR ELOPEMENT?
The short answer is – YES! Abso-freaking-lutely! We would love it if you brought your little furry babies with you! Alex & I are dog owners ourselves (click here to get to know Hamilton & Olive) and our hearts melt every single time we get the opportunity to not only spend the day with our amazing couples but their sweet little ones as well. Don’t be surprised if at the end of your day your dog has a new nickname and we have a hard time saying goodbye :’)
What is eloping with a dog?
In the same way that some couples choose to tie the knot without all of their family, friends, and loved ones in attendance, it’s possible for someone who has owned a dog since childhood (or as long as they can remember) or have had one by their side through every important moment in life to elope with them. This means bringing your furry friend along on an intimate day not just for you – but also for them!
ELOPING WITH YOUR DOG – A CHECKLIST
- Pick a location that is dog friendly
- Plan out travel logistics for getting to your dog friendly elopement
- Pick the best time of year to elope with your dog
- Hire a dog friendly elopement photographer team
- Plan ahead and prepare
- Pack all the essential gear for eloping with your dog
- Have the best dog friendly elopement ever!
9 BASIC TIPS FOR ELOPING WITH YOUR DOG
Practise your dog signing your marriage license
If you’re eloping in Colorado and plan to have your dog sign your marriage license – practice the stamping before your big day. Don’t wait for the day of your wedding day to be the first time to see if your dog will cooperate. Buy an ink stamp pad and practice on your dog a few times. Some dogs really hate having their paw be held so for some dogs it might not be an option. Best to find out before the day of! But even if stamping isn’t an option, writing out their initials or their names is proof enough for us 🙂
Pick a dog-friendly location
Unfortunately, most National Parks don’t allow dogs. Super bummer, I know! So make sure the location you’re picking will allow you to bring your furry babe if you’re set on bringing them along. When we talk on the phone, we can go over our process of picking out the perfect location for your big day, and we always ask if you plan on bringing your furry friend along. If you’re bringing your dog along, we’ll make sure to help you pick a pet-friendly location!
Water for your dog
Check to see if your elopement location will have rivers nearby and if they’re safe for your dog to drink. Some areas/hikes have bodies of water all around and if so, you don’t have to carry extra water for your dog!
Bring styptic powder
In case your dog hurts their paw or one of their nails, you’ll be so glad you have this! It’s one of those things that is so small and can be packed anywhere that it’s just better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. When a dog hurts their paw and it starts bleeding, sometimes it just doesn’t want to stop bleeding. Having the powder will make your life so much easier if something does happen!
Bring food and treats
Especially if you’re doing a more challenging hike, or are planning for an all-day elopement. Your dog will love a little snack, and it’ll make for really cute pictures!
Hire a dog friendly photography team
By hiring a dog-friendly elopement photography team (like us!), there are guaranteed to be two people and we can help with holding your dogs! I know you love your fur babies, but it would be nice to have a few photos without them, just the two of you! By having Alex & I both at your elopement, we can switch off and hold the dogs while still capturing those special moments! It really helps to have someone there who is familiar with dogs and knows how to give the best belly scratches. Reach out today to start planning your dog-friendly elopement.
Secure their leashes to your waist belt
If you’ll be wearing a backpack, secure your dog’s leash to your waist belt. This way it frees up your hands for other things like if you’re using trekking poles, carrying a bouquet, or holding your honey’s hand. It’s super easy to unbuckle and buckle back up, and they’ll also help pull you up the mountain 😉
Dress your dog up
Have them wear some wedding clothes also! You could have them wear a corsage or a tux. Get creative! This will make for some really special pictures to look back on. We do understand that not every dog is willing to play dress-up for their humans so if your pup is just not into it consider something more simple like a bandana.
Don’t forget your doggy waste bags
Everything you pack in must be packed out, including dog waste.
HOW TO INCLUDE YOUR DOG IN YOUR WEDDING CEREMONY: 3 CUTE IDEAS FOR INCLUDING HIM OR HER
When you’re planning your elopement, there are a few things to consider. One of the most important is who will be joining you on this journey and making it all that much more memorable? You may decide to include other loved ones in your elopement or allow them to attend as an honored guest but what about your doggo? Bringing your best good friend along can make for some really awesome memories and provide many great photo opportunities. So don’t worry about not being able to bring your dog with us – after all, they should be right by your side when you vow eternal love! If we haven’t convinced you yet, here are some ideas for including your dog in the ceremony.
Best Dog and/or Dog of Honor
Ring Bearer or Flower dog
Have your dog be a witness
Yes, you read that right! If you’re planning on eloping in the state of Colorado, your dog can be a witness! They can even sign the marriage license too! It’s literally our favorite thing about Colorado elopements!
BEST TIME OF YEAR TO ELOPE WITH YOUR DOG(S)
Usually, we are all about adventuring outside no matter what the weather is – but we do have to be mindful of our dogs and be sure not to push them. Dogs are very loyal creatures, and it’s up to us to do our part and make decisions for them, plan ahead and prepare, and not put them in situations where they’ll be uncomfortable. With that being said – here is what to expect for each season when eloping with your dog.
Eloping with your dog in the Spring
Springtime can be a really great season to elope with your dog! If you’re planning on eloping in the mountains in high elevation, you can expect winter conditions with snow still being on the ground. Colorado weather especially is extremely unpredictable in the springtime. You could get a white-out blizzard with high winds, or you could get a bluebird sky. Either way, here are some tips when eloping with your dog in the springtime.
Tips for eloping with your dog in the spring
Bring a towel
In the event we get caught in a rainstorm, you’ll want to be able to wipe down your dog before he/she jumps in the car. Some areas can also get really muddy in the mountains due to all the snowmelt and the rain. When we go to the dog park in the spring, we always make sure to have towels in the car!
If you’re planning on eloping with your dog in the mountains at high elevation – you can expect there to still be snow on the ground. Read our tips for eloping with your dog in the winter for those winter condition tips!
Eloping with your dog in the Summer
Dogs love nothing more than being outside with their humans, and enjoying nature! Depending on your location – the summer is a great time to elope with your dog!
Tips for eloping with your dog in the summer
Pick a location that won’t be too hot
Eloping with your dog during the summer in the mountains at higher elevations is a great choice – but places like the desert get really hot in the summer and it won’t be easy, and could potentially be dangerous for your dog to take them outside for too long.
Eloping with your dog in the Fall
The fall season is a great time to elope with your dog! Temperatures are pretty mild in most places – and your dog will love you for taking them along the greatest adventure of your life! Be mindful that mid to late fall is when the snow starts dropping in the mountains. Read our tips for eloping with your dog in the winter if there will be snow on the ground during your late fall dog-friendly elopement.
Eloping with your dog in the Winter
If your dogs are anything like our two babies – they love the snow! Some dogs absolutely love it while other dogs won’t step in the stuff! You know your dog better than anyone and it’s us as dog owners’ responsibility to know their limits. If you’re wanting to elope with your dog and have a winter elopement, here are our top tips.
Tips for eloping with your dog in the winter
Keeping them warm
Unless you have a dog that thrives in winter conditions, consider bringing them their own jacket. Hamilton and Olive (our two dogs) have this jacket from Ruffwear.
Paw protection is a must if you’re deciding to elope with your dog in the winter. Dogs’ paws are sensitive to cold surfaces and without the proper protection, your dog could be really uncomfortable, or worse they could cut their paw on the sharp ice and snow. We love using Mushers Paw Protection when adventuring outside in the snow with our dogs.
TRAVELING TO YOUR ELOPEMENT WITH YOUR DOG
Unless your dog is small enough to fit in your personal bag on a plane, or your dog is an emotional support animal, they’re not sitting with you on the plane. You could “check” your dog, and then they would go in a crate in the undercarriage where all the luggage goes – but we would never suggest someone do that. I’m sure there are some dogs in the world that wouldn’t be phased by the experience, but I know my dog would probably bark the whole time and be super scared. Like I’ve said a few times in this post – as a dog owner, you know your dog better than anyone and you know what’s best for them!
If you’re planning on driving to your elopement location with your dog here are some tips for driving long distances with your four-legged best good friend.
Tips for traveling to your dog friendly elopement
If you’re new to driving long distances with your dog, don’t worry, we got you! We’ve been driving long distances with our dogs for years and can give you some advice.
When we prepare for a road trip with our dogs we always make sure to exercise our dogs 3-4 hours before we hit the road or if it’s an early morning departure, we make sure to exercise them the night before. You want to exercise them hard enough so they’ll want to sleep most of the trip. But time it out right so they’re able to hydrate and empty their bladder before hitting the road. This will ensure your furry friend is comfortable for most if not all of the ride!
We always find it to be easiest to keep a few Nalgene water bottles full of water, and their water bowl handy at the front of the truck so we can give them water without having to pull over.
It happens. Some dogs get sick in the car and it’s so terrible to watch. Read this article for more tips for helping your dog with car sickness when getting to your dog-friendly elopement.
LEAVE NO TRACE ETHICS TO FOLLOW WHEN ELOPING WITH YOUR DOG
Learn all about Leave No Trace here!
Plan ahead and prepare
Get to know your elopement location. Is there water nearby? What type of surface ground will you be walking on most of the day? Will the area be crowded? It’s always good to plan ahead and prepare when eloping with your dog.
Dogs are wonderful pets that bring so much joy to our lives. But like any pet, they need some rules and boundaries set for their own safety as well as the safety of others around them. It’s a good idea to keep your dog on a leash where it’s required.
Prepare to pack out all their waste
Dogs are the most favorite pet of many people, but they also leave behind a little gift for their owners to clean up. Dog poop. It’s something that we all have to deal with, and it’s not always a fun or pleasant job. However, we all have to do our part with packing it out.
Be considerate of others
Not everyone loves dogs as much as us, so just be mindful of it.
Stay on trail
It’s important to understand the environment you’re in. If it’s an area that’s in repair, or delicate tundra, or wildflowers – this ethic is especially important. Areas with dry grass, dirt, or rocks are usually okay to step on. Leave more about LNT and the ethic of staying on trail here.
WHAT TO PACK FOR YOUR DOG FOR YOUR ELOPEMENT
Water & water bowl
This might be an item that could be skipped if you’ll be in areas with fresh water for your doggo to drink from.
Some outdoor elements and areas make it so your dogs will need paw protection. If you’re planning on hiking in the snow or on ice, Mushers Secret Paw Protection is a must! If you’ll be in an area with cacti, consider getting your dog hiking shoes.
It’s so nice when your dog can carry their own stuff! Think about water, food, dog bowls, etc. All these items add up in weight. Let your dog carry it. They’ll be happy to have a job to do 🙂 We have two of these for our two dogs, one in orange and one in green
We always try to keep a light on our dogs when we are out in the dark. If you’re planning on doing some night hiking with your dog on your wedding day, this would be a good item to have!
Dog poop bags
Yupp, pack it out! We love these Doggy Do Good Biodegradeable bags
Leash and Collar
We love Ruffwear gear for our dogs. We’ve bought a lot of other brands before, and everything from Ruffwear just lasts! Our dogs have had their Ruffwear hiking backpacks, and their collars for 5 years and they look worn, but they’re still in great shape and have zero tears!
Some dogs do much better on a harness than a collar. Consider getting your pup a harness if you’re noticed he’s been acting up while on leashed walks and hikes.
We love Zuke’s treats, and so do the dogs 🙂
If you’re planning an activity for your dog on your wedding day, don’t forget about the toys! Tennis balls, frisbees, squeak toys. The list goes on and your four-legged companion will be super happy you remembered their favorite activity!
MEET OUR TWO DOGS – OLIVE & HAMILTON
Both of our dogs were rescued from a shelter on the east coast, Operation Paws for Homes. We rescued Olive in the summer of 2017, and Hamilton in the summer of 2019. We didn’t have our dogs when we got married in 2016, but if we did, you bet they would have been included in our elopement! These two beauties even had their own feature on Daily Dog Tag.com!
Olive is an older gal who’s starting to show her age a little bit with her grey hairs coming through (just like her mom)! We aren’t sure how old she is. When we rescued her in 2017, they guessed she was 2 years old. So by that theory, she would now be 6. I don’t believe she was 2 when we got her. I think she was probably more like 3-4, which would make her 7-8 now. Either way – she’s my sweet little muffin. We also don’t know what kind of dog she is. Our best guess is she has some black lab in her, but that’s about it! 😀 She loves chasing small critters all over the yard. Her favorite activity is playing fetch! She loves squeak toys more than anything in the whole world. She’s all about her comfort. You’ll find her getting up at 5 am every day to head into the living room to enjoy her peaceful mornings on Alex’s bean bag chair that she has now made hers. 🙂
Hamilton is a show-stopper. Everywhere we go we get asked, “what kind of dog is that!?”. We get asked so much we even started making up dog breeds just to mess with people and see their reactions. My favorite made-up dog breed so far is “Mountain Dew-Dog”. Anyway, the way Hamilton came to us is really a sad story but with a happy ending. When we lived in PA, I (Kelly) would foster dogs. One day I saw a post pop up on our organization’s Facebook page. The post read in big letters with red emojis, “attention! Committed dog foster needed. If a foster is not secured within the next 24 hours, this dog will need to be put down.” I reached out to the organization immediately. There was no way I was letting this dog get put down, he was absolutely gorgeous, and I could see in his eyes just how lonely and sad he was. So we picked him up that Friday night, brought him home and he immediately bonded with Alex. Little did Alex know, I had already told the adoption agency that I potentially wanted to adopt this sweet boy. They told me I had one week to make a decision. On the night after we brought him home, Alex said to me, “we have to keep him”, and I said back, “I already told them we might.” So, there we were, with a new member of the family. Hamilton is the most loyal dog we’ve ever met. He is our shadow at home and follows our every move. He is the sweetest, cuddliest, softest dog ever. He loves playing with other dogs and loves rolling around in the grass or fall leaves (as seen below).
There are so many ways to include your dog in your elopement or wedding; it’s really up to you. If you have a pet, bring them along! They add an extra element of joy and love that can be hard for some couples without four-legged friends to understand. Bringing your dog to your wedding can be an amazing experience for both you and your new spouse. From the emotional support that comes from having a furry friend with you on this happy occasion to being able to share in moments of joy through shared petting sessions, there are plenty of ways dogs help make elopements or weddings all the more special. There’s no reason why your fur baby shouldn’t also have their day too! If this sounds like something you want to do, start planning today with our help. Reach out if you need any assistance getting set up so that both you and your furry best friend are happy on your wedding day!