We love dogs. We love our dogs, our couples’ dogs, we haven’t even met your dog but we probably love them too. As two people who got married and had our own dog at our wedding, we GET how important it can be for a couple to have their four legged bestie by their side. BUT, it does take a bit more work to plan a dog friendly elopement. We gotchu covered. First and foremost, your dog can’t be your witness at your wedding. We can get super cute pawprints, just not on your marriage license. On the bright side, as your duo photographer team, we can be your witness! We are literally, already there for you.
1. Know when they’re allowed
Most National Parks have strict rules on where and when dogs are allowed. They include both guidelines on trails and in parking lots. The first step in the planning process if you’re considering eloping with your fur baby is to check the rules of where you are eloping. Always check the “pets” section on the national parks website. These will outline the rules clearly.
There are options for when your dog is not allowed. For Jessica and Curtis, having their dog, Ryka, there for their ceremony meant everything to them. Glacier National Park doesn’t allow dogs outside of the parking lot, so we went into planning beast mode to get them the perfect elopement location for them. We chose a mountain lake just outside of the park where they got ready in the campground and said their vows for a Glacier dog friendly elopement. While Ryka couldn’t make it in the park, being able to get ready together and have their vows nearby meant the world!
For more information on dogs in Glacier, see their pets information page.
Some National Parks have dogs allowed sometimes. For Betsy and Andy, a Bernese mountain dog named Wallace was their VIP guest. Our buddy Wally HAD to make it for the big day. Sand Harbor only allows dogs from mid-October to mid-April and only on a leash, so for our couple and Wally this was the best time of year to elope in Lake Tahoe.
2. Keep temperature in mind
With tough weather, you must consider your pup’s ability to be both outdoors and in the car. Daily Paws shares- to test the outside level, “hold the back of your hand on the ground for five seconds and if you can’t, it’s too hot to walk your dog on it,” Jessa Paschke, pet behavior and training specialist with Mars Petcare, says. Paschke adds that ice can also be a risk for pets during colder months, and to practice caution to help you and your pup avoid slick spots then as well.” Invest in a cooling/warming vest and pet booties.
Call us over cautious but we also recommend being aware of air quality levels; we want to make sure we watch out for smoke inhalation (when applicable) for them and you!
Dog owners know that if it’s too dangerous to be outside, it may also be dangerous to keep dogs in cars for long periods of time. If your fur baby is only a small part of your elopement day, make sure it is cool enough for them and keep them in your AirBnB or in an air conditioned car.
3. Confirm your sleeping arrangements are dog friendly
Which brings us to our next point – dog friendly sleeping arrangements. If your dog has to stay back for any part of your adventure, they need to be comfortable. Find a hotel or rental that is dog friendly. AirBnB has an entire section on their site to help YOU find dog friendly rentals! Whether you’re looking for pet-friendly or pet-free, you can find a listing’s pet policy in its House Rules section. Even if a listing says pets are allowed, always contact the host to confirm, tell them about the pet(s) you plan to bring, and find out if restrictions apply. For instance, pets may not be allowed on beds or sofas. AirBnB hosts are also required to accept service animals (even if they don’t allow pets), except in limited health and safety circumstances.
Bring Fido is our favorite website to find dog friendly hotels and restaurants. After your “I Do”s, we can plan out a dog friendly reception. Fun for the whole family! Psstt – there are a TON of dog friendly options in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. If you want to explore the Wolverine State we are ready to make some incredible adventures happen!
4. Consider your dog’s outdoor and hiking experience level
When taking your dog on the hike, ask your photographer for specific trail conditions. We help all of our couples with this ahead of time so you know if there is extensive rock scrambling or high elevation gain that might be difficult for dogs who are not used to these types of long hikes. We want a good experience for our couples, but also their four legged friends! Do you want help choosing the hike? We gotcha! We help you choose a hike that is suitable for your dog’s outdoor experience and an incredible elopement spot.
One hike does not fit all for dogs. Older and overweight dogs won’t be able to tackle trails with as much ease as younger pups in their prime. Bigger dogs might be able to take on more than smaller dogs, but our littlest friends can either be held or put in a backpack. Think about your pup, no one knows them better than you!
5. Follow dog friendly, Leave No Trace guidelines
Leave No Trace Pet Principles: Manage your dog, pick up poop, and be considerate of others.
These principles outline that keeping your dog in control protects your pet, other visitors and their pets, and local wildlife. When you plan a dog friendly elopement, check with local government officials or land managers about area leash requirements. Respect private property by not allowing your dog to wander from designated trails or off-leash areas. Don’t let your pup dig holes or cause disturbance to wildlife.
When they gotta go, they gotta go. Pet waste can be a serious problem. With so many people recreating with their pets, the potential to impact the environment is significant. Pet waste smells, can be a health hazard for people (particularly children) and other animals, and is not natural to any environment. Cleaning up after your pet helps protect water resources, plant life and habitat for native animals. Prepare with poop bags for them and some hand sanitizer for you!
Lastly, be considerate of others. Pay attention, expect to encounter others and be courteous. Yield to all. Others may not appreciate your dog’s company; always ask before allowing your dog to approach them. Be a good human.
- Pack the essentials
When you plan a dog friendly elopement, you will need to pack your dog’s own set of equipment.
- Be sure you have plenty of water with a collapsible water bowl (our local Montana pet store has one).
- Bring a harness if leashed for long periods.
- Don’t forget the poop bags (mentioned in our LNT section above).
- We recommend a canine first aid kit with a set of tweezers and a couple bandages just in case.
- Include a towel to wipe your dog off, no brown paws on white dresses please!
- Be mindful of other activities you have planned. If a Lake Tahoe Sunset Boat Cruise is on your list, make sure to include a life jacket for your dog too.
- Of course – snacks and treats. These are especially helpful for your photographer to motivate your pup to pose for all the amazing elopement pics!
- Which brings up to our next point – embrace the elopement with your dog! From flower collars, to harness tuxes, there are tons of options so you aren’t the only one getting dolled up!
If you are ready to emBARK on the plan a dog friendly elopement, we are here to speak to you! Let’s get your personal elopement package created so the three + of you can have a pawsitively epic adventure!