Including our beloved dogs at weddings is not a new trend, but is certainly one that continues to gain in popularity within the wedding planning community. But, not all dogs in the UK are considered family pets.

Over 7,000 people rely on the highly trained help of an assistance dog or canine partner to give them greater independence and emotional support in their daily lives, according to Assistance Dogs UK. At times, this support will often extend to special events and personal occasions, like the wedding of a handler or owner.

Meanwhile, research from Guide Dogs UK shows that 94 per cent of dog owners would like to give their fur babies a starring role in their wedding celebrations, from having their pets being part of the first dance (42 per cent) and walking the bride down the aisle (39 per cent), to being the Dog of Honour or Best Mutt (37 per cent) or taking responsibility as the ring bearer (30 per cent).

Wedding experts at leading wedding planning platform spoke to experts from Guide Dogs UK and Canine Partners on how to include a working dog in your big day.

Paul Martin from Guide Dogs UK said: “Many of our guide dog owners will give their canine partner a starring role in recognition of the special place they have in their life. A bride will often walk down the aisle with her guide dog, whereas a groom may have their assistance dog with them at the altar.

“We’ve seen guide dogs with their harnesses decorated with flower garlands, lace or ribbon to match the colour scheme or even made an honorary bridesmaid. Bandanas and bow ties are also a great choice.

“It’s also worth remembering that people with sight loss will very often have friends and family who have sight loss themselves, so there will likely be other guide dogs or retired guide dog guests at the wedding. Getting them all together for a celebratory photograph is a must.

“Just like pet dogs, assistance dogs will need a break during this busy day, and a safe quiet place to be left when the party gets underway if their owner doesn’t need their support.”

Paul says there are a range of reasons why someone might rely on the support of a canine partner. The most common assistance dog types in the UK include guide and hearing dogs, medical alert dogs (for seizures, diabetes, etc), PTSD/trauma dogs, autism support dogs, and assistance dogs for people who use a wheelchair to get around.

Claire Anthony, Interim Head of Operations & Aftercare Manager, Canine Partners shares advice for dog lovers who may want to greet a working dog while at a wedding. “Many of our partnerships will attend weddings in support of their friends and families as well as potentially look at involvement for their own wedding days. As a canine partner, they have Assistance Dogs access rights to attend churches and wedding venues.

“If you see an Assistance Dog at a wedding, they are most likely working. Automatically approaching the dog first, by either speaking to or touching them, may distract the dog and take away his attention from his human partner. If for some reason an Assistance Dog does approach you, check with their human partner in the first instance if they need assistance. It may be that the dog has just been distracted by something or someone and if this is the case, the human partner will be grateful to you for ignoring the dog to allow refocus of his attention.

“However, some Assistance Dogs are trained to seek help from other humans in case of emergency, so, once again, check with the human partner to see if assistance is required.”

Considerations before including a dog in a wedding

Rima Barakeh, deputy editor and wedding expert at says: “As lovely as it would be to have your dog walking down the aisle with you, there are a number of things to consider before you make the decision to have a pet-friendly wedding. From venue permission and allergies, to training and practice runs, there's a lot to consider before deciding to include your dog in your wedding day.

“Ultimately, when making this decision, you need to look at your big day through your dog's eyes. Is this going to be an enjoyable experience for them? Will they have a fun day? Is it feasible? Being able to include your beloved pet in your wedding is an amazing thing, but it has to work on a practical level for you, your guests, the wedding venue and most importantly, your pet.”