We’ve all heard the playground tune, “First comes love then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.” But these days, that sing-song doesn’t apply for most couples. People are getting married later in life, or not at all, or opting for kids before the ceremony or skipping kids all together. For many  families kids are out and pets are in. So much so that Rover isn’t just a pet anymore, he’s a adopted child. (Especially when, according to BabyCenter.com, the cost of raising a child is 250,000 and that’s NOT including college). If your inner circle is comprised of two lovers and a lab, then you’re in luck because today we are going to help you add a little woof to your wedding.

But, before you rush over to Pet Smart to buy a cute doggy tuxedo, here are a few tips from PetFinder.com to help you decide if Fido is ready for your big day.

Is my pup up for the challenge?

  • When planning a ceremony and reception location, make sure they allow pets. What are the rules? Must dogs be on a leash? Can they freely roam the venue?
  • Know your pet before making the decision to include them in your wedding, because some pets may not handle large crowds and intense situations well. Is he a people person? Does he get nervous around strangers? Does he like children?

Planning the doggy debut:

  • Talk to your guests, including the bridal party, before hand and see if they are comfortable having your pet around. Is anyone in your wedding party allergic to dogs? What about the wedding guests? Find out well before the big day. Tell them what you are considering.
  • Will your dog walk down the aisle on his own? Will he have a handler? What will you do in case he has an accident on the aisle?
  • Will he be in the wedding photos?

Practice and lots of treats:

  • Practice multiple times, like you would for any new trick or behavior. Acclimate him to the wedding venue. Have him practice walking down the aisle.
  • If your pet is going to be wearing a new item, like a bow tie collar or a ring pillow, put it on several times before the actual event. Offer treats and praise as you practice.

Before the big day…

  • Give your dog a bath or take him to the groomer the day before the wedding. You want him to be smelling fresh and looking clean.
  • Help your dog blend with the wedding party by buying a dog collar and leash that match the bridesmaid dresses or a cute little bow tie to match what the groomsmen are wearing.
  • Decrease the chances of having an overly hyper dog at the wedding, and allow him to run, play and release lots energy before the wedding.

On the day you say “I Do,” don’t forget to have a bowl of fresh water for your pooch.