By Valerie L. Valdez

On their first date, Tyler and Tyra Frithiof of Temple knew they had chemistry when they shared photos of their dogs. Yet the big question remained: Would the dogs get along as well as the people?

“We’re both devoted to our dogs, so we all had to be compatible,” Tyra Frithiof said.

Fortunately, everyone got along. So in October 2009, the couple married in a sun-baked beach ceremony on South Padre Island. Their dogs, Leo, a mastiff, and Skeeter, a collie, served as the “Paws of Honor” — Leo as best man and Skeeter as the ring bearer.

A friend of the Frithiofs helped manage the dogs throughout the day, but Leo and Skeeter behaved well and pranced on the beach with excitement. Even they knew it was a special day.

It may sound as if their wedding went to the dogs, but including pets in wedding ceremonies is a growing trend.

“Pets are the children before the children,” said Johnell Huebner, owner of Clearly Classy Events in Austin. “A wedding is about family, so when an animal-loving couple get married, they often want to incorporate their pets into the nuptials.”

In the past year, Huebner coordinated five wedding ceremonies that included dogs.

While other animals may be involved in weddings, dogs are the most common, with golden retrievers and Labradors leading the way, Huebner said. Sometimes dogs dressed in bow ties serve as the best men or as the ring bearers with the rings in pouches on their collars. Some serve as flower girls and carry small bouquets in their mouths.

Stefanie Yandell, owner of Your Wedding, Your Way in Austin, planned five weddings with dogs since 2013. “It’s a popular and fun thing, but people need to know all the logistics involved,” Yandell said.

Huebner offered her professional advice to couples eager to have a dog-gone good time at their wedding.

“Couples should check with the venue to see if it allows dogs during the ceremony, because due to liability factors, not every outdoor space permits it,” she said.

Outdoor venues are typically more flexible, because it’s rare for an indoor space, such as a church, to allow dogs during the ceremony.

Dogs should be managed before and after the ceremony by someone they know, a friend or family member, to make them feel comfortable and safe.

“Dogs may act differently around larger crowds than they do at home,” Yandell said. “Owners shouldn’t assume their dog will automatically engage well with many other people in a different setting, so you must really know your dog’s temperament.”

If it is not possible to have the dog in the ceremony, then Yandell recommends honoring it by having wedding photos taken with the couple and the dog before the ceremony and then take it home. “You can have the memories with your dog on your wedding day, without having to deal with other issues.”

For Tyler and Tyra Frithiof, Leo and Skeeter had to be by their side at the wedding.

“We do almost everything with them, including vacations,” Tyra Frithiof said. “It was great day for our family, and when we renew our vows in the future, they’ll be there, too.”

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