Love Me, Love My Dog

On July 9, 2022, Johnny Hilbrant-Partridge and Justin Partridge presented each other with gifts ahead of their wedding ceremony at French’s Point, a private coastal estate in Stockton Springs, Maine. Standing before friends and family, Mr. Partridge first unwrapped a Movado watch from Mr. Hilbrant-Partridge. Then, Mr. Partridge suddenly walked out to retrieve his own surprise for his fiancé: a golden retriever puppy.

“I thought I was having a dream,” said Mr. Hilbrant-Partridge, 33, the senior director for customer experience at Beam, a wellness company. The two, who live in Cambridge, Mass., had longed for a second dog to join their older golden retriever, Nahla, for quite some time — especially Mr. Hilbrant-Partridge.

“I was like, You know what? I’m going to use this as an extra little thing for the wedding if I can pull it off,” said Mr. Partridge, 33, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon at the Oral and Facial Surgery Centers of Massachusetts. The winter leading up to their nuptials, he reached out to the breeder they had used previously. The breeder not only expedited Mr. Partridge’s request, but also deflected Mr. Hilbrant-Partridge’s occasional queries concerning the availability of new puppies.

The plan went off without a hitch.

“Strategically, I wanted to surprise Johnny with the puppy prior to putting our wedding suits on so we weren’t covered in golden fur for all our photos,” Mr. Partridge said. The idea to include family and friends during the gift exchange was also his — Mr. Hilbrant-Partridge found it awkward and funny that Mr. Partridge had asked their loved ones to watch them give what he thought would be small, simple presents.

Presenting a puppy as a wedding gift is just one of the many ways that couples are including canines in their celebrations. In dressing rooms, in photo shoots and on dance floors, dogs are playing critical roles in making weddings of all sizes feel more personalized, festive and intimate.

Mahsa Zojaji Fouchey’s 10-year-old Yorkshire terrier, Meshki, has been a part of her life since she was 21. “We’ve been just inseparable,” said Ms. Fouchey, now 32. She is the founder of Sound of Script, a company that specializes in wedding stationery design, and lives in Los Angeles.

For her, it was a no-brainer to include Meshki in her June 23 wedding to Jeff Fouchey, 43, the chief executive of FAID, a college planning platform. There was one obstacle: Meshki has a collapsed trachea, and overstimulation can cause his airways to tighten. “We always have to keep him really calm,” Ms. Fouchey said.

So she decided to forgo a bridal party and instead get ready in a more relaxed environment at the venue, Calamigos Ranch in Malibu, Calif., with her mother, her sister and, of course, her Yorkie. While the women enjoyed mimosas and muffins, Meshki munched on freshly made treats. He wore his own tuxedo for the big day.

“I was really clear with my photographer that I wanted him to be in every getting-ready photo,” Ms. Fouchey said, adding, “It was just such a calming and relaxing morning, and I feel like it was just the best decision for me.”

Dri Buono Patel, a clinical manager in Marlton, N.J., was inspired by bachelorette party revelers who often carry around cutouts of the other partner’s face. Only in Ms. Patel’s case, she wanted a 24-by-16-inch cutout featuring her 1-year-old golden retriever, Tater Tot, to serve as a prop during her wedding reception on June 17 with Matthew Patel, 28, a manager at Ernst & Young.

“The guests went crazy for it to the point where at the end of the night, our wedding coordinator had to physically remove ‘him’ from the dance floor,” Ms. Patel, 27, said. “We got our professional photos back and it’s just hysterical — you see Tater Tot in almost every party image.” Tater Tot also did a brief first look in a tuxedo with his two-legged parents.

Stefanie and Daniel Lara have always thought of their two dogs — Milo, a husky mix, and Sammy, an Australian cattle dog mix — as their children, and could not imagine a wedding without them. The couple had initially planned to host their celebration in the fall of 2023. But when Milo was diagnosed with inoperable thyroid cancer on June 24, 2022, their plans quickly changed.

“I had seen things before about how people have had their dogs sign their marriage license in Colorado because it’s legal there,” said Ms. Lara, 26, a special-education teacher in Beach Park, Ill. “We had been to Colorado before and we loved the state, so we just decided, ‘Hey, let’s just plan an elopement.’”

After an 18-hour car ride, Ms. Lara and Mr. Lara, 32, a self-employed mechanic, wed in front of their mothers, as well as Sammy and Milo, at Independence Pass on July 27, 2022. After the couple exchanged vows and signed their marriage license, Milo, wearing a tuxedo bandanna, and Sammy, wearing a flower collar, both dipped their paws in ink to sign the license. Milo died on Jan. 28.

The Laras plan to hang the framed marriage license in their bedroom.

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