How to Elope and Include your Dog at your Elopement or Wedding

A groom pets his dog at this first look with his soon to be wife.
Sedona elopement

Everything you need to know about bringing your dog to your elopement

So you are thinking of bringing your pup along to your elopement! Welp my friends you are in the right place. In this blog post I am going to share with you everything you need to think of before the elopement day and on the day of when it comes to having your four legged family member tag along.

A bride hikes up a mountain on a cloudy alaska day with her dog following her.

How to include your dog at your wedding without them attending?

  • Get matching tattoos of your pup
  • Illustrations of your pup on the invites or the paper of your vows
  • Get a cake topper or other decor of them
  • Name a cocktail at your reception after them
  • Put their photo in a locket you can wear the day of
  • Have a photo of them painted or embroidered within your attire. For example – a cuff link of their face, their face on socks, sewn into the dress or on the veil, painted on the shoes, on a pocket square.
  • Have a stuffed animal that looks like them made and have it sitting in the room you get ready in.

How to include your dog at your wedding day with them present:

Your pup is your family, you kiddo and an important part of your life. Including him in your day can be so special and a great way to document your family. Besides just having your dog there for the day there are many ways you can include them in the events if they are present or even if they are not present! Here are a few of our favorite ideas!

  • First look with your dog
  • Dog as the ring barrier
  • First dance with dog
  • Put their paw print on your marriage paperwork (or have them as a witness, only allowed in CO)
  • Walk down the isle/trail together
  • Flower girl/bog with a flower collar
  • Take them to a river, lake or ocean for play time if they love water!

Sometimes thinking about the logistics of having your pup present can get confusing. Here are a few tips we have come up with for past couples who have brought their dogs to their elopement.

  • Bring a friend to help with holding the leash in between moments you can’t have the dog.
  • If your pup is high energy and you’re worried about bringing them to the ceremony, don’t. You can always include them in different parts of the day.
  • Be sure to pack ahead of time everything your dog may need for this day.
  • Be sure to check the weather to make sure you won’t need any extra feet protection for your pup or anything else.
  • If you are going into the National park for a long time or planning to do any back country backpacking in the park you may want to look into Rover or Dog Day care options during that time if you do not have anyone traveling with you.

Where can you elope with your dog?

National Park Elopement with your Dog

The National Parks are some of the most iconic places to elope within the United States, but not the most dog friendly elopement locations. Most National Parks are very strict about where dogs can and can not go. If you are wondering why, a lot of this has to do with protecting the wildlife within the park, safety for your pet and protect plant specifies within the park. A good rule of thumb is to only bring your dog in paved areas like parking lots, campgrounds, etc in parks, but always double check the rules or ask the ranger when you apply for your special use permit.

Advice we have given couples in the past that want to elope in National Parks that are not dog friendly, but want to bring their pup is to book a pet friendly airbnb nearby and include them in the first look or getting ready moments.

You can also consider Forest Service or BLM land near the parks for a ceremony or portraits rather than being in the park. This is what Bill and I did when we eloped in Mount Rainier, we spent the next week back packing with your cat, Indy, on National Forest land where we could still see Rainier. These are the most dog friendly National Parks to consider eloping at if you want to bring your dog for the whole event:

  • Joshua Tree National Park
    • Within this park dogs are allowed within 100ft of a road and at campgrounds. However, know that photography is not allowed at campgrounds, but a lot of climbing routes are right at camp so you could bring your dog to the crag with you. There are several beautiful dirt roads in the park near Joshua Trees so you can get away from pavement. Joshua Tree also is known for some stunning Airbnbs that are dog friendly!
  • Grand Canyon Naitonal Park:
    • The popular Rim Trail around the edge of the Grand Canyon is pet friendly! Just know dogs are not allowed on the busses that take you to the different view points along the rim. My suggestion would be to elope during the off season here if you want to bring your dog along, so there are less crowds and it’s easier to get around. The closest town to the Grand Canyon is Flagstaff which is a super dog friendly area. Dogs are typically allowed in the Airbnbs, Bars and there are lots of dog friendly elopement locations even within that area if you wanted to go to several locations.
  • White Sands National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park
    • Located in New Mexico and Colorado, both of these sand dunes are stunning. Dogs are allowed here anywhere that people are making it the upmost perfect National Park to elope with your pup! How fun would be to go sand dune surfing together on the big day or lay in the sand star gazing. I recommend eloping here fall through spring, the sand would be super hot on your feet and your dogs paws in the summer.
  • Yosemite Naitonal Park
    • While dogs are not allowed everywhere here, they are allowed in one iconic view of the park that also happens to be an approved ceremony location that is perfect at sunrise or sunset! Dogs are also allowed here on any paved walking trails in the valley, where it is easy to get good views of El Capitan and many of the water falls. Know that again, dogs are not allowed on the busses so I would recommend a weekday, early spring (for the waterfalls) or late fall for the elopement.
A dog licks a bride as they all sit in a van together.
Joshua Tree Pet Friendly Elopement

National Forest Land Pet Friendly Locations

While the National Parks are amazing, there are many places to elope outside of that like State Parks, BLM (Bureau of Land Management), National Forest Service and more that are extremely dog friendly. Here are some of the best places to elope that we have found, that are also super dog friendly. The great thing about eloping outside of the National Parks with your pups is that you can spend more of your day with your dogs + permits are typically cheaper!

Sedona is full of stunning red rock views to get married at and all of the trails are dog friendly! Many of the resorts and Airbnbs are also dog friendly. Most of the trials you are allowed to elope on are less than 6 miles making it that much easier to bring your pup along. Note the town does have a leash ordnance law so your dog must be leashed at all times on the trails. We recommend eloping here Fall to Spring for the best weather.

While Moab is really known for off roading, base jumping and it’s National parks there is also a ton of BLM land here that is all dog friendly. You can elope here with your pup overlooking a canyon, in a slot canyon, off road and more! There is a ton of camping options here or many pet friendly hotels and Airbnbs. The best time to elope here is Fall and Spring for the best weather.

Bend is a mecca for adventure, shopping, eating and more! Some awesome places to elope within this area is the forest which has hot springs, the mountains or Smith Rock State park home of some epic climbing. All of these places, dog friendly!! On top of this, many of the bars, coffee shops and restaurants are even dog friendly. The best time to elope here is year round, depending on where within the region you want to go.

A lot of coastal areas are pet friendly, but we chose to tell you about Oregon because of its diversity and amazing cliff views. You can have sandy shores, rocky shores or be in old growth forest near the coast. We love how pet friendly a lot of the towns are and the trials. Did I mention some of these beaches even allow camp fires, what an awesome way to end your elopement day by a fire with your love and your pup! You can totally elope here year round, but the very best time is in the summer, spring or fall.

The entire state of Colorado is truly like a dog owners place to be. There are dog friendly breweries, parks, trails and more. Great Sand Dunes is a super dog friendly National Park as well. However, there are tons of National Forest lands you can take your dog with you for your elopement. Colorado is unique in the fact it is one of the few places you do not need a witness for your elopement, so you can have your dog witness for you!! Outside of the Great Sand Dunes some epic locations are in Northern Colorado, The Garden of Gods or Western Colorado! The best time to elope in these regions are summer or fall!

Ah, Leavenworth! We love this little German town hidden in the “alps” of Washington State! The state park and trails are all dog friendly. It is important to note that several of the best trails to elope here are pretty long and challenging. There are tons of backpacking options in this area as well. Lots of places to stay, you can float the river right from some of the dog friendly Airbnbs! Or you can stay in town for some beers, where there is also lots of small parks in town perfect for the pup. We recommend eloping here in the early summer, the fall for Larches season or in the Winter for skiing and their Christmas festival.

  • Page, Arizona

Page, Arizona area has a lot more to it than just Horseshoe Bend (which is dog friendly!) and Antelope Canyon. We love page for Lake Powell! It is a great place to put the pup on a boat and camp overnight on the lake or spend the day walking around a dog friendly, beautiful read slot canyon in total peace! Outside of that there is also off roading near by with either epic vistas or walking around colorful painted rocks. There is also the opportunity to do a kayaking over night camping trip for your elopement here and heck yes with your pup, for a freaking epic adventure! We recommend eloping here in the Spring (windy season), Fall or Winter (sometimes can snow but rare).

Our home! We love living here because all of the trails are mostly dog friendly! In the Mount Baker area you have short easy hikes and long hikes you can do on your elopement day. There are waterfalls, lakes, amazing mountain views, a hot spring and a killer ski resorts. You can stay in a cozy cabin on your elopement day with your dog – can you say yes please to hanging out by an indoor fire to end your elopement day? Heck yes! If you wanted you could even back pack and stay over night in a fire tower! How cool?! Pup included, of course. We recommend eloping here in the summer and early fall, however some other months can work depending where you want to go on your elopement day and how flexible you can be with weather.

A couple kisses in the mountains as their dog looks at the camera.
Mount Baker Elopement with Dog by the Lake surrounded by snow covered mountains.

Tips for Traveling with your dog for your elopement

Also when planning you want to consider if you have to travel to your location. Has your dog flown before? I highly suggest if flying with a pet to try to get them on board the plane with you and not put below. Please, please call your airline to book your flight and get all the info you need to be prepared. Most flights can only have two pets per flight on board, but can put more below. Be sure to visit your vet prior to your flight for the proper paper work or any medicine they may need. If you are driving to your location, just plan for any extra time you may need for bathroom stops or stretching stops. If you are stopping along your drive be sure to book pet free Airbnbs or consider camping options.

On the elopement day if you have traveled to the location and do not have any family around you may need to get a dog sitter, walker or board your pup for some of the time during your trip/elopement. We recommend checking out Rover for the local area at least 2 months ahead and/or calling a local vet office to see who they recommend locally or if they also offer boarding.

What to pack for your dog friendly elopement:

Important, frequently asked questions about bringing your dog to your elopement!

Can my dog be my witness?

Yes, the dog can legally sign as your witness in the state of Colorado. In other states they can not be a legal witness, but you can have them sign your paperwork that you get to keep or the final document the clerk office sends for your own keepsake.

Can I have my Dog at my Wedding?

Well of course you can have your dog at your wedding!!! The important things that make this successful is picking a dog friendly place to get married, being patient and having fun with it!

How do you put a dog in a wedding without them being there?

We know a lot of you may be eloping without your dog coming to the wedding day, but still want to include them! Some of the best ways to do this is: get your dogs face printed on the socks you wear, you can Facetime your dog to say hello to him, include them on printed items, get ready with your dog there, name your reception cocktail after the dog, put a photo of your pup in your vow books or take photos with them before or after!

Who should walk the dog down the aisle?

Well, in this case you may be walking your dog down a trail to the wedding. It is up to you! You can have a guest do it, one of you can do it or you can walk together down the aisle with your dog. Either way we can help you with the logistics!

Important info on following Leave No Trace when you bring your dog to your elopement:

Per the Leave No Trace Organization: “Pet waste can be a serious problem in the outdoors. 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 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. The solution is simple–clean up after your pet. This simple act keeps lands used for recreation clean for all to enjoy.”

It is also important to follow leash rules for the area you are in – some please allow dogs off leash, some do not and some allow dogs only in specific areas. This is all for good reason and typically relates to the wildlife in the area so it is important to follow those rules.

Just like on an elopement day you follow the general 7 principals of LNT apply all of that to the experience you are crafting with your pup too: be prepared, stay on trail, be considerate of others and so on.

A couple poses for a photo with their dog and cat.

Pet Elopement Photographers!

Bill and I are big animal lovers. We have Indy, our cat who loves canyoneering, and Tucker, our dog from Moab, who lovesss the trials. We have traveled in a van full time for years with our pets so we know a ton about getting out there with your kiddo. When we got married we included Indy with us on a 6 mile backpacking trip because we couldn’t imagine saying I do without him (we didn’t have tucker yet!) So we look forward to helping you have an epic elopement day with your furry loves too!

How to include your cat at your elopement or wedding!

Because we eloped with our cat Indy + we travel with him a ton we get asked a lot – HOW?! My answers as to how to include your cat in your big day really depend on a lot of factors, so let’s explore this!

  • Are you having an adventure elopement or a traditional wedding?

If you are having an adventure elopement and want to bring your cat it is important that you cat already be used to the outdoors. Indy loves camping, hiking, kayaking and canyoneering. While backpacking was new to him for our elopement we was already used to the two main elements – 6 mile hike + sleeping in the tent. You do not want to stress yourself and your cat out by trying something totally new on this day. The same goes for a wedding. You can to think about – is your cat already used to crowds? Where is the wedding – is a place they are familiar with?

  • Do you need to travel to your location?

Traveling with a dog and a cat on a plane is truly the same – except the cat may be more nervous. However, most dogs do really well with car travel, but most cats to do now. So be sure your cat is already used to car travel . Also, be sure you are prepared for how to travel in a car with a cat. Get a good spot for the litter, make sure they are comfy and know your limit on driving in one day.

  • Make sure you are being safe + smart for your cats sake.

Cats are stressed easily and you do not want to put your cat in a situation that terrifies them. Also, if your cat is stressed there is a high chance you will be stressed. One thing that is much different than having a dog at your wedding versus a cat is the ability to keep your cat contained lol. Cats easily can escape a harness and sometimes collars are not the best bet. We recommend getting an un-escapable harness. You can connect this to their collar – especially if you will be outside in the wild with your cat. In a home or venue it can be a little easier.

Check out this cat harness – this is the one we use with Indy.

Otherwise, make sure you have a treat bag and you can include them into your wedding/elopement plans just like a pup!

We’d Love To Hear About Your Plans To Include The Pup!

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A couple and their cat pose for a photo at their wedding with mt rainier in the background.