Mazel Pup! Involving Your Dog in Your Jewish Wedding – Smashing the Glass



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Jacqui and James‘ Jewish wedding with dogs | Photo by Sarah Diller

This is a guest post by Rabbi Robyn Frisch, Director of the Rukin Rabbinic Fellowship for 18Doors and founder of the Mazel Pups Facebook Group. Rabbi Robyn loves dogs just as much as she loves Jewish (and Jew-is) weddings – and having officiated at many over the past 20+ years, she’s seen it all and is channeling her wisdom into some great tips about involving your furry best friend in your big day.


“Will there be a ring bearer?” I asked the wedding couple, after they informed me that the bride’s four-year-old niece was going to be the flower girl. This was 22 years ago. I was a newly ordained rabbi, and it was one of the first weddings I officiated. The couple was planning a small, intimate ceremony in the groom’s parents’ back yard.



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Rachel and Aaron‘s dog-friendly Jewish wedding | Photo by Hello Blue Photo

They told me that yes, there would be a ring bearer: their Yorkshire Terrier. He’d walk down the aisle by himself with plastic rings tied onto a bow around his collar. The best man would be holding the couple’s actual wedding rings. “How bizarre!” I thought to myself. In the handful of weddings that I’d officiated, a couple of them had ring bearers – but they were HUMAN ring bearers – all little boys under the age of five. As I imagined a dog – even a cute, well-trained little Yorkie – in the ceremony, a list of all of the things that could possibly go wrong ran through my head.






Jacqui and James‘ Jewish wedding with dogs | Photo by Sarah Diller

But the couple insisted that their dog be the ringbearer, and so he was. And I’m happy to report that the dog did a great job. He walked down the aisle on his own – stopping briefly once or twice to sniff the grass and look at the guests – and when he met the groom at the Chuppah (wedding canopy) he was rewarded with a scratch behind his ears and a Milk Bone treat subtly removed from the groom’s pocket.



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Wendy and Nagesh‘s Jewish wedding – with their dog | Photo by Laurie Bailey 

For many years after that wedding, I didn’t see or hear much about dogs being part of weddings. But in recent years, many couples I’ve married have dogs who aren’t just incredibly important parts of their lives, but who’ve also played roles in proposals; engagement and wedding photos; and wedding ceremonies.



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Sara and Greg‘s Jewish wedding, with pup Bruce | Photo by Hilary Katzen 

PROPOSALS

For some couples I’ve worked with, the dog’s involvement starts with their engagement. For example, Sydney and Andrew already had rescued their dog Jasper together, and Sydney felt that Jasper was ready for a sibling. Her hints to Andrew weren’t so subtle: Sydney started sending Andrew pictures of other dogs they could rescue. She had no idea that Andrew was already in the process of looking for another dog to add to their family – and that he was planning for that dog to be a central part of his proposal.






Samantha and Scott‘s Jewish wedding, with furry friends on the guest list | Photo by Starfish Studios 

One day, Andrew came home holding roses – and a dog! Sydney was so excited about their new dog Pippa that it took her awhile to notice that Pippa was wearing a tag that said “Will you marry me?” Ultimately, Sydney did see the tag, and ended up that day with both a new dog in the family and the love of her life as her fiance.



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Rachel and Aaron‘s dog-friendly Jewish wedding | Photo by Hello Blue Photo

ENGAGEMENT PHOTOS

Many couples choose to have their dogs in their engagement photos. While they’ll of course take plenty of photos with just the two of them, they’ll also have a bunch of photos with their dog, or dogs. Just like engagement photos in general, sometimes the photos with the dogs are taken at the couple’s home, sometimes they’re taken at a photographer’s studio, and sometimes they’re taken outside. Often the photos with the dogs are taken first, and then someone who the dogs are comfortable with – a relative, groomer, walker, or someone else the dog knows well – takes the dog so the couple and photographer can be alone to take the rest of the photos.







Ganga and Seth with their dog at their Jewish wedding | Photo by Thais Aquino 

WEDDING PHOTOS

Even couples who don’t have their dog in their wedding ceremony often want to have pictures of their dog with them on their special day. As with engagement photos, usually someone who the dog is comfortable with – who isn’t going to be staying for the ceremony – will bring the dog to the venue or location where pictures are being taken at some point before the ceremony.



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Wendy and Nagesh‘s Jewish wedding – with their dog | Photo by Laurie Bailey 

It’s not unusual for the dogs to be “dressed up” for these photos – for example, a male dog might have on a bow tie or a female dog might be wearing bows on her ears or on top of her head, or the dog may even have on a dressy “outfit.”






Rebekkah and Jakob‘s interfaith Jewish wedding with dogs | Photo by Abbey Raine

The wedding couple will take some cute pictures with their dog – often several posed pictures, and maybe some pictures of the couple walking the dog if they’re getting married outside or there’s a good outside space for pictures. Then, whoever brought the dogs will take them home or somewhere else before the ceremony begins. 



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Rachel and Aaron‘s dog-friendly Jewish wedding | Photo by Hello Blue Photo

WEDDING CEREMONIES

Some couples want to include their dog – or dogs – in their wedding ceremony. Typically, dogs are either walked down the aisle by someone in the wedding party, or by someone such as a dog walker who the dog is comfortable with. Most couples who have their dog walk down the aisle then have someone take the dog out of the area, so there’s no risk of the dog being disruptive during the ceremony.



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Ganga and Seth’s dog at their Jewish wedding | Photo by Thais Aquino 

It’s not uncommon to have a dog walker or someone else who isn’t a wedding guest present for the procession – regardless of whether or not they’re the one who walks the dog down the aisle – and then they can take the dog somewhere else immediately after the procession. Other couples want their dogs to stand with the wedding party during the ceremony, so the dog walker or someone else will sit near the front or stand off to the side and be “on call” if the dog can’t stand or sit quietly – in which case they can quickly take the dog to some other location.



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Rebekkah and Jakob‘s interfaith Jewish wedding with dogs | Photo by Abbey Raine

Whenever a couple tells me they want to include their dog in their ceremony I tell them the same thing I tell couples that want to include very young children in their ceremony: “That’s great, and it can be really cute and very meaningful. But you need to realize that you won’t have total control. And you need to be okay with potentially being upstaged.”

Just like the young flower girl or ring bearer who may decide at the last minute that they don’t want to walk down the aisle, or who may start crying, or who may need a parent to walk with them or carry them – or who may totally “steal the show” by doing something absolutely adorable but unexpected – no matter how well trained your dog is and no matter how many times you rehearse, there can never be a guarantee of what a dog will do as they walk down the aisle. As long as the couple can handle that, then I say: go for it!






Jacqui and James‘ Jewish wedding with dogs | Photo by Sarah Diller

Recently, I officiated the wedding of Jordyn and Charlie. Jordyn and I had bonded in our very first conversation – in which she told me about her dogs Addie and Mason – over our shared love of dogs. Jordyn had Addie before she even met Charlie. Then, when they were together, they rescued Mason. Jordyn and Charlie never questioned whether Addie and Mason would be part of their wedding ceremony. During the procession, the two dogs followed two adorable human flower girls down the aisle as ring bearers, looking especially handsome in their custom-made tuxedos. After they walked down the aisle and stood up front for the beginning of the ceremony, their groomers, who had been standing off to the side of the groomsmen, took them to another location for the rest of the ceremony.



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Ganga and Seth’s dogs at their Jewish wedding | Photo by Thais Aquino 

Once I even had a dog accompany a bride down the aisle. I was marrying a wonderful lesbian couple, and at one of our final meetings, one of the brides told me that she was planning to have her dog walk her down the aisle. As this was something I’d never experienced before, I asked her why. She explained that she’d waited a long time to come out as gay, knowing that her parents would have difficulty with her identity, and that even though her parents would be at the wedding, she knew that they didn’t fully accept that she was gay. Her dog, however, had accepted her for exactly as who she was from the moment that they first met. I was so touched by the impact that her dog’s unconditional love had on this bride that I had tears in my eyes as she and her dog walked down the aisle together.






Rebekkah and Jakob‘s interfaith Jewish wedding with dogs | Photo by Abbey Raine

For those of us who have dogs, they play an important role in our lives and often in our relationships. We love them – and they love us – unconditionally. It makes sense that wedding couples want to find ways to include their dogs at this special time in their lives, whether it’s by including them in proposals, engagement and/or wedding pictures, or by including them in the wedding ceremony.






Jacqui and James‘ Jewish wedding with dogs | Photo by Sarah Diller

The wonderful thing is that there’s no right or wrong way to do things when it comes to dogs and weddings – whatever feels right to you and your partner IS the right thing. Best of all, your dog will never know whether or not they’ve been included. Whether they weren’t in a single engagement or wedding picture or whether they were in lots of pictures and they participated in the ceremony, they’ll love you just as much after your wedding as they did before. The first time you see your dog after your wedding ceremony, odds are that you’ll be greeted by a wagging tail and lots of wet kisses – the best Mazel Tov you could ask for!



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Ganga and Seth with their dog at their Jewish wedding | Photo by Thais Aquino 

About the Author

Rabbi Robyn Frisch is the Director of the Rukin Rabbinic Fellowship for 18Doors and the spiritual leader of Temple Menorah Keneseth Chai in Northeast Philadelphia. She and her husband, Rabbi Seth Frisch, are the proud parents of three children and two rescue dogs. In early 2022, she created the Mazel Pups Facebook Group  for people who are Jewish or Jew-ish (however they define it) who love dogs. She’s now also on Instagram @mazelpups, and she’s looking forward to the adventure of growing Mazel Pups.

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