Here comes the bride - and her dog

December 31, 2006|By Ann Marie Somma | Ann Marie Somma,Hartford (Conn.) Courant

Add checking guests for pet allergies to the already overwhelming to-do list for brides-to-be.

More and more couples are including their pets in their wedding ceremony. The furry companions are standing in as best men, bridesmaids and ring bearers, sometimes in outfits that rival those of the wedding party.

When Justine Rogers of New Britain, Conn., was married in West Point, N.Y., in August, her poodles Bradley and Cha Cha walked down the aisle with her.

Bradley was the ring bearer. Dressed in a tuxedo, he had a pillow attached by Velcro to his neck holding the wedding bands. Cha Cha - decked out in pearls and a tiara - was carried down the aisle in a pink basket by the minister's wife. (Rogers purchased their outfits at petedge.com.)

"They are really like children to me," says Rogers, who works in corporate sales and marketing for Delta Airlines.

With the rise of less-formal, intimate weddings, the idea of including a pet in the ceremony is no longer a surprise. And wedding planners and pet boutiques are adjusting to the demand.

Dan Fowler, a justice of the peace in Stamford, Conn., thinks including pets in a wedding is wonderful.

"Lots of people are very much attached to their animals. Pets are part of someone's family," Fowler says.

Fowler performed a wedding on the beach in Stamford last summer with the couple's Labrador retriever positioned between the bride and groom. The ceremony went off without a bark.

Corrine Crocker-Luby, a wedding planner in Glastonbury, Conn., took her cat, Romeo, to a ceremony renewing her wedding vows. Crocker-Luby outfitted Romeo with a bow tie and held him during the small, intimate ceremony with friends and family.

"We needed a best man," says Crocker-Luby, who owns Corrine's Wedding Consulting.

Crocker-Luby says she's organized several weddings with pets, and she offers couples a few pieces of tail-wagging advice:

The bride and groom should both want the pet present.

Check with the justice of the peace or clergy member so the pet's presence doesn't come as a surprise.

Don't tell anyone you plan to include your dog on the big day. Someone will talk you out of it, Crocker-Luby says.

Hire a dog sitter for the day. Keep the dog on a leash. Don't make the dog center stage, and don't invite the dog to the reception. No one wants a dog licking table scraps after dinner, no matter how cute he is at home.

Lisa Cox, a wedding planner in Greenwich, Conn., says she's seen an increase of dogs participating in wedding ceremonies the past three years.

"I've seen a couple of cats and a llama, but dogs are pretty common," says Cox, who owns Amusee Design and Event.

Cox helped plan a wedding in Ridgefield, Conn., this summer in which the father of the bride escorted a dog down the aisle after he seated his wife. The dog had a wreath and bow around its neck.

"They are members of the extended family; they should be there," Cox says.

For couples who don't include their pets in the ceremony, there are other ways to acknowledge them on the big day, such as mentioning them in the exchange of vows.

Cox says one couple had their engagement pictures taken with their pet. A reference to the pet can be included in the wedding invitations or save-the-date cards. And for guests who might want to bring pets, the invitations could feature a list of pet-friendly hotels in the area.

Rogers says she couldn't imagine her wedding day without Bradley and Cha Cha. The dogs were showcased during the ceremony, but they sat out the reception in a hotel room. Of course, Rogers had checked ahead to see whether the hotel was pet-friendly.

Ann Marie Somma writes for The Hartford (Conn.) Courant.

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