Bow Vows: Dog Weddings

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Bow Vows: Dog Weddings

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AT ALBERT AND BRIDGET'S WEDDING, ADHERING TO THE CLICHÉ THAT HAS PRACTICALLY BECOME wedding tradition, the bride was late for the ceremony. No, it wasn't wedding jitters; in this case, our bride was busy searching out the perfect spot to pee.

When she finally squatted on some rocks in full view of the wedding guests patiently waiting for the sunset beach ceremony to begin, everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Fortunately, Bridget, a Maltese, didn't spoil her Vera Woof lace dress, and her Chinese Crested groom, looking dapper in a tuxedo and top hat, really didn't care. After all, this is normal doggie stuff despite the occasion.

While "woof weddings" are now very fashionable amongst the pet set, they first became headline material in 2005 when former Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson arranged a wedding for her Golden Retriever, Star, and her Chihuahua, Luca, on the beach in Malibu, California. They were getting to the "I dos," when "Kazakhstani journalist" Borat (the alter ego of English movie star Sasha Baron Cohen), wearing swim trunks, a leather jacket, and a Village People-style cap, arrived in a raft and literally crashed into the wedding party. He was unceremoniously dumped back into the sea by Anderson's unamused security detail.

Fortunately, the Albert-Bridget affair was far less eventful. "People treat their pets as children and having a commitment ceremony is just another way of expressing the wonderful human-animal bond," says Stacey Witner, the dogs' pet parent.

Albert, a rescue from an animal shelter, met his bride when she was relinquished by her former owners to a Belmont Shore, California, pet store where Witner works. "They bonded immediately," recalls Witner. "It's so cute the way they always look out for each other that I thought they should get married."

So she turned to doggie wedding planners Scott Rinehart and Jim Poer of Wiskers Weddings (wiskers.com) to plan the nuptials.

"Destination weddings are very en vogue," says Rinehart. "So we planned a tropical beach wedding at Huntington Beach, California. "We set up a flower-festooned arch on the sand and scattered a path with rose petals and long-stemmed red roses. Guests and their canines were seated on chairs set up on the sand and a guitarist strummed the canine couple down the aisle where a nondenominational minister waited to greet them."

Specially written "bow vows" were read out, which included promises to keep the dog bowl full of fresh water and make sure there's a biscuit on the bed every evening, plus a pledge to always run and play tug-o-war games with each other. The pups then exchanged bone-shaped biscuits, which were immediately eaten, and headed off to the dog park for official photographs and the reception.

"Witner asked us to keep it simple," says Rinehart. "So we served a tiered peanut butter and carob wedding cake, a variety of dog biscuits, and special doggie ice cream for dessert. They toasted each other with flavoured dog water and human guests sipped champagne and nibbled on cheese and crackers. Then the pups jumped into their doggie stroller with a ‘Just Married' sign on the back and rode off into the sunset."

As with any special event, cost depends on the amount of creative imagination stamped on the occasion. Doggie event planners are definitely cashing in by helping pet owners with disposable incomes and grand ideas to make their dreams come true.

"You can spend anything from $400 to $10,000," says Rinehart. Doggie I Do's, a Canadian company that coordinates "puptials" "for mutts in love," offers basic wedding packages for 25 guests starting around $4000. This includes all the usual knot-tying necessaries like invitations and thank-you cards, tables and chairs, photographer, centerpieces, altar pillows, drinks and snacks, and so forth. In addition, it covers those chic special touches that make a canine couple's day forever memorable: wedding outfits for the bride and groom, including decorated leads, doggie wedding cake, gourmet doggie treats, a watering aisle, and clean-up bags (okay-maybe the last item would only be memorable if you didn't provide it!).

If the bride is seeking something really unique to wear, there's no shortage of bridal wear in upscale pet boutiques and on-line websites such as nahomilly. com, where Japanese designers have designed creations that even humans will drool over.

In the United States, Sandy Maroney and Sharon Bolger, the design team for the I See Spot label (iseespot.com), are being hailed as the Vera Wang and Monique Lhullier of pet bridal fashions.

"A lot of people are having weddings for their dogs and there's a huge demand for pet bridal fashions highlighting lots of satin and lace and mermaid shapes. Fit is very important and we pay a lot of attention to detail," says Maroney.

Their collection includes intricate bridal gowns with veils, a velvet tuxedo, and a ringbearer t-shirt to which bridal couples can attach their own rings for puppies to bring down the aisle. There are also mother of the bride and "Always the Bridesmaid" t-shirts for other canines in the retinue or wedding party.

"Of course many [human] couples are including dogs in their wedding parties, too," says Mahoney.

Adam Sandler's beloved Bulldog, Meatball, served as best "man" at the actor's 200 wedding dressed in a tux and yarmulka. And when TV personality Jillian Barberie married actor Grant Reynolds in a quiet poolside ceremony at her Tarzana, California, home, all her pets were an integral part of the occasion. Decked out in white bows, the dogs gathered at the couple's feet while the cats kept a watchful eye nearby.

As anchor of the popular Good Morning LA program, Barberie introduced a pet adoption slot on the show ten years ago and has been instrumental in finding homes for thousands of pets since then.

"Naturally all my pets are rescues," says Barberie. "For me it's such a honour to win their respect and trust that they had to be a part of my special day. I would never have gotten married without them! In fact, when Grant and I said our ‘I do's', Willie, my Terrier-mix, was jumping up and down between us as if he was trying to stop Grant from marrying me and taking what he considered to be his place as head of the household!"

Barberie, dressed in a gorgeous Armani dress borrowed from her friend and fellow actress Heather Locklear, later posed for her official wedding photographs with her pets, totally unperturbed that they were leaving hair all over her classic designer gown.

According to Mindy Weiss, the Beverly Hills, California based wedding planner to the stars, these days about 30 percent of her weddings involve pets. A recent survey by the American Kennel Club confirmed that 18 percent of dog owners surveyed said they either have included (or would include) their dog in their wedding ceremony.

Nondenominational minister Annemarie Juhlian of Seattle, Washington, has officiated at more than a dozen weddings featuring dogs as the ringbearer or maid of honour.

"I know children and dogs are considered wild cards at weddings," said Juhlian. "But I'm all for it. Dogs seem to have a wonderful calming effect on everyone's wedding nerves. If they are well trained, they never upstage the bride. When they walk down the aisle, they are usually so pleased to see their favorite people standing waiting for them, their wagging tail and doggie smile simply adds to the joy of the occasion. I'd like to see more dogs in weddings because they make so many people happy."

Doggie I Do's and Don'ts

If you're getting married and plan to include fur kids in the retinue, make sure you are well groomed in wedding petiquette.

• Check that the venues for the ceremony and the reception allow pets.

• Discuss Fido's role in the ceremony with other key players such as parents and other members of the retinue to ensure no one is scared of dogs or allergic to dog hair.

• It's a good idea to have several practice runs at home before the final wedding rehearsal. Some dogs are well-trained enough to come down the aisle on their own. Otherwise it's a good idea to have them walk on a leash with someone they know.

• A cute little flower girl and an Old English Sheepdog may make a wonderful Kodak moment, but ensure they match each other in weight otherwise the dog may sweep the child off her feet!

• If you are planning to entwine fresh flowers on a leash or add a garland around your dog's neck, avoid flowers that are toxic to animals, like lily-of-the-valley, daffodils, narcissus, sweet peas, and tulips. For a full list go to hsus.org.

• Dogs are very intuitive and sometimes pick up on the nerves and emotions of the moment. Calming sprays like Comfort Zone help to calm doggie nerves.

• Make sure canine members of the wedding party go for a walk and a bathroom break before the ceremony begins.

• When the ceremony is in progress, keep treats handy in case you need to distract an exuberant pup.

• After the wedding vows, an elderly pet may be tired and prefer to be taken home rather than attend the reception. However, if you plan to let your pet be present, ask guests to refrain from slipping any tidbits under the table. When they're excited, dogs tend to overeat and could get sick. Instead, provide special doggie cake and biscuits and lots of fresh water. There are some magnificent pet food bowls and drinking flutes that would easily match the elegance of the grandest occasion.

• If you are planning on having several dogie guests at the reception, it's a good idea to have a pet sitter on hand to take charge.

Finally, what happens when the party is over? Does Fido get to go along on the honeymoon, too?

Well, that's a whole different ball game... ■

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