Andy MacDonald’s wedding day went off without a hitch. The celebration took place in his cousin’s house outside Seattle with a hundred guests in attendance. Toward the close of the ceremony, Inge solemnly walked down the aisle to present the two rings that would seal the couple in holy matrimony.
And she didn’t even stop to sniff her butt.
MacDonald’s collie-malamute mix had the honor of serving as ring bearer for the Seattle couple. “We just had to keep an eye on her so she wouldn’t eat the cake,” MacDonald says.
Man’s best friend has turned into the best man as an increasing number of couples are using dogs in their wedding ceremonies. This new breed of wedding guest has created a niche industry that caters to Fido’s appearance on his owner’s big day.
“It’s a shift in the way people view pets,” says Brian Iannessa, a spokesman for Veterinary Pet Insurance, explaining the trend behind canine participants in weddings. “People are incorporating pets into their lives more than ever before, taking them on trips, celebrating their pets’ birthdays.”
Forty-two percent of the insurance company’s clients had or plan to have their pets participate in their wedding, according to a recent poll of 3,000 pet owners. Iannessa estimates that the vast majority of those surveyed were dog owners.
The dog has moved from the barn to the backyard to the bedroom, explains Iannessa. “In some cases, dogs are viewed as human members of your family, and it makes sense to include them in important milestone moments.”
This isn’t entirely new. In the past few years, we’ve seen celebrities in the vanguard of the pet-as-wedding-guest phenomenon, creating designer outfits for their dogs, who serve as flower girls, bridesmaids, and more. Adam Sandler had his dogs, Matzoball and Meatball, at his Malibu, Calif., nuptials, giving Meatball the title “best dog” and placing a yarmulke on his head. Gwen Stefani walked down the aisle with her sheepdog, Winston, when she married Gavin Rossdale in London.
But even regular folks now include Old Faithful in the ceremony. When Susanne Goldstone Rosenhouse’s mother suggested she include the family’s two dogs in her wedding, Rosenhouse laughed. But the more she thought about it, the more she realized it would be a fitting addition to the nuptials.
“My parents are empty nesters, so these are now their kids,” says Rosenhouse of the two white Maltese. She adds that a sibling rivalry has developed between her and the dogs.
The next step was to convince everyone else. “The rabbi said, ‘You are not serious. This is not happening,’” says Rosenhouse, who was having a traditional Jewish wedding. “But it did not interrupt the religious ceremony, so why not?”
Snoopy and Giovonni, dressed in small tuxedos, walked down the aisle with Rosenhouse’s human siblings.
A small industry has sprouted up alongside the burgeoning phenomenon. Dogs can receive wedding doggy biscuits as well as a private room to decompress after completing their role in the ceremony. There are specialty stores where owners can buy everything from full-length bridesmaid’s dresses to bow ties for their dogs, so they’re dressed appropriately for the occasion.
Jenny Gregorich, owner of Poochie Heaven, an online dog-clothing store, receives around seven orders a month for dog wedding attire. She is also frequently commissioned to create custom tuxedos for clients who want their dogs to match the exact color or style of the wedding.
“In general, tuxedos are more popular than dresses. For every three tuxedos, I sell one dress,” she says. “Especially a dog tuxedo with a matching top hat.”
Once they are all gussied up, the bride and groom need to make sure their dog will follow the script.
“You don’t want to have your wedding be the first day your dog has been to the venue,” cautions Charlotte Reed, pet lifestyle expert and author of “The Miss Fido Manners Complete Book of Dog Etiquette.”
Reed, who devotes one chapter of her book to proper canine wedding manners, recommends beginning to train a dog two months before the wedding. She also reminds couples to check with venues, photographers and wedding officiants to make sure they are OK with having a dog as one of the guests.
“A doggy date is a must,” says Reed, warning that if left unattended, dogs may jump on guests’ dry-clean-only outfits or sneak a piece of wedding cake—resulting in a trip to the vet, instead of the honeymoon, after the wedding.
Jordan Kaplan, owner of Petaholics, a dog-walking and pet-sitting company in New York City, has had his share of doggy dates. Pets, like some out-of-town guests, have a large number of demands that the handler deals with, including food and water, transportation to and from the ceremony and frequent toilet breaks.
Kaplan recently dog-sat for a wedding at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York. The French bulldog wore a tuxedo, while the Maltese opted for a white dress shirt. The dogs stood on the sidelines for the entire ceremony. The French bull only voiced an opinion one time.
“He barked once when they asked if anyone had an objection to the marriage,” Kaplan says. “It was perfect timing.”
Luckily, the couple and guests did not take it as a warning but as a joke, and the wedding continued without any other doggy outbursts.
If you want your dog in the wedding, you have to be prepared for the unexpected. In other words:
“If you are the bride who wants everything kind of perfect,” says Kirstie Warren, a Seattle-based wedding planner who had her own dog at her wedding seven years ago, “it’s probably not the best thing for you.”
And although giving a cherished pet an active role in the ceremony adds to the day, it is important to be cautious, says MacDonald.
“She actually walked down with fake rings because we didn’t want to risk her running away.”
Then the ceremony really would have gone to the dogs.