It’s more than puppy love: Beloved pets are taking bigger roles in weddings
By LISA GUTIERREZ
The Kansas City Star
Jennifer Hague met her future husband at a dog park where she had taken the other love of her life — a saucy miniature schnauzer named Remington.
It all started at the dog park: Jennifer Hague and her fiance Aaron Starr of Olathe met taking their dogs Abby (right) and Remington out for some fresh air. At their wedding in October, 5-year-old Remington will sport a tie and 6-year-old Abby will don a skirt and necklace.
Hague hit it off with Aaron Starr, the owner of a velvety brown vizsla with floppy ears named Abby.
The dogs liked each other. The humans fell in love. A happy foursome quickly formed. The next year, Starr surprised her one evening at the park. He handed her a dog tag engraved with “Jennifer Starr,” dropped to one knee and proposed.
So of course the dogs will walk down the aisle at the Olathe couple’s wedding in October — Abby in custom canine pearls and handmade tulle skirt, Remington in a jaunty tie.
“Everyone knows how much our dogs mean to us and are just as excited as we are to have them included,” said Hague, a social media manager and a pet photographer who owns FixYourImages Photography.
A new strain of puppy love has gone paws-itively viral in the wedding world.
In Kansas City, wedding photographers are taking pictures of a lot more dogs — dogs at the wedding, dogs in tuxes, dogs in the limo, dogs at the reception, dogs in the engagement portraits. Brides are calling event spaces around town asking, “Can I bring my dog?”
When the American Kennel Club surveyed dog owners a few years ago, it found that 18 percent of dog owners have included, or would not hesitate to include, their dog in their wedding. The AKC predicted the trend would continue to boom, especially among brides and grooms younger than 30.
“There are no rules to a wedding” anymore, said Josh Solar, who owns Solar Photographers in Kansas City with his wife, Jenny.
“A wedding is an event for all of your friends and family. Think about how many times in your life that many people are going to come together and celebrate you. And those dogs? They are your family.”
Brides planning pup-centric nuptials can shop online for doggie tuxedos and beagle-sized bridesmaid dresses. How about hitchin’ that hound up to a tiny cart full of petals and sending her down the aisle as the flower girl?
Dog-loving brides swap ideas on Pinterest (see the pretty bride waltzing with the German shepherd!) and find guidance in online articles like “10 Adorable Ways to Include Your Dog in Your Wedding.” At MarthaStewartWeddings.com, brides are encouraged to stay calm if, say, the dog starts barking at a squirrel during an outdoor ceremony.
Australian author Katie Preston Toepfer celebrated the trend last year in a book, “Wedding Dogs: A Celebration of Holy Muttrimony.”
Among 75 couples profiled were the New Yorkers who jumped through miles of bureaucratic red tape to have their Yorkie in their Paris wedding. Another wedding dog, Pepper the miniature schnauzer, was so excited to see her owners dressed as bride and groom that she peed at the wedding.
When the New York Post wrote about the book, one online commenter smirked: “I do not understand this trend. It evokes the same outrage in me as babies in bars.”
“It’s just one more moment that is created when animals are around and can participate,” said Kansas City photographer and dog owner Erin Hernandez-Reisner, who runs Photos Edge with her husband, Marco.
Wedding magazines like Bridal Guide warn brides to let guests — especially allergy sufferers — know that a pet will be on the premises and to make sure the dog feels comfortable in a starring role.
For Bandit, Ziggy and Louie, that meant walking down the wedding aisle last week wearing bow ties. (They put their paws down and refused to wear tuxes.)
It was a short trip for three pampered pooches who once rode in a car from Kansas City to Portland, Ore., and Seattle with their owners, Cassie Shunk Kruse and Jason Kruse.
On the day of the wedding, held at River Market Event Place, the dogs kept the bride company as she dressed. They walked into the reception with the bride and groom, worked the party off-leash and even posed in the photo booth.
“We don’t have any children, and we do everything with our dogs,” said Shunk Kruse, a registered nurse at St. Luke’s. “I didn’t even for a second think that they wouldn’t be there for our day.”
Finding a pet-friendly party place took her a few phone calls because many venues — churches, too — do not allow four-legged guests.
But dogs are welcome at Californos in Westport, where the event staff started fielding special requests from brides with dogs about two years ago. Dogs aren’t allowed inside, but they can participate in ceremonies and receptions on the deck. The restaurant advises couples to assign a dog keeper, or handler, for the day.
Jordan Wandfluh-Ashley had her reception there last October after their Brittany spaniel mix, Sophie, a 4-year-old rescue, served as their “dog of honor” at their wedding at Revolution United Methodist Church.
Sophie posed with the bridal party and starred in the wedding video, too. There’s Sophie at the doggie salon getting a blueberry facial. There’s Sophie riding in the limo.
“She’s a huge part of our life, and we worried that the church would not let us use Sophie,” said Wandfluh-Ashley, a Kansas City personal trainer. “But the pastor brought up that we should have her in it.”
A few people questioned her Sophie’s choice, but the bride ignored the second-guessing because “they just don’t get it.”
When Piggie and Cocoa walked down the aisle at Daniel and Sydnee Chang’s wedding in August 2012, the church full of people let out a collective “aw.”
“To be honest, I think they got more applause when they walked in,” joked Sydnee Chang, a physician.
The dogs — Piggie, a 13-year-old peekapoo, and Cocoa, a 14-year-old Pekingese — were hers when she met Daniel, a Black & Veatch engineer.
Cocoa in her tutu dress and Piggie in his tuxedo sat quietly in the first pew during the ceremony. And if anyone missed their grand entrance, Sydnee said, they never would have known dogs were there — until they started snoring while the vocalist was singing.
Kelly and Chad Cadwell of Kansas City had their yellow Lab, Atlas, with them on their wedding day last September, too.
Atlas gamely wore formal wear for the wedding photos.
“He looked so sharp,” Kelly Cadwell said. “I remember him getting out of (the) car and running across the parking lot to us, and he was so cute with his little bow tie.”
The couple got Atlas after losing their first puppy, Apollo, to canine parvovirus just days after they got him. They named their new dog after the Greek Titan who holds the world on his shoulders “because he kind of held up our world,” said Cadwell, a ballet teacher. “In our little family, it’s just the three of us.
“And it was always going to be: He’s going to have a role in something.”