On her way to the wedding at Holiday Acres Christmas Tree Farm in Manvel, Texas, on Nov. 10, 2018, Madison Logan Edwards picked up Ruger, a nine-month-old golden retriever. “I had to pick him up a little early,” she said. “Because of his personality profile, I knew he’d be hyper. So I took him to the dog park and then brushed him out and got him all ready.”
Not all ready for her own ceremony, though. She was preparing Ruger for a client’s wedding. Ms. Edwards, 27, is the owner of Pawsh Weddings, a Houston business that provides wedding-day pet planning and attendants.
Ruger was a model member of the wedding party, decked out in a black bow tie and a bandanna that read, “Here comes the love of our life.” “Ruger got through the processional,” Ms. Edwards said, “and as the pet parents were exchanging vows, the officiant said, ‘Do you take so and so to be your lawfully wedded husband. And Ruger barks.”
Those are the moments she lives for.
Ms. Edwards says she was at the wedding to ensure there were no incidents, at least none because of Ruger.
The idea of a wedding-day pet planner and attendant might seem outrageous to some, or at least nothing more than a fad du jour. But Edwards says not so. “We may be a new kind of wedding vendor,” she said, “but for most millennial couples, bringing their dog to their wedding is a new tradition, not a trend.”
She wishes she had been able to find a wedding pet planner and attendant to watch over her two dogs Russell, a black Labrador and Butterscotch, a golden retriever, at her own wedding in 2017. With everything else to wrangle, including a three-week-long honeymoon in the Caribbean, she needed someone to help get her dogs to the wedding and attend to them during and after.
Ms. Edwards saw the lack of such services as an opportunity to create Pawsh Weddings while doing much of the prep work and planning for her own wedding. “I actually launched the website and Instagram while out of the country in the middle of our honeymoon and started booking weddings the second we returned,” she said. “Demand was there. We just needed the supply.”
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Becky Moriarty Davis and Greg Davis of Houston, who were married at McGovern Centennial Gardens in Houston, knew they wanted to include their six-year-old female pit bull, Birdie, and their two-year-old golden retriever, Watson, in their wedding. “We also knew how hectic the day of the wedding could be since coordinating the wedding party alone was an overwhelming task,” Ms. Davis said. “We decided to hire Pawsh so we could focus on our day and have peace of mind that our pooches were in good hands.”
Ms. Davis was pleased with how the day turned out. “They were so attentive to the dogs and kept them entertained during the inevitable down times,” she said. “While we were taking pictures, they made sure the dogs were paying attention and looked good in the shots. They even worked with our shy flower girl and ring bearer to get them more confident with walking the dogs down the aisle. And in the end, the dogs were probably the happiest of all of us.”
Ms. Edwards is far from being alone in the industry. She hosts a monthly Zoom call for others in the business around the country, with owners of companies like Pawfect For You, FairyTail Wedding Pet Care and Doggy Social. They are also a part of a Facebook group, Wedding Planning For Pet Parents, devoted to wedding day pet care. There are countless others around the world, including Wedding Dog Sitter in Italy, Pawfect Occasions in England and Wedding Paws in Australia.
Ms. Edwards sees the industry as growing — so much so that she was able to quit her full-time job as a coordinator for the nonprofit Collaborative for Children in July 2019. She expects to be busier than ever once the challenges of Covid-19 are gone.
“Millennials are cohabitating,” she said, “so we have pets already. A wedding wouldn’t be complete without them.”
Annabel Cookson started Pawfect Occasions in Penwortham, England, two years ago. She previously ran a professional dog-walking business and was asked several times by clients to attend their weddings with their dogs. “I loved being part of their special day,” she said.
Ms. Cookson loves being a dog chaperone. “I often get emotional, seeing the happiness in the room and having dog cuddles all day long,” she said.
If you’re wondering exactly what a pet attendant does, well, the answer is basically everything — that is, everything that has to do with your pet. Hiring a wedding-pet planner and attendant doesn’t come cheap, however. Pawsh Weddings, who works all pets including cats, rats, birds, reptiles, chinchillas and guinea pigs, offers packages from $200 (for the first dog) for two hours of pet attendant services to $950 (for the first dog) and includes six hours of services.
Pet attendants will typically begin watching your dog as soon as you arrive at the venue, or bring the dog there, depending on the package. They also explore the ceremony site with your pet; supervises potty breaks and clean up; give your dog a quick grooming session, or even a bath; walk your dog down the aisle if you like; sit with your dog during the ceremony; and pose your dog for photos. Some offer formal wear, like bow ties and bandannas, flower crowns and floral leashes, and tuxes and tutus.
Ms. Edwards also offers prewedding consults that include coordinating with other wedding vendors, profiling your pet’s personality, and planning for the wedding in terms of all things pet. And she comes prepared, with items like a pet first-aid kit, emergency collar and leash, doggy seatbelt, filtered water, hypoallergenic wipes, and even a lint roller.
Tamarah Smith, a wedding coordinator and the owner of the Houston based company Tammy’s Table, said she loves having dogs at wedding ceremonies, but that they do tend to add a bit of chaos to the mix. “It’s nice to know that your pet is well taken care of so you can focus on simply getting married, or in my case simply getting my couples down the aisle.” Her advice to anyone wanting to include a pet is simple: “Have a plan of action regarding pet care.”
Ms. Edwards also has what she calls a D.I.Y. option. It’s a package that includes a virtual consult with all of her prewedding services, including a customized Pinterest board. The couple can then hire a pet sitter or assign a friend or family member for the wedding. “It’s not the same as having a pet attendant who does this for a living,” she said. “But it’s way less stressful than having nothing.”
Why Pawsh Weddings and others like it are so in demand is simple, Edwards says. “Dogs are people too. They may not be humans. But they are people too by every definition. They just happen to be furry and bark. If everyone acted like dogs the world would be a better place.”
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