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More couples include pets in their wedding ceremonies

Thursday, November 2, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:16 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

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(Photos courtesy of Nola Dorman)

Kelly Knaus and Shaw Borchardt’s two dogs, Precious and Digger, walked down the aisle right before Knaus at their September wedding. With pets considered part of the family, more couples are including them in wedding ceremonies. (Photos courtesy of Nola Dorman)

It’s an age of pet trends: mini dogs as accessories, dogs in costumes and jewelry for the holidays and even pets participating in weddings.

Celebrities have set the style. Paris Hilton totes her dog, Tinkerbell, in Hollywood. Adam Sandler’s bulldog, Meatball, was shown in People magazine wearing a tux at his owner’s wedding. Now none of these trends are strangers to the Midwest.

Pets in weddings used to be uncommon. But more and more couples are opting for animal-friendly nuptials, sometimes buying outfits for their furry friends to make the day even more special.

For some, pets are part of the family, often considered as central as children. Kelly Knaus and Shaw Borchardt are no exception: They included their two dachshunds in their Sept. 3 wedding.

“Precious and Digger walked down the aisle right before my dad walked me down the aisle,” Knaus said. “The day wouldn’t have seemed right without them.”

Precious wore a little white wedding gown and Digger donned a tuxedo. It only made sense for the pooches to participate in the wedding — with a note and the engagement ring, both had helped Borchardt propose to Knaus.

Dress clothes like those the dachshunds wore are available through businesses such as Doggie Designer, a Southern California-based outlet of doggie garb for any occasion. In the company’s first year, it sold only four wedding dresses. Now, four years later, it has sold more than 100. Inspired by the pet clothing trend in Japan and Korea, owner Jack Pace began brainstorming the perfect line. The company also sells Swarovski crystal necklaces, bows and crowns, designed exclusively for dogs.

Crazy? Not for pet owners who think of and treat their animals like people.

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One of the couple’s dachshunds, Digger, wore a mini tuxedo.

“It’s becoming more common,” said Nola Dorman, a local wedding photographer and owner of Creations By Nola. In the past three years, Dorman estimates she has photographed a half dozen weddings that have included pets. She said her pet wedding experiences have been fun, although it helps if the animals are well trained.

“Pets are sometimes just as well-behaved as kids,” Dorman said. Even in their dress clothes.

Knaus and Borchardt’s dachshund, Precious, was a little too excited to wear the whole outfit. The veil had to go.

“Precious is normally an energetic dog, but on the day of the wedding she was really wound up because there were so many people,” Knaus said.

Some wedding guests or others may think this is a corny trend, not to mention an added hassle and expense.

Suzanne Sullivan, wedding coordinator and owner of The Bride’s Maid, laughs as she talks about the trend.

“My first gut reaction is ‘Oh my gosh,’” Sullivan said. But Sullivan said she understands that “for someone attached to pets, we would want people and critters present.”

There are a few extras to consider, Sullivan said. When planning this type of wedding, special arrangements must be made because some churches don’t allow pets inside. There’s also the issue of handling the pets during and after the ceremony and the concern about the dog being unruly and distracting. The age, training, and size of the pet are also something to consider.

One approach to containing disruption is kenneling pet participants during or after the service. Knaus and Borchardt put Precious and Digger in their kennel after initial prayers. For couples set on including pets in their wedding, however, a little distraction probably wouldn’t ruin the day.

Whether a dog walks the bride down the aisle or is a member of the wedding party, the trend’s popularity is growing.

“Young people have pets that are part of their family and when they get married, their pets are involved,” said Pace, who has a poodle. “It’s partly because of the unconditional love that pets show the couple, and it’s partly because the couple wants to have something different in their wedding.”


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