On her wedding day, dog blogger Gigi Chow (who runs Wet Nose Escapades) dressed her two pooches in cute outfits to be part of the festivities. She also asked her teenage niece and nephew to handle them before and during the ceremony, then check in with them from time to time in the bridal suite during the cocktail hour. All went well – at first.
"Roger and Penny were perfectly fine when someone was with them, but trouble arose during cocktail hour when they were left unattended inside the bridal suite," she says by email. In an unfamiliar environment, "they were barking up a storm and got in trouble with management who claimed that they had an accident inside the suite, which they didn't. During the reception, I made sure that my niece and nephew took them out for a quick walk/potty break, but then they missed my brother/their dad's toast."
For all these reasons, Chow wishes she'd considered a concierge service "so that Roger and Penny were under watch the entire time without the need to bother my own family."
What's a Wedding Pet Attendant?
This might be unfamiliar to some but it's a business that's taken off over the past few years. Chances are there's a wedding pet attendant service in your city. Around 30 percent of pet owners (in a Wedding Wire survey) opted to include their dogs in their ceremony, with some keeping them around for photos, cocktail hour and even the reception. As a result, business is booming for Pawfect for You, a wedding pet concierge service that operates up and down the East Coast, from Maine to Virginia, and many places in between.
Currently, the company provides wedding pet attendants for 10 to 12 events per weekend and is even taking bookings a year-and-a-half in advance, says Veronica Silghigian, president and founder of the company. Not surprisingly, similar companies are popping up in other areas, as more couples long to have their fur babies present on the big day.
A wedding pet attendant does more than just hold a leash and walk around. Silghigian works directly with couples to establish a schedule for their particular event, which can include picking up the pet(s), taking them to the venue, brushing them out/light grooming, dressing them in wedding wear, helping out with photography, managing their feeding and walking needs during the events, and even getting them back home after it's all over. The timeline is completely tailored to the individual couple's needs.
Perhaps the most important role of the wedding pet attendant, however, occurs during the ceremony. "Sometimes the sitter will walk the aisle, sometimes they'll just be on standby in a guest seat," says Silghigian, adding that the dog might be up front with the couple or a member of the wedding party. "If the dog is distracting or showing signs of anxiety the sitter will take the dog out," she says.
What Couples Pay for Wedding Pet Attendants and Why
Although a pet attendant isn't the largest wedding expense, it's also likely not the smallest. Pawfect for You rates start at $549 for three hours, which Silghigian calls an "industry standard." This fee includes both the planning pieces ahead of time and the actual day-of-event pet-sitting duties. A full day package starts at $949 and includes seven hours' worth of concierge services. They also offer add-on services, like overnight care, additional pet fees and so on.
Although it might seem cheaper and easier to farm a pet's care out to a family member, this tactic often backfires.
Jen Jones, founder of Your Dog Advisor, had a messy experience when her normally well-behaved 3-year-old American bully Astro attended her wedding ceremony. "He barked nonstop during the ceremony, he pooped on the floor and ran anxiously," the San Francisco resident laments via email. "Worst of all, he got into a fight with the wedding photographer."
Such situations aren't unusual. "Even the most outgoing, friendliest pets are a bit nervous and off-kilter because the owners are unable to give any attention or reassurance to the animal that they would normally receive on an outing or event," explains wedding planner and florist Amy McCord Jones with Flower Moxie. "Additionally, afterward, the pet is shuffled around to friends and family members thus increasing their anxiety and confusion." This is where trained wedding pet attendants come in.
What a Wedding Pet Attendant Can't Do
To date, Pawfect for You hasn't had to turn down any jobs based on breed, temperament, etc. Most owners, Silghigian says, are in tune with their particular pooches, so if they're excessively high-strung or high energy they're probably not going to want the extra stress on their big day and don't bother contacting such a service. However, Silghigian is known to advise people to keep pet attendance expectations in line with reality. If the couple describes a dog as very anxious or not good with hot weather, she'll caution the couple not to pay for an entire day's service, and instead scale it back. Otherwise, she says, "The dog's going to be miserable and you're not going to be happy."
That's not to say that pets won't still cause a scene with a wedding pet attendant employed. It's just likely that it'll be a cuter one. "We had one golden retriever who decided to plop down and not walk down the aisle," Silghigian says, also recalling dogs who've sat on the bride's train during the ceremony and some who've wiggled their way in between the happy couple. In other words, when everyone's happy and not barking, wedding pets are photography gold. That's always a nice way to start a marriage.