Pet Parents Say “I Do!”

June 22, 2011
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Ah, yes, one more area that pet parents are saying “pets are family, too!”

The Wall Street Journal had another fabulous article reporting on yet another trend in the pet industry – pets in weddings!

Most recently, at a wedding ceremony in Los Angeles, poodle mixes Lily and Luna walked down the aisle sporting pearl-white leather leashes and hand-crafted floral collars.

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A wrought-iron feeder and stainless-steel water bowls awaited them at the reception, before the dogs capped off the night at a pet-friendly hotel.

“They are family,” says 32-year-old bride-to-be Sarah Royer, who shares ownership of the pooches with her fianc’e, Jonas Koester, also 32. “They have to be in the wedding.”

Per the Wall Street Journal, even couples who invest in lavish weddings are incorporating pets into their nuptials. Increasingly, man’s best friend is sometimes also man’s best man-if not a ring bearer, flower girl or simply a member of the wedding party.

To meet this growing demand, wedding planners, niche retailers and other businesses are offering new services and products geared toward helping pets fulfill their special roles.

On-line stores such as TheWeddingOutlet.com saw a 28% increase in sales of wedding accessories for pets last year over 2009. Founder Deborah Weckesser says the Stoughton, Mass., Web retailer has so far this year sold more items in that category than in all of 2010.

Husband-and-wife team Dedi and Gary Wood of Plano, Texas, have been hired by six clients to oversee dogs in wedding ceremonies since launching Shadow & Marty’s Pet Care Services in 2008. Another couple, Sheryl Bass and Neil Cline of Palatine, Ill., sell for $130 a petal-dispensing wooden cart that’s hitched to a pooch to walk down the aisle. The pair invented the device so their Affenpinscher mix could be in their own wedding in 2006.

“When I found the (pet) petal-pull cart, that turned out to be perfect,” says Sarah Dostal, a 26-year-old health-care worker in Ventura, Calif., who is getting married in July and will have her and her fiancÈ’s two Shih Tzu take part in the ceremony.

Angel, a seven-pound, two-year-old, will serve as the flower girl, dispensing lavender rose petals. Hercules, an older Maltese-Shih Tzu mix, will act as ring bearer, carrying a $10 pillow she purchased at a crafts store on his back and fastened by a black ribbon with Velcro.

“It will be like having the spirit of my mom there,” says Ms. Dostal of Hercules, whom she and fianc’e, analyst James Darling, adopted from her mother after she died in 2009.

Once a shocking request, wedding planner Preston Bailey says incorporating pets into ceremonies has become an accepted practice. He offers tips on how to have a stress-free and seamless ceremony with your furry friend. WSJ’s Christina Tsuei reports.

Having the pets in the wedding “brings in the personality of the bride and groom,” similar to another growing trend of couples making donations to their favorite charities in lieu of party favors, says Anna Pohl, owner of Day Planners LLC, an event-planning business in Sarasota, Fla.

Five years ago Ms. Pohl says she hadn’t planned any weddings with pets in them, but now she does about two out of 30 a year.

Even couples who invest in lavish weddings are incorporating pets into their nuptials. “You just have to be careful in how you handle them,” says wedding designer Preston Bailey of New York, who charges rates for weddings with or without pets starting at $200,000. In the past 12 months, he designed three weddings with dogs in them for the first time, he says.”

So, while the Wall Street Journal chooses to showcase a story such as this, it’s clear that pet parents are more and more wanting to treat their four-legged “kids” like true members of the family.

The Wall Street Journal sees this as a business opportunity. And, possibly a niche that’s now being fulfilled.

But anyway you look at it – it’s one more indication that pet parents are searching for all types of services to help treat these four-legged kids like any other family member.

In life and in death.

About Coleen Ellis

In 1998, a chance encounter with a pet parent facing the death of her beloved pet was a defining moment for Coleen, and the birth of her vision of how to best meet the needs of pet parents as they plan for, experience, and cope with the death of their beloved animal companions developed over the following few years. In 2004, the catalyst for bringing her vision to reality was the death of her then 14 year old beloved Schnauzer mix Mico. Within months, she founded Pet Angel Memorial Center, Inc.

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