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Pets at Weddings - The New Trend?

Everywhere you look on social media, flower girls and page boys look a little bit different these days ... From dogs driving their own car down the aisle to deliver the rings to tuxedo-wearing cats and pigs with flower crowns, our pets are stealing the limelight and attracting the 'oohs and aahs' from wedding guests!

And why not? For most of us, they're an integral part of the family so why should they not be attending what is for most people the most important day in their lives. However a little bit of planning and logistics are required to ensure things run smoothly and everyone's left with only happy memories.

We spoke to two experienced 'pet chaperones' as they're often called to learn more about their unusual occupation and they shared with us some of their most memorable moments...

Q: How do you end up working as a 'pet wedding assistant' and what was your background?

Kylie Bennett from First Class Pet Wedding Assistants combines 12 years of veterinary nursing experience with a background in dog training and animal behaviour so she certainly understands all of your pet’s needs. She originally started her own pet sitting business and later brought two other businesses under the one banner.

The idea of running a ‘pet wedding assistant’ service came from her personal experience of taking her horse to her wedding in 2010 and later helping some friends with their fur babies at their weddings.

It was clear that there was a need for this type of service. The logistics of transporting, caring for and controlling pets at weddings can be daunting for pawrents and their family. "You don't want someone missing out on the 'I do and the kiss' if the fur babies have ants in their pants. This way, everyone can enjoy the day” explains Kylie.

Shelley Thorpe from Pets as Guests was working as a police officer and when it was time for her to move on to a less stressful occupation, she knew that all she could see herself doing was working with animals.

She began working for Kirsko Film Animals, training animals for film and television for and fell in love with this type of work. When one of her colleagues got married, she asked - as her wedding gift - if Shelley could assist her with the animals on the day.

Each of her bridal party rode a horse to the ceremony: the flower girl rode a tiny black miniature horse and the bride a big black Friesian who Spanish-walked down the aisle to gasps from the guests! 

To top it off, a Swiss Shepherd carried the rings down the aisle holding a basket in his mouth. 

“It all went off without a hitch and I get goosebumps thinking about it to this day!” recalls Shelley. The trick to making this all look seamless comes down to all the prep of the animals behind the scenes, the choice of props and most importantly getting the timing just right!

“When I was organising my own wedding back in 2007, I knew I had to have not only my dog Ashka there with me as she was our family but I also wanted wedding photos with our horses. Back then it wasn’t really ‘done’ so I had to work out all the logistics myself...

Someone had to pick up our little black Staffy and look after her as she was carrying our wedding rings around her neck. Would someone remember to bring her lead, water, poo bags? I knew old Aunty Jean wouldn’t want to pick up poo whilst dressed in her Sunday best!” 

Pets as Guests Shelley's wedding - "Ashka wasn't looking at the camera: it would have been so much easier with an assistant!"

Somehow the ceremony was a breeze then we had our photos taken. However, with all the craziness of the day, I don’t even remember who took Ashka home ...

I’d organised activities for our guests while we were having photos taken. I still feel bad that my friend helping us out with the horses missed out on all the fun! But I got the photos and snot on my dress - this was of course during the time of the equine influenza epidemic ...

It occurred to me that this is what I should be doing and since starting this business, I have loved every minute. Having experienced being a bride with animal guests I completely understand what a couple wants and when. 

Having worked in TV helps me understand that time is money so I plan ahead consider all possibilities and prepare. 

I have a bag of tricks and only use positive reinforcement with small food treats to make sure the couple get the best picture by working closely with the photographer. I really think this personal experience sets me apart from others.

Q: What are the challenges of managing both pets and clients' expectations on such a stressful day? 

"Challenges really depend on the personality of each pet: some may be excitable whilst others are nervous or anxious so we need to work to their needs" says Kylie. "If they are too excited, we’ll take them for a long walk beforehand to burn off some energy. If they are nervous, we may keep them at a distance for the ceremony or even only the photos with their pawrents instead. 

Laura and Sam's wedding with their Dalmatian Brock as the ring bearer 
Credit: Lovelenscapes Photography (

Most couples understand that anything can happen and are realistic! They're not expecting their fur babies to walk down the aisle on their hind legs carrying the rings on their nose. We address expectations during our meet and greet to find out what their pets’ personality and level of training are – but we can offer training as an additional service as well.

Kylie confides "we always have a chat in the car on the way to the venue with the pet(s) explaining how important the day is and that they need to be on their best behaviour! I completely believe they understand how important the day is."

Shelley adds "I don’t just drive the pets to the venue and back, I make sure that the couple gets everything they want without having to worry about how. There is so much to think and worry about on the day I make sure they need not worry about their animals. When it’s time for the pets’ bed time, I return them to their home, make sure they are fed, watered and settled for the night so the couple can enjoy their night."

Q: What are some of the most unusual requests you've ever had?

"Our biggest challenge so far has been a feline guest with her two doggy brothers because cats need to have a certain personality to be comfortable outside their home and in a harness." recalls Kylie. "
The other was 'Piggy Smalls' - a 90kg pig who attended her hoof-rents wedding with her Bulldog brother Morph. 
Sarah & Peter's wedding on the Gold Coast with 'Piggy Smalls' and Morph the Bulldog
 Credit: First Class Pet Wedding Assistants
She took some time to load into the horse float and we almost missed our time slot! But thankfully with some yummy apples we managed to get her to the beach ceremony and she watched her hoof-rents say I do. We have also cared for a rabbit during a ceremony and spoken to couples about horses, chickens and lizards, even a galah!

Some venues can hesitate with pets participating in the day. However more and more are opening to accepting all types of guests as long as they have a dedicated carer for the event, who will take on all responsibility. We suggest to couples that we're more than happy to speak to any venue about our services and explain how we can ensure their venue will stay beautiful. 

I always laugh at the weddings where the furbabies take a moment to make sure their pawrents scratch their bellies! You could be in the middle of a ceremony or trying to take photos and they just roll over and look up like..... ummm excuse me, but I need my tummy rubbed please."
Jaydelle and Jarred's wedding with Bronx (Dogue de Bordeaux) and Jack (Rottweiler X)
Photo: First Class Pet Wedding Assistants
Kylie Bennett concludes “many couples love the attire and signs that we can provide for them to use on the day. We have tuxedos and suits, handmade bowties and cuff links for the boys and a range of flower crowns, tutus, dresses and top hats for the girls. 

Our couples always find a sign that suits their day, our most popular are our 'My pawrents are getting married', 'I've got the rings', 'Just Married' and 'Thank you' but for those that might have a Labrador then you will like the sign 'I am just here for the cake'."

We'd like to thank Shelley Thorpe from Pets as Guests and Kylie Bennett from First Class Pet Wedding Assistants for sharing their stories.

Planning your own wedding and want to involve your pets in the ceremony or photos? Why not contact them below with your wishlist?

Lead Image: Jess and Damien's wedding with their Huskies Ayra and Jasper. Photo Credit: By the Pauls - Location: Novotel Twin Waters Sunshine Coast

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