Want to incorporate your dog in your wedding plans? Ever fancied an owl ring bearer or having a selfie with an alpaca? Beth Forsyth discovers how couples can have the company of four-legged friends at their Scottish big day
According to a 2021 PDSA report, 24% of adults own a cat, while 26% have a dog; we are a nation of animal lovers. Once upon a time, the average fur baby would’ve been bundled off to a sitter while its humans were away getting married; now, though, having pets at weddings is positively encouraged. We’ve sniffed out Scottish businesses to hear how they can make the animal magic happen on your big day…
Many Scottish wedding venues are dog-friendly, so it’s only natural that couples are increasingly tempted to include their furry family member in one of the biggest days of their lives. That said, do you really want to take Fido to answer the call of nature when you should be slipping into your wedding dress? This is when dog-chaperoning might come in handy.
Former wedding makeup artist and lifelong dog-lover Pauline Clark has run Ramoth Pet Retreat in the Clyde Valley for the past seven years. She decided to launch Vows Including Pets (VIP) three years ago, after constantly hearing engaged clients say they wished their beloved pooch could be there. “Now, I board the dogs and take them to weddings,” says Pauline. “We are always on hand, so while you are busy mingling or having group photographs taken, we will take care of your dog’s needs, so you can relax and enjoy yourself. Our service starts at £200, which includes collection from home the day before the wedding, several walks and chaperoning at your venue. We’ll also interact with them to help the photographer get the best shots of your dog while we keep them focused.”
It’s a similar set-up at Hounds and Heritage Weddings in Carstairs, Lanarkshire, where owner Jemma Cox combines nine years of professional pet-care with three years of wedding events experience. “We would be delighted to help couples include their dog any way they please: whether you only need help during the day; require day and boarding care; would like your dog to be a ring bearer or a meet-and-greeter for when guests arrive; have a photo session with them; or even have them as part of the wedding party aisle procession,” says Jemma. “In addition to our dog-chaperone service, we can also offer wedding-day pet-sitting to the bridal party and their families’ dogs at home or at the venue’s accommodation.”
You can rest assured that no dog left with Jemma or Pauline will be returning home with its tail between its legs. “When the couple are happy for us to leave the wedding, we take the dog for a walk as a reward, before bringing it back to our home base for cuddles and play,” says VIP’s Pauline. “We’ll return your dog to you at home the following day, although longer boarding can be arranged if available.”
Jemma at Hounds and Heritage Weddings also likes to give dogs a break to remember alongside their owners: “They’re welcomed into our family as if they were one of our own, so you’ll often find us halfway up a mountain or pottering about near a loch – all included in our service,” she promises.
Responsible paw-rents will want to know their pooch is in the best possible hands, so it makes sense to ask lots of questions before you book. “Don’t be afraid to check exactly what you’ll be getting for your money – what is included and what isn’t,” urges Jemma. “Ask about the chaperone’s experience and to see insurance, qualifications and licences [boarding premises should be licensed by the local council, for instance]. You can often tell from the way they speak about their job whether they’re the right sitter for you.”
“I always recommend visiting your wedding pet-care provider before you book,” says Pauline. “It’s important to see exactly where your dog will be staying and with whom. Quiz them on how experienced they are at handling dogs too. The ability to read a dog’s body language is critical to ensure the animal is kept content and engaged. Any carer worth their salt will know when to step in if the dog needs rewarding or reassuring in the distracting environment of a busy wedding.”
Just remember that, with animals, things doesn’t always go to plan. “We can groom, spray and dry a dog, then they’ll lie in the middle of a puddle as soon as they get to the venue,” Jemma points out. “Or there can be so much going on, your pup might get stressed out. If things are not going right, put your trust in the chaperone. Our top priority is your dog’s welfare.” You’d be barking not to listen…
Having an alpaca at your wedding
There has been an explosion in the popularity of barns and farms as wedding venues in recent years, which may account for another very cute marriage trend: alpacas! These friendly and docile woolly mammals are generally happy to travel to many types of venue, says Claire Blyth, who runs Claireville Alpacas. “But it’s always worth checking your location allows animals and has a suitable space for them,” she adds.
Claireville, which is based in Fife and serves the Kingdom and surrounding area, has a herd of almost 40 alpacas and clearly loves a good pun – offering three main ‘alpackages’, ranging from Bronze (three alpacas, two hours, £350), to Gold (six alpacas, four hours, £650). “All of our packages include a meet-and-greet consultation at our Leven farm before the wedding, with colour-matched halters, lead ropes and accessories on the day,” promises Claire. “We can even add bow ties, flower crowns and other accessories if you’d like.”
On the day, the alpacas will happily mingle with guests in between breaks to relax in their petting pen. “The newlyweds will have the opportunity to lead the alpacas on a walk too,” Claire tells us. And if you’ve hung out or trekked with them before, you’ll know these long-necked creatures love a selfie, so guests old and young alike will appreciate the countless photo opportunities that come with having them at a wedding.
“One of my favourite bits of feedback from a recent wedding is that our alpaca Bambi was better than the groom at not standing on the bride’s dress!” laughs Claire.
Birds of prey and owl ring-bearers
If you’re an avid birdwatcher or just a romantic at heart, you’ve probably already dreamt of an owl swooping in to deliver your wedding rings. This is a speciality of some of rural Fife’s Elite Falconry’s 70 birds, as Roxanne Peddie explains: “We can train the best man (or another member of the wedding party) to call the bird to land on his arm. The pouch carrying the rings can be colour-matched to the wedding scheme, or even be made from a piece of fabric of sentimental value.”
Owls can typically be used as ring-bearers indoors (just be mindful of mirrors, windows and naked flames), while other birds of prey may be lined up for outdoor ceremonies. “Much of what Elite Falconry can offer depends on the venue and the location, so please ask,” encourages Roxanne. “For example, you could welcome guests by having two of our majestic birds of prey perched either side of a rural venue’s entrance, or arrange for an interactive flying experience to entertain guests while you’re off having your photos taken.”
It’s always great to get a bird’s-eye view, so if the weather and venue allow it (and it’s safe to do so), the handlers can set up an ‘eagle cam’, allowing an eagle wearing a small camera to soar above your venue and capture footage of your guests arriving. Now that’s got to beat a drone for wow-factor, doesn’t it?