Good Boy, Best Man

Man’s (and woman’s) best friend increasingly has a role to play at the wedding.

At Meghan Summers and Sean Ryan’s wedding at the Lambert’s Cove Inn in West Tisbury this past October, there was no young ring bearer. The honor of carrying the rings didn’t even belong to the best man. Instead, that task went to Meghan and Sean’s golden retriever, Addy, who was escorted partway down the aisle before being unleashed. She ambled her way toward Sean with the rings secured in a pouch on her collar.

Though Addy’s star turn was memorable to the guests in attendance and important to Meghan and Sean, it wasn’t a unique occurrence. For many couples, the choice of who to include in your wedding party is no longer limited to selecting your best man, maid of honor, groomsmen, and bridesmaids. Instead, couples are deciding whether – and to what extent – they want their beloved pets to be involved. Some are choosing to have them walk down the aisle or sit by their side. Others are deciding to leave the pets at home but incorporating their likeness on escort cards or cocktail napkins, or naming signature drinks after them.

Meghan and Sean opted for both. After delivering the rings, Addy posed for portraits and mingled with guests at the cocktail hour. “We had two signature cocktails and one of them was called the Addy,” said Sean. “She’s a light-haired golden retriever. The drink was vodka, soda, and lemonade, so it was exactly her color.”

The reasons for incorporating a pet into your wedding day are myriad, but for Sean the logic was simple. Addy is a part of his and Meghan’s family. “Wouldn’t you have your daughter in your wedding if you were getting married?” he asked.

Of course, if the reasons for including pets in your wedding day are numerous, so are the pre-conditions and concerns. Those who want to bring pets to their wedding need to check with their venue to make sure it is allowed. They need to appoint someone, either a trusted wedding guest or a hired helper, to look after the animal so that the couple doesn’t spend their wedding day chasing after their dog or taking him on a walk. And they need to consider their pet’s temperament and level of involvement, and how it will affect the proceedings of the day.

Mila Lowe

To keep the focus on the bride and groom, Meghan and Sean created a clear handoff plan. The best man walked Addy down the aisle, where she joined Sean for a few minutes before being led to the side by Meghan’s father. This allowed Addy to have her moment in the spotlight without the worry of her misbehaving or creating a distraction.

Veterinarians Nate Ritter and Amanda Carlson say that’s a critical point when including a dog in your wedding day. Their beloved dog Hozier took part in the entirety of their June 2021 ceremony at the Sailing Camp in Oak Bluffs. The couple bought Hozier a blue tuxedo harness that they customized to match Nate’s suit. After being escorted down the aisle by the best man, Hozier spent the ceremony lying at Nate’s feet.

“We rescued him while we were in veterinary school together,” said Nate. “Hozier is a very big part of our lives, and with his temperament [we knew] it was something he could handle.”

But, cautions Nate, “Not all dogs are comfortable in costumes and clothes and have the right demeanor to sit there quietly during the ceremony.”

“The dogs can get stressed out, so we try to keep them as calm and happy as possible,” said Heather Mangione, who with Kasia Piasecka owns Al Fresco Tails Pet Sitting. The pair recently expanded their overnight and walking business to include weddings after identifying a gap in the market. They work with clients to create a plan, provide pet transportation to the wedding venues, and look after the animals.

Amanda Carlson and Nate Ritter included their dog, Hozier, in the ceremony and couple photos. Photo by Mila Lowe.

“We make sure they get a long walk before and have plenty of treats on hand during. Since the weddings are often outdoors in the summer heat, we always take lots of water breaks,” said Heather.

Recently Al Fresco was hired to take care of Kelsie Tidman and JB Marston’s two dogs, Odin and Reagan, at their June 2021 wedding at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown. “Right before I went out, [Odin and Reagan] went and had their moment. I don’t think many people knew we were doing that,” said Kelsie. “They walked down to the front to JB, who was there waiting. Since they’re not the most patient dogs, we planned that they would then be walked to the side during the actual ceremony.

“They took them to the room, gave them dinner and water, and tucked them into bed while we were at the reception,” Kelsie said of the Al Fresco team. “They have an app too where they gave updates...they had water at this time, dinner at this time.
It took all the stress of having the pets there away.”

Of course, even with the best plans, when an animal is involved, something is apt to go awry. Amanda cautions couples to think through the decision. “If you’re going to have any animal in your wedding, you should have a sense of humor about it. You never know what’s going to happen,” she said, speaking from both professional and personal experience.

“[Hozier] could have stopped halfway down and done his business. If you want everything to be 100 percent perfect, 100 percent of the time, you may not want an animal in your wedding, because you can’t promise that. But if you’re able to take things in stride and it’s important for you to have them as part of your day, and you have a good sense of humor about it, you can’t go wrong.”

Comments (1)

Heather Mangione
Vineyard Haven MA
What a wonderful article!
January 24, 2022 - 9:46am