Here Comes... the Bride, the Groom and the Dog
Saying ‘I Do’ with Your Dog
Lance Lyons and Angela Winfield ~ photo by Anthony Winfield
Oliver Mullins, Pekingese, walked down the aisle with Katherine Austing, flower girl. Although he’s quite the social animal, Oliver became a bit restless during the ceremony because he’s used to more action than talk. Ever since puppyhood, Oliver has proved his mettle, traveling the motorcycle race circuit in a motor home with his owners, Rachel and Charlie Mullins.
“Oliver does everything with us, so he had to be in the wedding too,” explains Charlie, a professional rider. “He’s used to crowds.”
Rachel’s family lives in Pennsylvania, while Charlie’s resides in Iowa. Everyone met up for the wedding at a mountain church 90 minutes from the couple’s home in Hickory, North Carolina. “It’s fun to include your dog in your special day,” says Charlie. “For us, it also eased any tensions and reminded us to laugh and enjoy the day.”
Further north, in the Finger Lakes region of Central New York, Angela Winfield and Lance Lyons married at another scenic outdoor spot, this one lakeside at the historic Aurora Inn. Winfield and Lyons have been legally blind since the ages of 4 and 29, respectively. They met while learning to work with their guide dogs. “For several weeks, we took two trips a day with the dogs and trainer to learn and bond with the dogs,” says Winfield, noting, “Lance and I bonded, too.
Ogden, a black Labrador and golden retriever mix, walked down the aisle with the maid of honor as the flower dog. Riddler, a German shepherd and golden retriever mix, served as the ring bearer and escorted the groom to his position to await the bride. Both dogs wore tuxedo collars with satin buttons and bowties, matching cuffs and fresh flower boutonnieres.
The couple relates amusing stories of a few small complications. Service dogs are inventive creatures and in this case, their contributions included unfastening the safety pins in order to remove their formal cuffs and return them to Angela and Lance before the couple could tie the knot. Then Ogden took a nap on the bride’s train.
“We heard it made a nice contrast: black dog on white dress,” says Winfield, laughing. Because Riddler wants to be near Lance at all times, they looped his leash around a table leg during their first dance as a newly married couple. “He dragged the whole table onto the dance floor!” Appropriately, the cake topper included a pair of dogs, along with the bride and groom.
Winfield and Lyons rented the historic lakeside E.B. Morgan house, in Aurora, for visiting family members. “We aren’t that formal. We had local cheeses and beer, ribs and a clambake in this museum setting,” relates Lyons. The dogs fit right in.
Dogs facilitate weddings in other ways, as well. In Harleysville, Pennsylvania, husband-hopeful Drew Scheeler enlisted the help of Reese, a Yorkshire terrier pup. “I couldn’t think of a better way to propose than on a dog tag with the words, ‘Amy, will you marry me?’” he says. “Reese changed our lives, and there was no way he wouldn’t be part of our wedding. He barked only once, when we kissed.”
Kelley Goad, a dog walker for Ben and Lori Newman, in Seattle, met their chocolate Labrador, Milkshake, a year before their wedding, so who better to walk the dog down the aisle? Milkshake’s day started with several hours of play at a local dog park, followed by a bath so he would be sweet-smelling for the ceremony.
Milkshake spent the evening before the big day at Goad’s house. Although they were friends, his nervousness at being separated from his people resulted in gastric distress. Once reunited, his upset was over, just in time for a problem-free walk down the aisle.
During the photo session, Milkshake happily posed with the wedding party. “The photographer worked with us,” relates Goad. “Milkshake is solid when told to sit-stay, and when I showed him a treat, his ears perked up for the picture.” Afterwards, following a few laps through the cocktail party reception, Milkshake was ready to retire to the dressing room with a new chew for a nap. All’s well that ends well.
Sandra Murphy is a regular contributor to Natural Awakenings.
Tips for Putting a Doggie in the Wedding
• Have one person that knows the dog well be responsible for him, with no other duties.
• Exercise the dog first, and then bathe him. Allow for multiple potty breaks.
• Let the dog explore the venue during the rehearsal before it’s crowded with guests.
• If a dog is not socialized to be around crowds or has bad habits like barking or jumping up on people, include this four-legged pal in the photos, but not the ceremony.
• Plan to have the dog leave the reception early before he gets overly tired.