By Amy Abern
Cricket didn’t feel love at first sight the day she met the love of her life in Salem, MA. No, she would describe her initial feelings as, “He’s cute, but I’m going to proceed with caution.” And she did just that . . . for a full 24 hours.
The following day, Cricket moved in with her boyfriend. She married him on June 25, six months later. Many locals descended upon a Salem beach to witness the holy matrimony between Cricket and Black Magic: two Schipperkes in love.
According to Sharon Shea, the dogs’ human guardian, their wedding ranked as one of last summer’s most well-attended social events in town.
“Really, this was a community effort,” notes Shea. “Everyone got involved; everyone wanted to get involved.”
And that’s really the point of dog weddings. Never mind that “official” dog nuptials are on the rise throughout the country. (Truly, there’s nothing official about them, as dog marriages aren’t legally binding.) These nuptials contribute to the $40-billion pet industry.
The increase in popularity of doggie weddings may be attributed to a need for people—not dogs—to come together. Sure, a day set aside for attention-hungry hounds makes for great fun for the dogs, but the event and preparation for the big day present people with a compelling reason to participate in a community project celebrating life and love.
Shea knew the wedding would be a major hit because her two dogs are known throughout the community as big canine hams. They love socializing with anyone. Shea showcases Cricket and Black Magic at fundraisers and Salem events. So, it’s no surprise approximately 70 people and 30 dogs showed up to celebrate their special day.
“We wanted to throw a party not just for the dogs, but for Salem,” says Shea. “It was really more about the community than the dogs. The wedding gave everyone a good excuse to get involved in something fun and, hopefully, inspiring.”
Shea credits the huge success of the wedding to the many businesses and people who helped put the event together by offering their services (often at little to no charge) and donating their time. Nancy Ripa, owner of the Living With Pets store in Salem, jumped in with both feet to contribute to the nuptials.
“Cricket and Black Magic are two of my best customers,” says Ripa. “Helping with the wedding was truly a labor of love, not to mention so much fun!” She designed Cricket’s wedding gown, (Shea insisted Cricket “would never walk down the aisle in something off-the-rack”), the garters, and bouquet. She also baked an organic doggie carrot wedding cake and made organic peanut butter bone-shaped wedding favors. Other locals helped, as well: Minister Teri Kalgren presided over the ceremony; Jim Merchant videotaped the event; Shea’s husband, Douglas Denholm took photos; and Juli Lederhaus, general manager of the pet-friendly Hawthorne Hotel arranged limo service for the wedding party and a hotel suite for the wedding night.
Instead of playing with dolls as a child, Jennifer Roberts hosted weddings for her dogs in her backyard. She carried her love of animals into her professional life when she launched Auntie Jen’s Pet Services, a pet-sitting company in her hometown of Huntsville, AL. Last year, she added Puptials, a doggie wedding-planning service, to her business.
Roberts offers seven wedding themes to choose from, including Traditional, Paw-aii Paradise, Las Vegas, and charity nuptials that raise funds for local animal welfare. For $99, the basic wedding package includes personalized wedding planning, canine formal-wear rental, and two marriage licenses.
In general, Roberts will marry any two dogs interested in tying the knot as long as they’re like Cricket and Black Magic: outgoing, well-behaved, and, most importantly, happy to be the center of attention. “It’s important for the dogs to want this [and] to enjoy the process for the wedding to work,” explains Roberts. “I’m more concerned with the comfort level of the animals. If I feel a line is being crossed by having a wedding, I won’t do it.”
Of all the weddings Roberts has conducted, the one that touches her heart the most is the union between Golden Retrievers Cirrus and Sioux Boy. After seven years of living together, the dogs tied the knot last July. That was one week after Cirrus was diagnosed with an aggressive tumor.
“When we found out about Cirrus, we thought a great way to celebrate her life would be to throw a party for her,” says Sue Kula, the dogs’ guardian. “And because there was such love between her and Sioux Boy, we thought a wedding would be the most appropriate way to honor her, as well as our personal feelings.”
Kula’s 10-year-old daughter, Casey, designed the wedding invitations; 5-year-old son, Matthew, hand-delivered them to friends and neighbors. And, once again, a community came together to prepare for a dog wedding, providing decorations and potluck food dishes. Roberts donated her ministerial services and baked a heart-shaped doggie cake. Altogether, 30 people showed up to the wedding.
A week later, they were offering condolences on Cirrus’s passing. “Of course it was sad,” says Kula. “But, thanks to Auntie Jen, we were able to give Cirrus that ’Happily Ever After.’”