My dog, Dexter, recently tied the knot in the name of love, rescue, fundraising, and finding forever homes for all the dogs who have been abused, neglected, and abandoned.
On Friday evening, June 28, my dog, Dexter James Bryant, took the paw of his bride, Zoe Elizabeth Sorensen, and were united in holy "muttrimony," all in the name of love and giving back. Dubbed the "Wigglebutt Wedding," this gala event consumed my heart, soul, and free hours for pretty much the last nine months -- and we're getting ready to do it all over again.
We spent nine months planning and organizing so that every detail could be covered. These days, being creative at fundraising is the norm. Sure, lemonade stands and car washes still work, but if you want media and dog lovers to perk up and tilt their heads sideways -- and if you want to raise bucks for dogs in need -- you need to be different. A dog wedding certainly fits the definition of "different."
What started out as an idea to have a small backyard wedding to raise funds for Life's Little Paws, who rescued the bride the day she was scheduled to be euthanized, evolved into a full-scale formal affair covered by media, resplendent with sponsors and ripe with celebrities in the dog world. We even had a canine artist, Missy Johnson of Dogs for the Paws, create our official logo.
I'd be lying if I told you that amidst the hard work and the nearly dozen trips from Pennsylvania to Connecticut that I was not having fun. A sense of pride swelled in me throughout, surrounding myself with bridal magazines and sponsor forms; sitting with the mother of the bride and caterer, Val Sorensen; and seeing our Cocker Spaniels walking down the aisle in canine couture to rival Oscar night.
Here are ten things I learned about hosting a dog wedding for fundraising. Hopefully you can learn from my trials, tribulations, and a few mistakes.
1. Remind people why a wedding for dogs is happening in the first place
Tug at the heartstrings and quell any naysayers. It no longer bothers me when folks shake their heads and roll their eyes in response to learning of a dog wedding. Besides, this is the reason for the pomp and circumstance:
2. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone
Planning an event of this magnitude means putting yourself forward and asking for help. If you are totally new to this, Google "dog product companies" and the like. Folks who stepped up to be a part of the Wigglebutt Wedding came out of the woodworks and continue to be extraordinarily supportive. Canine couturier, Anthony Rubio, created the wedding attire.
For the bride, Zoe wore a breathtaking, voluminous bridal gown of traditional fair complete with wedding veil. For the groom, Dexter wore a coordinating tuxedo, a true sight of sophistication. Both garments were made of silk featuring elaborate floral cut-outs, trimmed in tiny pearls. The gown also featured handcrafted cap sleeves adorned with teardrop pearls. Inspired by sixties fashion, the veil was attached to a classic pill box hat.
3. Have fun with the process
Yes, two dogs are getting hitched. Yes, this is for dog rescue. Keep it light and lovely and engage the services of an officiant. Stewie to the Rescue founder Harris Bloom recited the official vows, including:
"Marriage is not to be entered unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently and solemnly, and with as many canines in attendance as possible. This is true whether the marriage is between two humans, or as we have this evening, two Cocker Spaniels."
"Do you Dexter James Bryant take Zoe Elizabeth Sorensen to be your canine wife? Do you paw-mise to love and cherish her, sharing your squeaky ball collection and beloved bones for as long as you both shall live?"
For Dexter, I said, "I do!"
"Do you Zoe Elizabeth Sorensen take Dexter James Bryant to be your canine husband? Do you paw-mise to cherish him, share your tissues and your favorite toy, bake for him as Domestic Dogdess, and give him the occasional break from humping that you initiate?"
The bride's mom said, "I do!" for Zoe.
4. When in Rome, do as the Romans
Let them eat cake, dress to the nines, and ask folks to go grand scale with you.
Many guests report that this event was the finest and most glamorous wedding they ever attended, human or canine. I wore a dress from a boutique, as did the mother of the bride.
After interviewing the superstar Pug Loca for Dogster, we became online pals, and Loca sent a video all the way from Ireland, which we played on a big screen at the venue:
5. Allow dog guests to be on premises but have limits and rules in place
Not to be a party pooper, but to maintain a smoothly run event, we capped the number of guests of the human and canine variety to 120 people and 50 dogs (oh, and three cats). We exceeded that a bit, but we never went far beyond. Dogs and people were much happier and there were no dog fights, accidents, or issues. In fact, this was the smoothest wedding of which I have ever been a part.
6. Have a DJ, a caterer, and a photographer
These three people will become your three best friends. Mike Guariglia from Touch of Class DJ had the crowds dancing -- some on four legs, too. Kiss-the-Chef Catering provided a fabulous spread, and Luminaria Photography snapped away so we could enjoy the evening.
I must say, I was in iPhone withdrawal. I am a noted (and sometimes annoying) photo taker, but I relinquished my camera and let the expert take control. Many times, providers like these will work with you for barter or a lower price so that they can help your cause. Such was the case with all three of these key players.
7. Select a rescue group to benefit
Make sure you plan well, determining how much to charge guests; what money will be used for goods, supplies and rental fees; and then what will be left over for the rescue.
At the price of $50 a head, all funds raised went to Life's Little Paws Rescue Group. All guests received a fun evening, a program, a champagne souvenir flute, and a goodie bag full of sponsor bling. Start planning early: This is a long process but so rewarding.
8. Have a bridal party, complete with outfits for each member
Have you ever been to a wedding without a bridesmaid, best man, and a few bridal party members? Thanks to Spoiled Pup Boutique, all bridal party members were beautifully dressed in colors of the wedding -- shades of plum and blue. Plenty of "oohs" and "ahhs" could be heard cascading over the rental hall.
9. Be prepared for the unexpected and laugh when it happens
After the happy couple said their puptuals, the DJ cued the song "Marry You" by Bruno Mars and officiant Harris Bloom introduced "Mr and Mrs. Dexter James Bryant." Zoe proceeded to walk down the ramp and Dex stepped on her gown. I kid you not, the entire lower portion came off (because it had Velcro sections for changeability). Apparently, Dex was starting the honeymoon early. We laughed and hoped our videographer caught that on camera.
10. Plan a fun-filled weekend around the event
After the last fleck of confetti was swept away, our group still had a flurry of activity ahead of us. On Saturday, we did a photo shoot with famed canine photographer Paul Nathan, and the host hotel, Homewood Suites in Stratford, provided us with a tarped room for the dogs to play and the guests to have lunch, laugh, and reflect.
So now we are in the process of readying to plan our 2014 event. If you decide to throw a fun fund-raiser, be creative and know that dogs in need will be helped by your efforts.
Have you ever held a creative fundraiser or attended a dog wedding? Bark at me in the comments below!