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Would YOU pay £1,000 to have your dog lead you up the aisle?

For many couples, the question of who to have as bridesmaids and best man can pose a dilemma. But Rachael Hover and her husband Ella Barry had no such quandary.

When logistics director Barry popped the question last September after eight years together, they instantly knew who to bestow these honors on — their beloved pet pugs Bella and Paddy.

And the pooches stole the show at the ceremony in March. ‘Bella walked down the aisle with Barry’s daughter Emily, who’s 12, while Paddy was led by Barry’s nephew Kieran,’ recalls Rachael. ‘But then, halfway down, Bella stopped, slipped her collar and ran off.’

The record halted proceedings as the congregation chuckled. But, thankfully, it was n’t left to digital marketing consultant Rachael to tear about the country house in Northamptonshire in her wedding finery in search of Bella. She had hired a doggy chaperone to the tune of £500. So the escaped ‘dogsmaid’ was promptly located, put back on the lead and the service continued.

‘Bella’s six and Paddy’s four and they’re my babies,’ Rachael continues. ‘They were the main factor in choosing the venue. A couple of places we looked at said no to pets.’

Online retailer Lauren Gylanders and husband Alex, a finance broker, tied the knot two weeks ago with cavapoo Dexter by their side (pictured)

More fool them. There’s a reason a growing number of hotels and country houses welcome well-behaved dogs at weddings; Businesses specializing in pet chaperones and pre-wedding pooch pampering are mushrooming too.

Lizzie Benge is a professional dog trainer who cornered a niche in the market for pet chaperones when clients and friends approached her to accompany their dogs on wedding days.

‘Although more venues are welcoming dogs at weddings, most require the bride and groom to have a professional chaperone rather than the pet care being left to guests who may get carried away with the occasion and take their eyes off them,’ explains Lizzie, who’s based in Kent and launched the aptly named herecomesthehound.co.uk two years ago.

‘Some couples give their dog a specific role such as walking the bride down the aisle or acting as a ring bearer. As a dog trainer, I use all sorts of treats but mostly squeaky toys and balls to get a dog’s attention. Thankfully I haven’t had any disasters such as a dog hiding a ring or answering a call of nature.

‘Some doggy ring bearers carry the rings in a pouch attached to their collar or a bandana with a clip on it to keep them safe.’

Wanting them to look their best, Rachael, from Manchester, ensured her pugs were treated to a grooming session, including a wash and blow-dry on the morning of the wedding and a spritz of doggy perfumes; Bella’s matching Rachael’s Angel by Thierry Mugler and Paddy’s mimicking Barry’s Dior Sauvage.

On the eve of the wedding, the pugs stayed in a luxury dog ​​hotel and were whisked to their pamper session by the chaperone who later escorted them to join Rachael at the wedding venue and dressed them in their outfits — a pink satin tutu for Bella and a tweed harness for Paddy, each bedecked with fresh white roses to match the ushers’ corsages.

‘It all cost around £1,000 — more than the £750 I paid for my wedding dress,’ says Rachael. ‘But they’re part of our family and it was worth every penny.’ She and Barry follow in the footsteps of Robbie Williams and wife Ayda Field who had their eight dogs as bridesmaids when they married in 2010. Made In Chelsea star Tiffany Watson gave the job of ring bearer to her golden retriever Kiki earlier this month.

It was certainly 'with this dog, I thee wed' for account manager Jeanine Hughes and husband David, a commercial director.  Both in their 30s, guest of honor at their Cotswold nuptials in March was their rescue dog Koda (pictured)

It was certainly ‘with this dog, I thee wed’ for account manager Jeanine Hughes and husband David, a commercial director. Both in their 30s, guest of honor at their Cotswold nuptials in March was their rescue dog Koda (pictured)

A recent survey by personalized pet product retailer yappy.com suggests that a quarter of dog-owning engaged couples enlist their pet pooch as best man or maid of honor. Well, we are nothing if not a nation of pet lovers: around 3.2 million British households welcomed a new pet during the pandemic.

It was certainly ‘with this dog, I thee wed’ for account manager Jeanine Hughes and husband David, a commercial director. Both in their 30s, guest of honor at their Cotswold nuptials in March was their rescue dog Koda.

‘We couldn’t bear the idea of ​​him not being at the wedding but neither could we fathom the logistics, as we obviously couldn’t spend the day looking after him or give that responsibility to any of our guests,’ says Jeanine, who lives in London. ‘I was on the verge of tears when we came across a chaperone in the form of Amanda’s Ark pet care service in Suffolk (amandasarkweddings.co.uk).

‘Amanda met Koda beforehand to get to know him and see how he reacts in certain environments.

‘David handed him over to Amanda at the venue on the morning of the wedding and she looked after him right through to the next morning.’

A recent survey by personalized pet product retailer yappy.com suggests that a quarter of dog-owning engaged couples enlist their pet pooch as best man or maid of honor (stock image)

A recent survey by personalized pet product retailer yappy.com suggests that a quarter of dog-owning engaged couples enlist their pet pooch as best man or maid of honor (stock image)

Including her Ark hotel room and additional pet care the morning after the wedding, the total cost of hiring Amanda and having Koda primped at the local grooming parlor two weeks earlier was around £600 — worth every penny as far as Jeanine’s concerned.

‘Koda looked gorgeous in his wedding bow tie and I suspect he was more photographed on the day than David and I were,’ Jeanine adds. ‘He was on his lead the whole time and he was super well-behaved, with many guests commenting on how good he was.’

In May, Helen and Carl Dodgson went a step further and paid for their cockapoo Monty to arrive at their wedding at Sandon Hall in Stafford in a chauffeur-driven van bedecked with ribbons.

Helen, 29, an online marketing executive, who lives in Cannock with Carl, 30, a civil servant, says: ‘Monty’s four and we’ve had him since he was a puppy so he really is our baby and we were thrilled that he was allowed to be there.’

They hired husband and wife pet chaperones Emma and Adrian Cartlich whose Precious Pets Wedding Wheels and chaperone service (precious-pets.wedding) may have failed to secure investment on Dragons’ Den in 2021, but has been a winner with dog-owning brides and grooms since they started chaperoning in 2018. Packages start at £300 and go up to £600 for multiple dogs, with Helen paying them £359 to look after the most special of her 73 guests.

A nation of animal lovers, around 3.2 million British households welcomed a new pet during the pandemic (stock image)

A nation of animal lovers, around 3.2 million British households welcomed a new pet during the pandemic (stock image)

‘Emma and Adrian got to know him ahead of the wedding and on the day they spruced him up, put on his little suit then accompanied Monty as he made his entrance. With their help, he greeted our guests, acted as ring bearer, posed for photos and mingled,’ says Helen.

‘Adrian waited outside with Monty during the actual ceremony, but when we reached the point of exchanging rings he opened the door, let Monty off his lead and to my surprise he ran straight to me with the rings.

‘I’d been worried he might run away as he’s a bit of a live wire, but Adrian is a real dog whisperer.’

Online retailer Lauren Gylanders and husband Alex, a finance broker, tied the knot two weeks ago with cavapoo Dexter by their side. The couple from West Malling, Kent, have had the 11-month-old pup since last October and he was top of the guest list for their church service and reception afterwards at Nurstead Court in Meopham. ‘We don’t have children yet so Dexter is our baby. There was no way we could get married without him there, ‘says Lauren, who hired Lizzie Benge at a cost of £550 as his plus one from her.

‘I can’t begin to explain how brilliant she was. Although we’ve done lots of training with Dexter and he responds well to basic commands, we weren’t sure what he’d be like with 60 guests as potential playmates!

‘Lizzie took Dexter for a walk while we were in church and was waiting with him at our reception venue where she helped direct the photos.

‘With the help of treats and squeaky balls, she got Dexter to look at the camera so he would stay with us off the lead for the official pictures.’

Looking dapper in a tuxedo and bow tie, Dexter had a blow dry, his nails trimmed and a blueberry facial — a lick-safe shampoo, face wash and color brightener — at a total cost of £150.

‘He had more grooming than Alex,’ laughs Lauren. ‘Everybody wanted cuddles with him.’

Still, when it came to the honeymoon in Jamaica, Dexter wasn’t sipping doggy cocktails next to Lauren and Alex.

It seems there comes a point when it’s a dog’s life after all. . .

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