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A weeklong series about weddings post-pandemic.

Small weddings, the norm during the pandemic, appear here to stay
May 17: Who to call if your dog needs a date to your wedding
May 18: Wedding DJs and singers in the Twin Cities name best/worst songs for your big day
May 19: The coolest new trend for weddings: mobile bars
May 19: What’s trending in Twin Cities wedding cakes
May 21: More Minnesota brides buy off-the-rack, vintage or rent dresses for the big day

The problem: You want a beloved family member to be at your wedding, but if you turn your back on him for a minute, he might paw other guests, try to snitch a canape, even relieve himself in the middle of the ceremony.

It's not your crazy Uncle Ned you're worried about: It's your dog.

Happily, there's a solution if you want your best friend to share in your big day. For a few hundred bucks, you can hire a wedding pet attendant, a person who will help position your poodle during the wedding photographs and shepherd your shepherd during the ceremony.

They'll also wrestle your dog into a special wedding outfit, keep him from eating the flowers, help him mingle during the cocktail hour, make sure he gets potty breaks, water and treats. In addition, they'll be your dog's designated driver to and from the venue.

They're basically a plus-one for hire for your pooch.

"I'm the dog's date," said Kelsey Valley, owner of Happy Tailz, a Twin Cities dog walking, dog sitting and dog training company that started offering wedding pet attendant services in 2020.

Valley said she's been a dog chaperone at about 25 weddings, doing everything from helping to pose engagement photos to being part of the ceremony.

"I've walked down the aisle before with the dog," Valley said. "I'm also kind of a wedding planner for the pet."

Another Twin Cities company, Doggy Social, exclusively offers pet wedding attendant services.

Founder Lara Leinen said the business took off after she founded it in 2018. She estimates her company has accompanied pets to between 300 and 400 weddings despite the pandemic and she has another 85 weddings booked this year.

With about 10 "pet CPR-certified" pet attendants working for her, she's expanded her services to handle weddings in Montana and Chicago, as well as Minnesota.

Leinen said she came up with the idea after seeing a picture of a backyard wedding with a dog in attendance. She remembered her own wedding and how she wished she could have had a picture of herself in her wedding dress with her beloved cat, Taz, but there wasn't a convenient way to make that happen.

Wedding day care

With a wedding pet attendant, your dog can be a guest at the wedding, but you don't have to ask a friend or relative to take time out from the festivities to watch the animal at the event or leave early when the dog needs to go home.

And pet attendants say that having someone dedicated full time to watch the dog during the nuptials is the best way to prevent a mishap, ranging from muddy paw prints on a gown to a toppled wedding cake.

"That day, we're that dog's person," said Molly Arnold, who has done dozens of weddings as a pet attendant for Doggy Social.

"It's the greatest concept,'' said Ranju Ganesh, who used Doggy Social to accompany her two dogs, Franklin and Arthur, at her 2021 wedding in Minneapolis.

Ranju Ganesh and Bricklin Welch on their wedding day in Minneapolis last September with their dogs Arthur and Franklin. 
Ranju Ganesh and Bricklin Welch on their wedding day in Minneapolis last September with their dogs Arthur and Franklin. 

poiemampls.com

Ganesh said the presence of a wedding pet attendant helped to persuade her venue at International Market Square to allow her dogs to be in attendance.

"I've told so many people about it," she said.

Leinen said when she started Doggy Social, similar companies popped up at almost the same time in New York, Florida, Texas and Oregon.

The service represents the intersection between the elevation of our pets as part of the family and the ever growing array of experiences and services available to make weddings different and special.

"At the beginning, it's 'What are you talking about?' " said Leinen when she first tried introducing her business concept.

"We love our animals so, so much," she explained. "If we're going to have our best day ever, why don't we want our pets to be there?"

"Once I heard of it, I had to have it," said Erin O'Brien, who married Alex Schneeman in St. Paul last year in the presence of their golden doodle, Murray, with a pet attendant helping out. "We wanted Murray to be part of our day. He's a big part of our lives."

Alex Schneeman and Erin O’Brien on their wedding day in September 2021 in St. Paul with their dog, Murray. 
Alex Schneeman and Erin O’Brien on their wedding day in September 2021 in St. Paul with their dog, Murray. 

Luke Payne Photography

Dog tags, price tags

The Happy Tailz website lists pet attendant packages that range from $300 to $700 depending on how many hours you need the attendant to be present. Leinen said pet attendant packages with her company typically run from $500 to $700.

The fees include a pre-wedding consultation and chauffeur service for your pet. You may pay extra if you have more than one pet and need additional attendants, if your pet needs to be transported beyond a certain distance, if you require additional pet sitting when your dog gets back home or would also like help with an engagement photo session featuring your pet.

Leinen said her company has provided attendants for a wedding where four dogs owned by the wedding party were in attendance. They've also overseen a cat who came to a wedding carried in a backpack carrier.

(The local wedding pet attendant services said they're open to minding other pet animals like a rabbit or even a llama at weddings, but so far it's mainly been dogs.)

When a beloved dog shows up at a wedding, "people's reactions are great," said Shannon Granholm, a wedding pet attendant with Doggy Social, "You can tell it makes people's day. It calms people down."

Leinen said her clients often find that the wedding photos that include the pet turn out to be among their favorites.

Arnold, the pet attendant with Doggy Social, also said it's a fun part-time job for the right person.

"I love dogs and I love weddings. Who doesn't love love?" she said.