DOG lover Katie Enever quit her job in HR to become a wedding planner – for pets.
It might sound barking but the 44-year-old from Northampton spends every weekend primping and pampering pooches and owners spend up to £500 to have their furry friends share their special day.
In the morning, she takes them for a long walk before hitting the grooming parlour for their wash and blow dry and some even enjoy a vanilla facial.
Then Katie dresses them in their wedding outfits and sets off to the church or venue.
She said: “The boys wear a bow tie or a harness which looks like a suit or tuxedo, and the girls tend to wear flower garlands with a matching floral lead and a collar, dress or harness in the same colours as the bride.
“Some like them to wear a sign. One dog wore a board saying ‘I loved her first,’ another said, ‘I do too,’ and we had one Staffie Millie with ‘My servants are getting married!’
“One bride wanted her Cavachon (a cross between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Bichon Frise) Gizmo to capture the ceremony so he wore a GoPro camera to give a ‘dog’s eye view’ and filmed them.”
Like babies and small children, there’s no guarantee a pet will be on their best behaviour so Katie has several meetings leading up to the big day to ensure things go smoothly.
She takes the dogs to the venue 30 minutes before the bride arrives and walks up and down the aisle so guests can coo over them.
Katie said: “The worst thing that has happened so far was when a mobile groomer didn’t turn up on the morning of a wedding, but I found an appointment elsewhere.
“One registrar was allergic to dogs and we didn’t know until I arrived, so Bert, the bride’s Cairn Terrier, had to sit at the back of the room rather than the front.
“People love to see them. At one, a woman was in floods of tears over how adorable the dog looked and the bride hadn’t even arrived!
“Another time, all the guests started clapping when the bride and groom had said their vows and their dog started barking – I had to lead him out of the church.
“Every time the ‘does anyone object’ question is asked, you see everyone’s head swivel around to look at the dog, but so far none of them have woofed!
“One registrar asked the guest to give a special ‘round of app-paws’ for the dog as they’d been so well behaved.”
Couples pay from £175 to have Katie care for their dogs. She collects them in the morning and cares for them during the ceremony and photographs, then either takes them for a walk during the wedding breakfast or back home.
One bride spent £500 on accessories and grooming and her pup even had his own bedroom. Another made sure Katie and her dog Jenson were sat right in the front row – while her own PARENTS were in the row behind.
Nearly half of dog owners – 40 per cent – involved them in their special day according to a poll by Natures Menu. A fifth were ring bearers, 11 per cent were bridesmaids, five per cent were the Best Man and 56 per cent of people aged 18 to 24 said they couldn’t imagine getting married without them there.
“The ‘Dogs at Weddings’ trend has really taken off,” says Katie, who has a Cavachon, Archie. “I’m now getting requests for hamsters and guinea pigs to join couples too.
“Next year, I’m looking after two cats who are going to be ring bearers – their owners are training them to walk on a lead.
“Another bride is going to ride into church on her horse, and I’m chaperoning her two dogs, so I’m calling in an equine pet sitter to help me and the couple are hiring a trailer for us to transport the horse and two dogs to the church in.
“Pets are part of the family so it’s natural that owners want them to be there on their special day.”
Gemma Watkins had her Golden Retriever Winnie as guest of honour when she married her sales director husband Matthew, 44, at Dodford Manor in Northampton in May.
The two-year-old dog dressed to impress in a floral lead and collar and greeted guests with slobbery kisses and a sign saying ‘I do too!’
Gemma, 38, a conveyancer, said: “We don’t have children so we wanted Winnie to be part of our special day.
“She’s only young and quite lively and when she saw me arrive in my car she did get over excited and looked like she was ready to jump on me.
“Katie kept her on a short lead so I didn’t have her paws all over my dress and veil. It was lovely having her there and all the guests made such a fuss of her.
“I know if a family member or friend had been tasked with caring for her, they wouldn’t have been able to join in the celebrations as much, so it was so much easier to have Katie come along.”
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A version of this story appeared in the Daily Star Sunday which you can read below.