Sylvan Lake – a Hidden Gem in the Wine Country

Last weekend, I made an incredible discovery: a hidden gem of a wedding venue in the Bay Area Wine Country! It’s totally unknown, totally private and secluded, it’s a beautiful enchanted garden, it’s even dog-friendly… what else can I say? It’s simply a treasure.

Sylvan Lake is high up in the mountains above picturesque St. Helena, but even after having lived in the Bay Area for more than a decade, and – of course – having visited the Wine Country countless times, I had no idea that Sylvan Lake existed, or where it might be. And just driving by, you would never suspect what’s hidden behind this unassuming driveway. Nor would the owners want it to be any other way.

John and Luise bought the property fifty years ago. Yes, fifty. And they’ve been working on it every single day, making it better and more beautiful, modernizing it inside while keeping the romantic facade overgrown with ivy – a storybook house. And, of course, they’ve lovingly tended to the gardens, and – as you will see – it shows.

The  most amazing thing, however, is, that the two wish to share the beauty and romance of their hidden treasure with others, to make young couples’ special day – even more special. And so, for many years, they’ve opened their doors for weddings, but never more than just 15 a year – so they can focus on every single event. John has amassed a whole inventory of things that you’d expect to have to bring: he has heat lamps and props, he’ll string dozens of Chinese lanterns across the expanse of the lawn and hang them from the trees, he’ll provide bar tables, market umbrellas and small patio lights and, and… It’s his joy and pride to provide a beautiful setting for a young couple’s most beautiful event.

John’s and Luise’s house looks like straight out of a storybook:

… and this is from where the bride would walk down the aisle to where the ceremony would take place: under an enormous old olive tree:

… and when the couple is officially pronounced “husband and wife,” John will let the world know by ringing his historic bell:

whose sound literally carries throughout the valley. Talk about romance…

The wedding party can then begin on the big lawn:

….surrounded by towering trees, blooming flowerbeds and impeccably pruned boxwood hedges. When night falls, the scenery turns magical under the Chinese lanterns, and dancing starts – to whatever music you’d like, live, DJ – your choice! And with a few restrictions, you can party into the wee hours of the morning – a very rare treat! By the way, John, a trained concert pianist, keeps his Baldwin grand piano perfectly tuned at all times, and while he will not play himself – his fingers, he says, are not that nimble any more – he’ll invite whoever will play at the wedding, and with the living room windows wide open, its glorious sound fills the garden.

I begged John to play a little bit for me – and he obliged, right there – in the middle of his incessant gardening chores:

He hardly ever says no! Another thing he can’t say No to is – young couples bringing their beloved dogs to their wedding. As long as he or she is kept on a leash and supervised, John and Luise welcome canines at weddings. After all, their “Lady” and her daughter “Piglet” are the joy of their lives!

But John’s and Luise’s hospitality doesn’t stop here – for the newlyweds, they open their cute little cottage so they can spend their first night on the property:

…complete with living room, bathrooms, kitchen and bedroom under the eaves… and that is part of the package.

And even that is not all. On top of everything else, John and Luise invite the young couple to their historic farmhouse in Italy for a whole week of honeymoon! It’s a building from the 16th century, lovingly restored and modernized inside (by the indefatigable John himself, of course!), and it’s situated in a side valley of the Italian Alps, beneath Monte Rosa, in a region still untouched by tourism.

With such generosity, small wonder then that all the couples who have tied the knot under John’s and Luise’s olive tree over the years have remained friends – many of them returning to Sylvan Lake unannounced to show the two a tiny bundle, their own pride and joy. And that’s the biggest reward for John and Luise.

I am sure that by now you’re hooked! Contact me if you’d like to have your own wedding at Sylvan Lake – email



A True Fairytale Wedding: Michelle and Philipp

Michelle and Philipp did not only have a fairytale wedding – more of that in a moment – but just as much a fairytale courtship: born and raised at opposite ends of the world (Michelle in Inner Mongolia, Philipp in Germany), the two met in College, at the University of Southern California, literally during their first week in their first semester. Despite all that might have stood in their way, like having no language in common and coming from vastly different cultural backgrounds, they were inseparable from day one. They were truly made for one another! And they did everything together, studying, movies, playing sports:

And that’s why they decided to get married just out of College, and they made me their wedding planner. They entrusted to me the design as well as the organization of their wedding celebration, literally everything from their invitations to their Rehearsal Dinner, choice of venue to guest accommodations, from the dress to the groomsmen gifts, and, of course, the Great Day itself. They choose Tiffany blue as their wedding color – and this idea then carried through to all the details, the invitations, the bridesmaids dresses, the linens, the favors, the jewelry – and even the cake.

The wedding was held at Stonepine Estate, an equestrian estate in Carmel Valley – 330 acres of rolling hills and forests, vineyards and horse trails, and a French-Mediterranean chateau in the middle, surrounded by formal gardens.

Definitely an appropriately magnificent setting for a fairytale wedding!

Here is the dress (by Priscilla of Boston) displayed with gorgeous bouquets from Christine Cater Floral Design:

… and here is the bride getting ready for the great moment:

Bride and groom were transported to the ceremony in style: in a horse drawn carriage:

Guests arrived from all over the world – Germany, France, China, Canada, the East Coast – to attend their outdoor ceremony in the formal gardens of the Chateau:

“You may now kiss the bride!”

Now happily married, the two proceeded to cut their cake (by Cake Coquette) and enjoy their First Dance, but first the husband carried his young wife across the water…

… to the Pool Pavilion, where, serenaded by a String Quartet, the two proceeded to perform their official first task together: cutting the cake which not only resembled a stack of Tiffany boxes, but actually contained ONE real box, filled with a pearl bracelet (the cake had to be guarded until the bride found her special gift!)

Then it was time for their First Dance, traditionally to the tune of Johann Strauss’ “Blue Danube,” music that even Michelle’s parents had come to know and love in China. Videographer Andrew Hsu captured every precious moment.

While their guests enjoyed an al fresco reception under blue skies, the couple had a photo shoot with photographer Kevin Chin in the Stonepine park…

… some official ones…

… some right out of “Alice in Wonderland” – but also some riskier poses on the diving board:

The two did NOT take the plunge, but returned to join their guests on the lawn…

… where their beloved four-legged companion, Buzz, was already waiting for them.

Everyone then took a short break…


Buzz couldn’t wait to finally sit down with closest friends and family for the wedding dinner on the loggia (well, Buzz, seated with his dog walker, dined a little bit away from the party, but got to enjoy the same entree of Filet Mignon…)

It was a wonderful conclusion to a one-of-a-kind day:

Congratulations and best wishes, Michelle, Philipp and Buzz! Your wedding was a fairytale – may your married life be one, too!

Michelle and Philipp | Stonepine Estates from andrew msv on Vimeo.

Wedding Coordination and Design: A Day Like No Other

Thanks to my Dream Team:

Venue and Catering: Stonepine Estate

Invitations: The Desk Set

Dress: Priscilla of Boston

Jewelry: Tiffany

Cake: Cake Coquette

Hair and Makeup: Triple Twist

Flowers: Christine Cater Floral Design

Photography: Kevin Chin Photography

Videography: Andrew Hsu / Studio MSV

Ceremony and Reception Music: Karsten Windt String Quartet

Dinner Music: Matisse Freimark, ph. 831-722-8131

Transportation: City Express Limousine Service




Downtown Design (plus Dog!) – fab fetes @ sfdc

This weekend I had the honor and the pleasure to assist my friend Duncan – none less than the famed Duncan Reyes of Events by Design ( – in a very hip wedding celebration at the San Francisco Design Center. You didn’t know that was possible at all, I bet! It’s a pretty spectacular and ubercool venue, I can tell you that much. AND, Wedding WOOF readers listen up: it’s dog-friendly! Unbelievable.

First things first. sfdc is located in the heart of the Design District in San Francisco at 101 Henry Adams Street – a historic brick warehouse from the outside…

…and totally hip and cutting-edge modern from the inside:

The ground floor holds up to 1,000 guests (yes, you got that right!) and the four floors rising above hold another 200 each. That should be plenty for any wedding celebration! You can rent either the first floor only or the first floor and additional floors. And the first floor is, lo and behold, dog friendly! As long as Fido is leashed and supervised, he (or she…) is welcome. So, brides and grooms, bring your beloved four-legged companion to your nuptials! Just make sure your darling can leave before the music gets too loud (not good at all for sensitive doggie ears!) or dinner is served (SF Health Code gets in the way…) You could still pack a doggie bag for doggie and send him/her home with a loving caregiver while you are dining, drinking, and dancing the night away!

Organizing a fabulous fete at sfdc isn’t that hard: They offer tables and chairs, in-house bar service, and dramatic in-house lighting. Add catering, florals, and music – there you go! Julia Wagner, Galleria Events Manager, will take care of all your needs (, and Chuck Davis is in charge of the lighting (

Our wonderful couple – Mo and Jason – and fabulous Duncan Reyes added quite some more; from additional atmosphere lighting and table pinspotting (…

custom linens and stunning florals from Tanjeeryn Designs (

to delicacies from Melons Catering ( and a beautiful wedding cake from Chef Bala at The Cakemaker ( The festivities were documented by well-known photographer Guru Khalsa ( and first-rate musical entertainment for their guests was provided  by Synchronicity Strings (, ceremony and reception music)…

…followed by DJ Jason Mitchell performing ( – and, WOW, did he get the crowd going! Mo and Jason had the time of their lives, that’s for sure.

They used the sfdc ground floor for their ceremony – second floor for cocktail hour – then back to the ground floor for the rest of the evening with dinner and dancing. Perfect!

And here are a few more impressions of what YOUR wedding at the sfdc could look like:


So – inspired, all your hip, urban-chic, dog-loving brides and grooms? Go for it! Happy planning!


It’s a Dog’s Life…

Dear readers who keep coming back to Wedding Woof mainly because of the “Woof” part – here’s to you!

Our own “woof,” Buzz, has a beautiful girlfriend (of course) whom he goes to visit regularly – Sage – and she sent him a boudoir shot of herself today – in diva pose! It’s the incarnation of sheer bliss… I’ll come back as a dog!!

Diva Sage

Real Weddings: Westie Wedding with WOW!

It was a warm July day when Pharmacist Dr. Banjie Quiambao married her Prince Charming, Ed Vergara, JD. The traditional Catholic ceremony took place at St. Mary’s Parish in Gilroy with Father Dan Derry presiding.
Waiting in the wings, donned in his tuxedo and boutonniere and looking like the most handsome boy in the world, was their fur-baby, Riley, a Westie-Terrier mix with the perfect piggie-pink nose.  Once the wedding got started, wedding planner Patty Speirs of Every Last Detail went back to to the bride’s house to pick up the Pup of Honor, who was as cool as a cucumber riding shotgun.  Once at the church, he nearly stole the show with all the oo’s and ahh’s and plenty of smiles and pats on the head as the ceremony progressed.
As the New Mr. and Mrs. Vergara walked back down the aisle, Riley was there to congratulate them.
After the formal photographs at the church, Riley took an early leave…
..and headed home while Mom and Dad headed to the reception in style via classic Rolls Royce, chauffeured by George from Elegant Journey Limousine.
The bride and groom arrived at the Monterey Embassy Suites in time to sneak into the ballroom to see it in all its beauty and splendor with decor provided by LauraT decor.  The tables were named after prescription drugs, a nod to Banjie’s career…
… and the favors were medicine vials full of yummy candies – with special prescription labels and instructions to take two a day for happiness! (No bitter medicine today…)
The guests imbibed with Banja-lini’s and Vergartini’s – signature drinks named after the bride and groom – and had a blast letting loose in the photobooth provided by Peninsula Photo Booth.
The cake was created by Freedom Bakery, and the WOW factor was a surprise visit and performances by Dean Martin, on loan from the Rat Pack.

Dean Martin with wedding planner Patty

All in all, a classy, elegant and fun wedding celebration with WOW and WOOF!
Wedding Planner: Every Last Detail,
Transportation: Elegant Journey,
Venue: Monterey Embassy Suites,
Peninsula Photo Booth,
Freedom Bakery,

Live from Duncan’s Downtown Birthday “Madness!”

A minute ago I returned  home from a FABULOUS event, and I’m still all giddy about it – Duncan’s Downtown Bday party! Duncan – who? Duncan Reyes, of course – who certainly does NOT need any kind of introduction. But, should you by any chance not belong to the 99.9% of people “in the know” who he is: he is the “wedding guru of the Bay Area,” as quite a few of his guests reverently referred to him. And, believe me, he deserves every bit of that honorary title!

Just back from orchestrating a HUGE wedding in Mumbai, India (the talk of the evening was a whispered total cost in the 7-digit range…), Duncan used his regular “Martini Madness” events for colleagues and friends for an early Birthday celebration – and tout le (chic!) monde flocked to Infusion Lounge in downtown San Francisco to join in the celebration. And I was lucky enough to be one of them!

Duncan, the devoted doggie Dad (to his diva, “Bella”) and I, equally devoted doggie Mom to “Buzz,”  (the “Woof” in Wedding Woof) immediately found out that we are sharing a big interest! Here he is with his furry muse:

Beautiful, no?

Well, “beautiful” was definitely the motto of the evening… starting with the location: Infusion Lounge, an ultra-hip bar in the heart of San Francisco, bathed in truly magical lighting:

Talk about chic… and the guests were definitely a crowd to match – a Who’s Who of the Bay Area’s foremost wedding professionals: fellow event coordinator Tony White of Extreme Elegance, BluBungalow Event Studio founder Hazel Bourget, Anastasia Alvarado of Grace Street Catering, event and catering managers Cristina Lopez of Kimpton Hotels and Katie Orndorff and Siba Tarassoly of Marriott – who assured me that both all Kimpton Hotels (Argonaut, Harbor Court, and Tuscan Inn in SF) and the downtown Marriott are, in fact, very dog-friendly! So listen up, all the “Woof” fans of Wedding Woof… that’s for you and your four-legged darlings! On to Robbie Schlosser of Magnolia Jazz Band who has been entertaining guests in the Bay Area since 1975 and rightfully considers himself a “veteran” – and whom, in fact, absolutely everyone greeted affectionately – “everyone knows Robbie!” Olympic Gold for the highest presence by sheer numbers, however, goes to the photographers who transform all these incredible events into tangible memories: Alex Ho, Auey Santos, Orbie Pullen and husband-and-wife team Ariel and Samuel Soto-Suver of Bowerbird Photography, “senior statesman” Richard Mayer, and Mike Steelman with the one-of-a kind steel (!) engraved business card… as I said – le Beau Monde, and brimming with creativity!

Birthday Boy Duncan took personal care of each and every one of his guests, inviting them to fun photo shoots in a photo booth with lots of hilarious props (think masks, hats, neon feather boas…) while his Mom and Sis were proudly looking on. He certainly is the quintessential, perfect party host!

Thanks for having us all, Duncan, and have a wonderful, successful and totally happy new year in your life!


Duncan Reyes/ Events by Design,

Infusion Lounge,

Tony White/ Extreme Elegance,

Hazel Bourget/ BluBungalow,

Anastasia Alvarado/ Grace Street Catering,

Cristina Lopez/Kimpton Hotels,

Katie Orndorff/Marriott SF,

Siba Tarassoly/Marriott SF,

Robbie Schlosser, Magnolia Jazz Band,

Alex Ho,

Auey Santos/Photograffiti,

Orbie Pullen,

Ariel and Samuel Soto-Suver/Bowerbird Photography,

Richard Mayer,

Mike Steelman,









REAL Weddings: VIPs (Very Important Pups) and Their People!

When oncology nurse Dominique Augimeri and emergency room physician Rory Smith decided to tie the knot it was crystal-clear from the get-go that it was to be a family affair – family being their two English Bulldogs, Quebert and Mirra.

Dominique’s and Rory’s picturesque venue for their cliff side ceremony, The Highland’s Inn in Carmel-by-the-Sea, was the perfect meeting of the mountains and the sea – quite a change from their desert home!  Heavens smiled on their afternoon wedding ceremony with unexpectedly beautiful weather, considering it was April AND it had hailed immediately after the rehearsal concluded the day before.  Wedding planner Patty Speirs offered VIP (Very Important Pups) care to Q and Mirra, chauffeuring them to the wedding, getting them dressed in their wedding attire – he in a bow tie and she in a ruffled tu-tu in “Shocking Pink” – and bringing  them in for their grand entrance.

The two four legged stars were greeted with Ohh’s and Ahh’s and were just short of stealing the show for their “Mom” and “Dad.” Having the fur-babies as part of the celebration and mingle with family and friends was, hands-down, the icing on the (wedding) cake!


Speaking of which: While Dominique’s and Rory’s wedding color was Caribbean Blue with orange accents, they made ONE design exception: as a wag to their dogs, Patisserie Bechler of Pacific Grove applied brown paw prints running up the three-tiered wedding cake!


Although the pups choose to make an early exit, they were OF COURSE included in the official wedding photos. Planner Patty had vowed to get that perfect family portrait (the “mantel shot” as she referred to it), and photographers George and Cindy McCullough – fellow dog lovers! – captured the magic and made it happen. See for yourself:

The day was just perfect for Dominique and Rory – surrounded by all the important people in their lives, including their canine “kids.”  They wouldn’t have had it any other way…


Venue: Hyatt Carmel Highlands, michele.costa@hyatt.comCaterer: In House; Photographer: McCullough Photography, phototeam@mcculloughphotography.comFlorist: CC Creations, cc.creations@earthlink.comHair & Make Up: Salon at Lincoln Lane, salonatlincolnlane@gmail.comEvent and Wedding Coordination: Every Last Detail, patty@eldweddings.comCeremony ,Cocktail Hour and Reception Music: Steve Ezzo Entertainment, ezzoentertainment@comcast.netWedding Cake: Patisserie Bechler,




Dogs Shop Till They Drop – at Diggidy Dog!

Ask our dog Buzz (the “woof” in Wedding Woof) where he wants to go, and he’ll tell you: not to the beach, not to the dog park, but to his all-time favorite dog store: Diggidy Dog in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Diggidy Dog is as fun and upbeat as its name, and truly dog heaven in the middle of the probably most dog-friendly city in all of California. Buzz will find his way to the store from anywhere (literally), even if we haven’t been to Carmel for a whole year (as just happened). Today he marched toward the store and right inside with us in tow and immediately succumbed to a serious attack of shopping frenzy. Have a look and feel with him:

He immediately began shopping (with my wallet) meaning he started choosing his favorite treats from the bins conveniently displayed within his reach.

He zeroed in on a new delicacy – lamb oesophagus. I guess you have to be a dog to truly appreciate how good that is. The first one was gone in no time. Our task was just to trail behind and keep track of what our darling was devouring on the go!

Diggidy Dog is run by Napisa and Jeff Pollock, a cute husband-and-wife team of dog lovers/owners, and has been a fixture in downtown Carmel as long as I can think back. As you can see, it’s not only appealing to dog tastes but simply beautiful and stylish for the dogs’ human companions as well!

Here we are all three – Buzz, owner Napisa (who gave him a big decorated cookie as a welcome gift “after all that time away,” ) and me; Buzz already showing the first signs of impending food coma!!

“We wanted to create a store that catered to the pets themselves,” Napisa and Jack explained, “in a space that had the room and layout to allow for an overall fun shopping experience. The products we offer at our store are all decided upon by how unique, functional, and healthy they are. Made in the USA, and having a certain level of style are also a huge factor that determines whether or not it gets floor space at Diggidy Dog. Of course we also prefer to support the small independent vendors, as that’s what helps us to stand out from the big corporate stores. Our own personal experience with our past pets, combined with what our current dog, Ellie the 5 lb mini pincher, likes, also help us decide what’s for sale at Diggidy Dog. If Ellie won’t touch it, it likely won’t make the sales floor!”

Plus – the vast selection of treats, toys, apparel, and especially collars and leashes, is really what makes Diggidy Dog stand out. They’ve even begun making our own t-shirts, sweatshirts, and hoodies for dogs!

So next time you are in the area, check it out. Diggidy Dog is an adventure (for your pooch) just by itself! Maybe you are even in Carmel for a wedding? It’s a fabulous location to tie the knot… Look up the feature of Stonepine Estate here on Weddingwoof – just an example of what a dog-friendly AND extravagantly elegant wedding venue looks like in the Carmel area. Get inspired… and get yourselves to Diggidy Dog!

Paw-sitive Pointers for Dogs and their People

Here comes the expert on doggie behavior, our very own Dog Whisperess: Maryam Kamali, professional dog trainer, answers Weddingwoof’s questions about doggie etiquette, especially when it comes to “all things wedding!”

Maryam with Leo, a rescued Saluki mix for whom she found a loving family.

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I have been an animal lover my whole life, and grew up with dogs, cats and other house pets. I always dreamed of working with animals, and finally in 2008 I made a decision that I was going to leave the corporate world and follow my passion. I became a certified professional dog trainer through Animal Behavior College, and certified evaluator through Canine Behavior Academy. I believe in continuing education and learning about the latest training methods, therefore I attend workshops and conferences held by renowned dog trainers and behaviorists around the country. Currently I own a professional private dog training, evaluation and behavior modification business called Pawsitive Manners . I use and advocate positive reinforcement, reward-based training methods that have been scientifically proven to be the most effective way to train any dog at any age. Reward based training is not only fun for both the owner and the dog, but it also creates a very strong bond between the dog and his/her human pack members where the dog offers desirable behaviors by choice and not by force! I volunteer for and help local rescue groups and shelters where I get to work with so many amazing dogs that are looking for their loving forever homes.

Where is your business based?

San Francisco Peninsula, and I have clients from San Jose to San Francisco

Which services do you offer in your business?

  • Basic obedience training
  • Adoption and purchase counseling
  • Puppy training
  • Behavior Modification (behavioral issues)
  • Evaluation

From your many years of professional experience, what are the three biggest mistakes dog owners keep making?

  1. Not enough positive socialization – Many dog guardians stop making an effort to appropriately socialize their dog once he/she has reached 12 months of age. Proper socialization and training should never stop, otherwise the dog’s social skills will be lost over time, and behavioral issues start to show up.
  2. Some common dog park mistakes – Allowing dogs to crowd around the entrance to greet dogs that are coming in. Talking on cell phones or to each other and letting dogs “work it out”. Not recognizing situations where dogs need their owner’s help and attention.
  3. Misinterpreting dog’s body language and facial expressions.

What do you think is most important when planning a big event including the dog? Which provisions are absolutely necessary to make? How best to strike a balance between the dog’s needs and the flow of the event?

I love weddings where the beloved and well-behaved family dog is included and is part of the big event! To determine whether to include your dog in your wedding or not, I recommend counseling with a professional dog trainer who can evaluate your dog. Your trainer can also provide you with a training plan and training exercises that will prepare your dog so that he/she will know how to behave at the event and enjoy it too! To ensure that your dog is well taken care of while you tend to your guests, you can even hire your trainer or a skilled handler to monitor and stay with your dog(s) during the event.

Is your business still welcoming new doggies? Would you be willing to take care of a doggie through a big event he/she is attending (like a wedding, for instance) and also, would you  travel with a dog and his/her people to an out-of-town event?

I welcome new clients and their dogs, and definitely enjoy training and preparing dogs for events. I may also travel to an out-of-town event depending on my schedule and circumstances at that time.

You certainly have a lot of doggie stories to share! What is your most remarkable or your funniest dog story?

Recently I received a call from a client who was so excited about her dog’s impressive accomplishment. When I first met her dog; Jack, he could not be trusted off leash, as he was easily distracted and had a terrible recall. We went through several different recall exercises and she worked with Jack everyday. Now 4 months later, she can enjoy off-leash hikes with her dog. The reason why she was so excited on the phone was because that morning she and her dog had gone jogging on the trails where they came really close to a couple of deer that took off after noticing the dog, and of course the dog went after the deer, but he stopped immediately when his owner called him, and he ran back over to her and sat so politely in front of her waiting to be rewarded!

Thanks so much Maryam! We will keep your words to heart and, if we’re stuck with our canine education efforts, shoot you an email for HELP!!!

“I Do” with your Doggie

So you are getting married – congratulations!

Your happiness is complete, and so is your family: you and your soon-to-be spouse, and your dog, of course! Your faithful companion of so many years, who shared your ups and downs and never let you down in his undying love and devotion. Your dog is a family member, like a child. Your dog will share the joy of the most important day in your life – unthinkable to exclude him/her, right?

Right. I agree. I feel the same way. But, unfortunately, not everybody does!

Plan ahead – way ahead!

For starters, if you are planning a ceremony at church or another house of worship, your four-legged companion cannot join you. Same at most indoor ceremony sites (unless you are lucky enough that your friends own a gorgeous mansion and will of course host your Great Day…). Overall, there are very few dog-friendly wedding venues, meaning your selection is limited. Your best bet is an outdoors ceremony and reception, but even public parks often have restrictions. In San Francisco, where I live, the presence of a dog in the ceremony and during the outdoor reception in a park has to be applied for and specially permitted.

Michelle Buzz lowres

An outdoors celebration, of course, restricts you to the fair-weather months in your specific region. Therefore, if you feel your wedding is not complete without your furry friend, as we felt, you need to plan early. And once you have identified a selection of possible venues, bring your dog along for site visits (at hotels and the like) and observe how the staff reacts to your dog. That will tell you a lot! When we first visited our front-runner venue, on a hot day, our dog exploited a split-second of our distraction to jump in their reflecting pool, emerging dripping wet and dirty – a nightmare! Our hostess’ reaction was not a hysterical scream, but a stack of towels… needless to say, we booked this venue!

Be prepared – think like a dog!

Wedding preparation time is stressful for everyone, even for your dog! As you well know, dogs are very sensitive and pick up the tension. Some may even develop psychosomatic reactions of all kinds. Wedding day itself can stress your dog to the limit. Just think of it: nobody has time to properly take care of him/her, the normal routine does not happen, instead there is a trip to some unfamiliar place that under normal circumstances would require extensive exploration including sniffing and marking. For incomprehensible reasons this is not allowed today. The regular caregivers are busy otherwise. Any dog except for the absolutely good-natured ones will try to enforce some attention, be it through barking, pawing, running away, rolling in the mud or any number of other behaviors that his/her humans somehow do not like.

Buzz after finding "water" (a mud hole, actually...) on a hot day

Buzz after finding “water” (a mud hole, actually…) on a hot day

Ceremony and celebration from your dog’s perspective

Once the ceremony is under way, it’s getting even trickier for you doggie: he/she is required to be quiet or even perform ring bearer duties. Once that is over, at the reception, all attention will be showered on the newlyweds and no attention at your dog who might find plenty of opportunity to wreak havoc with tablecloths and long gowns. The concluding festive dinner is, of course, the worst of all: just imagine he SMELLS!! As you will have heard, a dog’s olfactory brain (the part processing the sense of smell) is seven times the size we humans possess. A dog perceives the world through smell. And a banquet from which your doggie is excluded is torture, plain and simple!

Buzz at dinner table

One other thing: what we humans enjoy as music, might not exactly be to your dog’s liking. Dogs can hear much higher frequencies than humans, and ours is especially sensitive to certain famous sopranos. Hearing Maria Callas sing her high notes, our doggie rolls on the ground and covers his ears with his paws. Certain violin tunes, on the other hand, elicit in him the irrepressible urge to sing (aka howl) along… You might want to give this observation some consideration ahead of time!

Enlist help

Now that I have laid out before you a true horror scenario, I’ll have to come up with solutions. The most important step is to enlist help, in your doggie’s best interest, but just as much in your own. Your doggie needs his/her own caregiver throughout the day to ensure as much regular routine as possible.

The Good Life of a Canine Diva

The Good Life of a Canine Diva

Preferably this will be a dog walker your dog is already familiar and comfortable with. This way, your darling can take walks and naps as he/she is used to; there will be someone to keep her hydrated and well-fed, to keep her out of too much sun during an outside ceremony, and so much more! By the way, don’t forget sunscreen for rosy noses – and “doggles” for the fun of it if your dog likes them. They definitely look ultra-cool!

Buzz with his "date," Liz

Buzz with his “date,” Liz

We invited our dog Buzz’s favorite dog walker, Liz, to come to our two-day destination wedding (three hours away) with us as our guest – and she’d take care of Buzz on the day of the wedding, through ceremony and reception, then take him for a walk and a nap, and be back for our dinner on the loggia, where she was seated a little away from the main table with her charge. There, they both feasted on Filet Mignon! And when it was getting late, the two of them quietly retreated to her dog-friendly hotel room for the night, giving the grown-ups time to party. It proved the perfect solution, and Liz loved her mini-vacation. I’d really recommend something like this plan to all dog-lovers on their way to the altar!

And now the fun part!

Since everybody’s dressing up on wedding day, you may think of dressing up your doggie to match. That’s great! There are so many fun outfits to choose from, both for doggie boys and girls, starting with bowties and barrettes and going on to full tuxedoes and tutus. The sky’s the limit! Or perhaps also your dog’s size (what looks adorable and totally cute on a Maltese might look a bit, well, ridiculous on a Great Dane…). And dogs with a thick coat like ours might feel quite uncomfortable in their unfamiliar finery and try their best to shake it off. With Buzz, we didn’t even try. He got an extra bath for a shiny fur and was just his gorgeous self.

Being dog-people, at least some of the friends you’re inviting will be dog-people, too. Don’t forget the doggie favors for the attending dog parents to take home – in our case, these were probably more sought-after than the “people favors!” For the human guests, we gave away home-made limoncello packed in little paper handlebags, and for the doggies the bags looked quite the same – except for lots of little dog stickers! Big success; not one was left over!


And afterwards – the Honeymoon!

With dog or without?

This one time, maybe, without – right? But where to leave your furry friend? Lucky you if your parents, siblings or best friends can’t wait to borrow your four-legged partner for however long your honeymoon lasts! Otherwise… another “plan ahead” item to take care of. Find a reputable kennel or dog hotel (e.g. in the San Francisco Bay Area, there is the “wag” hotel, check it out!) or find a dog sitter who’ll stay in your home with Fido. Just make sure this dog sitter will actually be home most of the time and will not leave your dog alone all day! Best of course is a word-of-mouth recommendation; in any case, you could ask your vet. Make sure the dog sitter of your choice is insured and bonded and check his/her references. What actually worked best for us was a dog walker who offered to invite our dog to her home as a single house guest and to take him on her regular walks with other dogs. This way, our dog was rarely if ever alone and returned well exercised and socialized – needless to say, he is still excited to see this dog walker! If you want to go this route, make sure to give it a few trial runs well ahead of time so that your doggie already feels at home with the dog walker BEFORE you leave him/her there for longer. That way you may also take a peek at your darling’s temporary home.

And lastly, make arrangements with your vet. Let him/her know that you are going away, and leave the dates, your contact information and the name of your dog’s caregiver in the office. Also leave a signed statement what to do in case your dog should need treatment, who will make any decisions if you can’t be reached – and preferably also leave your credit card authorization. That way you have the peace of mind that if the unforeseen happens, your doggie will be in good hands, and everything will be done to ensure his/her safety.

And with this, the road map is laid out for you – get excited, get going, and have a day like no other!