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!!!

Official Start of Summer in the Snow!

Greetings from your Weddingwoof blogger and her “woof,” Buzz – we are celebrating Memorial Day, the official start of the summer season, at Lake Tahoe, and look what it was like up on the mountain this afternoon:

Snow showers at 41 degrees!! Thank God with some sun in between…

So, friendly warning to all Tahoe-loving Spring and Summer Brides: It’s a bit unpredictable up here! But VERY romantic…

Enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend!

Warmly, Jutta

To Have and to Hold – the Most Beautiful Wedding Vows

To Love You Without Reservation

I, (Bride’s Name), take you, (Groom’s Name), to be my (lawfully wedded) husband, secure in the knowledge that you will be my constant friend, my faithful partner in life, and my one true love.
On this special day, I (affirm/give) to you in the presence of God and all those in attendance my (pledge/sacred promise) to stay by your side as your (faithful) wife in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, as well as through the good times and the bad.

I promise to love you without reservation, comfort you in times of distress, encourage you to achieve all of your goals, laugh with you and cry with you, grow with you in mind and spirit, always be open and honest with you, and cherish you for as long as we both shall live.

I, (Groom’s Name), take you, (Bride’s Name), to be my (lawfully wedded) wife, knowing in my heart that you will be my constant friend, my faithful partner in life, and my one true love. On this special and holy day, I (affirm/give) to you in the presence of God and all those in attendance my (pledge/sacred promise) to stay by your side as your faithful husband in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, as well as through the good times and the bad.

I promise to love you without reservation, honor and respect you, provide for your needs as best I can, protect you from harm, comfort you in times of distress, grow with you in mind and spirit, always be open and honest with you, and cherish you for as long as we both shall live.


 I, (Bride/Groom), take you (Groom/Bride), to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.

I, (name), take you, (name), to be my [opt: lawfully wedded] (husband/wife), my constant friend, my faithful partner and my love from this day forward. In the presence of God, our family and friends, I offer you my solemn vow to be your faithful partner in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and in joy as well as in sorrow. I promise to love you unconditionally, to support you in your goals, to honor and respect you, to laugh with you and cry with you, and to cherish you for as long as we both shall live.

I (name), take you (name) to be my (husband/wife), my partner in life and my one true love. I will cherish our union and love you more each day than I did the day before. I will trust you and respect you, laugh with you and cry with you, loving you faithfully through good times and bad, regardless of the obstacles we may face together. I give you my hand, my heart, and my love, from this day forward for as long as we both shall live.

In the presence of God and these our friends I take thee to be my husband/wife, promising with Divine assistance to be unto thee a loving and faithful husband/wife so long as we both shall live.

 Very Personal

I, (name), take you, (name), to be my friend, my lover, the (mother/father) of my children and my (husband/wife). I will be yours in times of plenty and in times of want, in times of sickness and in times of health, in times of joy and in times of sorrow, in times of failure and in times of triumph. I promise to cherish and respect you, to care and protect you, to comfort and encourage you, and stay with you, for all eternity.

I, [name], choose you [name] to be my [husband/wife], to respect you in your successes and in your failures, to care for you in sickness and in health, to nurture you, and to grow with you throughout the seasons of life.

I, (name), take you, (name), to be my partner, loving what I know of you, and trusting what I do not yet know. I eagerly anticipate the chance to grow together, getting to know the (man/woman) you will become, and falling in love a little more every day. I promise to love and cherish you through whatever life may bring us.


(Name), I promise to love and care for you and I will try in every way to be worthy of your love.
I will always be honest with you, kind, patient, and forgiving. But most of all, I promise to be a true and loyal friend to you. I love you.

I (name), take you (name), to be my wife/husband, to share the good times and hard times side by side. I humbly give you my hand and my heart as I pledge my faith and love to you. Just as this ring I give you today is a circle without end, my love for you is eternal. Just as it is made of incorruptible substance, my commitment to you will never fail. With this ring, I thee wed.”

(Name), do you pledge to love (name) and throughout your years together to be honest, faithful, and kind to her/him? Do you pledge to give to her/him the same happiness she/he gives to you, and to respect her for who she is, not who you want her to be? (each responds, “I do.”)

(Name), with all my love, I take you to be my wife/husband. I will love you through good and the bad, through joy and the sorrow. I will try to be understanding, and to trust in you completely. Together we will face all of life’s experiences and share one another’s dreams and goals. I promise I will be your equal partner in an loving, honest relationship, for as long as we both shall live.

(Name), I promise to love you, to be your best friend, to respect and support you, to be patient with you, to work together with you to achieve our goals, to accept you unconditionally, and to share life with you throughout the years.

(Name), I take you to be my wife/husband from this time onward, to join with you and to share all that is to come, to be your faithful husband/wife, to give and to receive, to speak and to listen, to inspire and to respond; a commitment made in love, kept in faith, and eternally made new.

DIY Star for your Wedding Dessert Buffet

As promised – here comes the next installment of my DIY series!

This time it’s a super-delicious chocolate cake that’s not too hard to make and that can easily be the superstar of your dessert buffet! It’s incredibly rich and moist, and you can dress it up for your wedding with edible gold powder (from and a cake topper – done! One cake yields 16 slices – best with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream.

Make ahead: up to 2 weeks (wrap and freeze); fresh fruit decorations must go on shortly before serving; edible gold can be applied before freezing.

Here is the recipe:


8 oz top-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (e.g. Ghirardelli, Valrhona)

12 tbsp unsalted butter in 1/2 inch pieces

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp instant espresso powder

7 oz sliced almonds, lightly toasted (or, if using gold decor instead of chopped almonds for the sides, only 4 oz)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

5 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup fresh raspberries (plus 16 berries for decoration if using)

1/4 cup seedless best-quality raspberry jam


5 oz top-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp. heavy whipping cream

Heat oven to 325 F; rack in middle position. Line two 9-inch round cake pans (at least 2 inch high) with parchment paper. Melt chocolate and butter in double boiler until smooth, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, let cool to room temperature, add vanilla and espresso powder. If using chopped almonds for garnish of cake sides, process 3/4 cups almonds in food processor until coarsely chopped; set aside. (Skip this step if using something else for garnish of cake sides). Grind 1 cup almonds finely, add flour and salt and continue processing until combined; transfer to medium bowl. Process eggs in food processor until light and doubled in volume, adding sugar. With whisk, fold egg mix into chocolate mix until only few streaks remain; sprinkle almond mix over by and by, gently whisking, until just combined. Divide batter between prepared pans, smooth top, bake until center is firm and toothpick comes out with few crumbs attached, ca. 14-16 min. Let cool in pans; loosen sides and invert cakes on cardboard rounds, then re-invert ONE cake so that its top is facing up again. For filling, coarsely mash 1/2 cup raspberries and stir in jam until just combined. Spread onto cake layer with the top side up; top with second cake, bottom side up. Transfer whole cake to wire rack set over baking sheet or big sheet of aluminum foil. For glaze, melt chocolate and cream in double boiler and whisk until very smooth. Pour glaze onto center of assembled cake, spreading evenly with offset spatula on top and sides. Decorate as desired (for look as photo shows: chopped almonds on the sides, 16 individual raspberries on top; for wedding-themed look: edible gold powder or flakes and cake topper). Refrigerate until glaze is set, at least one hour.

From Inner Mongolia with Love…

Last September, I had the once-in-a-lifetime experience of attending a wedding in Inner Mongolia – my son’s! My beautiful daughter-in-law is from the capital of Inner Mongolia, Hohhot, where all her family is still living. Our children first got married in California – and then the bride’s Mom threw them another wedding “back home.” And we were invited. It was just fabulous – but very different from what I had expected.

First of all, our family was simply blown away by the incredible warmth and hospitality of our new family in Inner Mongolia, but also in general by the friendliness and charm of everyone we met during our stay. The language barrier did not really seem to matter; we communicated with smiles and gestures (and at the wedding itself, through translators, of course).

The wedding celebration was a true East-meets-West “fusion” affair, equal parts Red Carpet glamour (think the “Oscars”) and Mongolian customs and entertainment. The venue: the Grand Ballroom at the Shangri-La Hotel in Hohhot – the time: noon and early afternoon – and the theme: a lavish banquet to celebrate the union not only of two young people, but also of two entire families. Definitely a reason for a big party!

Before the ceremony, the bride was fed traditional, homemade dumplings (her Mom had gotten up at 5 in the morning to make them herself), and the couple and the bride’s parents shared a tea ceremony which officially makes the groom part of the bride’s family. The couple then proceeded to greet their guests.

The entrance of the Grand Ballroom was decorated with billboard-sized photos of the bride and groom in various attires – from traditional Chinese garb to Western wedding finery to fun outfits evoking James Bond and his attractive escorts.

The Ballroom itself was a sea of flowers and tulle, centered on a catwalk and stage with a backdrop of an IMAX-theater size movie screen where a slideshow of the couple was playing.

An Emcee then introduced the groom onstage and sent him along the catwalk to propose to his waiting bride and to escort her on stage, followed by the mothers and fathers.

The wedding consisted of several ceremonies: lighting candles together, mixing juice together and sharing the mix (similar to Western customs), then thanking the parents with bouquets of flowers for raising the wonderful person they were going to marry (I liked that part – we should introduce that to American weddings as well!) and finally tying the knot, Mongolian style: the mothers tie the two ends of one long ribbon to the pinky fingers of their respective new children – and once they are united, the couple and their parents push open the (digital) portal of happiness on the huge video screen!

Time for the banquet! The bride and groom quickly changed attire; the bride into traditional red and gold, and the groom into a suit, and then began their hard work: serving every single one of their 250 guests “mautai,” the high-proof liquor that can claim the status of national beverage. While the two were still busy, the guests sat down to a banquet of epic proportions with true truckloads of Mongolian food (incredibly tasty!) and floods of alcohol (everyone there having a lot more practice than we Westerners!).

The local custom calls for toasts from everyone to everyone… and many, many smiles!

All the while, the guests were entertained with performances of traditional Mongolian music and dance – a show fit for royalty! The most spectacular dance required the ballerinas to balance higher and higher stacks of small porcelain bowls on their heads without ever dropping one, and miraculously, it worked!

Finally, towards the end of the party, the newlyweds were done with serving all their guests and could themselves begin enjoying some of the great food. A welcome break, before the photographer beckoned for the very official family photos, traditionally arranged and staged – a serious affair!

While the festivities were lavish and the setting luxurious, the most striking impression for us Westerners was the uncomplicated friendship, boundless generosity, and warm hospitality extended to us. We are so happy to have Chinese family now! We couldn’t possibly wish for anything better…

And happily ever after!







Love Poetry

When it comes to composing a ceremony text, readings, and their wedding vows, most brides (and grooms) are stricken with a sudden attack of writer’s block. Been there, felt that…

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, here are a few beautiful poems to help you get in the mood:

Hope you are feeling romantically inspired! All of these make great readings and can even be a part of what you want to promise your beloved at the ceremony.

And here comes the text that is probably the single most-spoken at any wedding ceremony – from the New Testament, 1 Corinthians:

 4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 8Love never fails…

 13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

To this, I have nothing more to add…

Come DIY with me!

Today I’ll be very personal. I’ll talk some about myself… not too much, no worries. But this is something I really care about: DIY. I was brought up on it, and now it’s deeply ingrained in my personality.

Growing up in postwar Germany, the rules of everyday life were a lot different from today and here. We practiced recycling before the term was even invented – simply out of necessity. With our parents’ memories of hunger and wartime shortages still fresh, we learned never to waste anything, especially not food, and never to throw anything away. Everyday goods were precious. Money was scarce. We became very inventive in creating something out of nothing, in recycling odd things into something new and exciting. And naturally, whatever we could possibly craft ourselves, we would – we’d never spend money on preserves, jams, knit sweaters, crocheted vests, embroidered tablecloths – all things that could be home-made. It became second nature.

When finally I was able to afford the chic sweaters and the specialty preserves I had secretly been longing for, the excitement wore off surprisingly fast. While these things did convey a certain feeling of status and achievement, their mass-produced nature under their polished surfaces came with a disappointing lack of “soul” and charm. After a while, I quietly reverted to DIY as far as my super-busy professional and domestic life allowed. Which was not much.

When my son and his fiancee announced their wedding plans and entrusted the details to me, I immediately welcomed the opportunity for DIY. Of course, I did not hire a wedding planner – I became one myself. I helped the couple define a color and overall style, and then I plunged into creating all the facets that together make a great celebration. When I could not find a style of invitation perfectly suited to what I was planning, I designed one myself and pulled all the materials together. When I couldn’t find really meaningful wedding favors, I came up with a DIY project that I created and executed all by myself (and don’t be fooled – both these projects were rather more expensive than the store-bought run-of-the-mill variety, not counting the hours that went into them). But I found the whole hands-on experience incredibly rewarding, and everyone – bride and groom and all the guests – were happy with the intensely personal touches that my creative process, time and effort had infused into the whole glamorous affair. DIY does not necessarily mean “homespun” or “awkward,” but rather – “personal” and “with love!”

So, I have decided to post a series of DIY ideas here. They’ll pop up periodically – so make sure to come back and check them out!  Here is what I have for you so far: a project for your own wedding cake or cake bar, with recipes; a cute and inexpensive decoration kit; a lot of ideas for centerpieces; and some really cute save-the-dates, invitations, table cards and the like. Nothing too difficult, and nothing too time-consuming. Also think of enlisting help – mothers and bridesmaids being a natural choice…

And without further ado, let’s get started with the “Save-the-Dates!”