“So you’re going to marry a dog?!”

Aug 16, 2016

I actually heard this question on Sunday, just before the start of a wedding I conducted. It was said with a smile, but there was a half-serious undertone! But no, let me assure you at once that no one there was planning to marry a dog!

The bride, Cathy (not real name), normally highly punctual, was late – already 15 minutes late. We knew there were road closures in the area, but nobody had any idea of her whereabouts. Somebody (not terribly tactfully, I thought!) suggested that Cathy might be going to leave James (also, not real name) at the metaphorical altar.

The next thing was that James’ dog, Blue (real name!) sprinted up and made a huge fuss of James. Lots of love and affection evident there …. Hence the question that I began with!

The end of the story? Well, a few minutes later, with no fanfare or warning, Cathy arrived. (Just as I had left my post to fetch the nervous groom some water!) I’m pleased to say that, despite tears of emotion (from the bride, not me!), the rest of the proceedings went really successfully!

Incidentally, Blue had originally been intended to participate as ring-bearer, but his appetite was such that it was considered  unwise to entrust this role to him. He still managed to steal the show!

I have never conducted a wedding in which fauna were involved. I have stroked a barn owl trained to deliver rings, as Blue nearly was, and I have seen pictures of releases of doves. I have no problem with these (provided no cruelty to the creatures is involved), although I guess that the risk of something going wrong is quite high!

2015-03-01 15.04.53

Actors are surely right to say: never work with animals or children!


What I do like, though, is the fact that people have the choice to personalise their wedding (or ceremony) in whatever way they wish. It doesn’t have to include animals or birds, of course. The choice of venue may individualise the ceremony sufficiently. The venue could be the sea shore or a mountain top, a canalside or up the London Eye. Your back garden. A plush hotel. The list is as extensive as your imagination.


There are some lovely rituals you can include that will make your wedding really stand out. A handfasting is just one example. Other possibilities include Unity Candles, a Sand Ceremony, the Loving Cup, Jumping the Broom, and more. Your civil celebrant can explain these or suggest others.

Personalising the ceremony

Other ways of ensuring a tailor-made ceremony might encompass the choice of music and also readings; including the couple’s “story”; using selected participants (such as Blue!). Or even including something unusual (as we did on Sunday). Mid-ceremony, after the couple had drunk from the Loving Cup, everybody was served some drink (remarkably efficiently) and then rose to drink a toast to Cathy and James, which went down a treat.

So there are many features you can incorporate or amend to make your big day really stand out. If you need ideas, your celebrant should be able to help you, but the important thing is to do what YOU want to do!