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Pet-friendly Weddings Growing in Popularity

FairyTail Pet Care®. Photo credit Ocean Bound Media

One of the most special things about a wedding is that the bride and groom are surrounded by everyone they love…and in some cases, that means their furry friends as well. As more and more people consider pets to be members of their families, this means finding a way to involve them in all of the festivities on a couple’s special day.

FairyTail Pet Care® was launched seven years ago in Tampa, Florida, where best friends Ilana Karcinski and Kelly Nova worked in the hospitality industry.

“We were working at a Hilton, and we saw this problem all the time; when everyone you trust is attending your wedding, who watches your pet?” said Karcinski. “If you bring your dog to the wedding, there are a lot of logistics involved, and you need to know that someone is taking care of your dog’s well-being.”

Seeing an unmet need, the two dog lovers started helping friends and then clients include dogs in their weddings. Within two years, they were able to make it a full-time business.

“Most people thought we were crazy at the time,” said Karcinski, “but now everyone wants their dogs at their weddings. A lot of people rescued pets during the pandemic, and our pets became our lifeline. And with so many weddings postponed during COVID, now these events are bigger than ever.”

Positioning themselves as ‘Your Dog’s Plus-One®,’ FairyTail Pet Care helps pets attend weddings without it placing more stress on the couple, their wedding party or other vendors.

“We’re there to make sure pets are happy, comfortable, and having the best day ever, too,” said Karcinski.

Services may include roundtrip transportation from the couple’s house or air b-n-b to the venue or various photo locations, as well as accompanying the animal to the cocktail hour and/or wedding. They also spend time with the pet outside the ceremony and will pet sit overnights or on weekends. They even offer Dog Of Honor® videography, making a video of the wedding from the dog’s point of view.

“Couples can include their pets as much or as little as they want,” said Karcinski, whose own rescue dog participated in her wedding. “They have the peace of mind knowing that their pets are being taken care of.”

Because FairyTail Pet Care is licensed and bonded, it also results in peace of mind for the venue when animals are involved in a wedding. In the past seven years, FairyTail has been able to help more than 1,000 dogs—and six cats—take part in their people’s weddings.

“We also had an alpaca once,” said Karcinski, who noted that most venues do not accept exotic pets.

FairyTail Pet Care owners Heather Bodnar and Bethany Gedeon.

The company recently opened a franchise in Pittsburgh, run by sisters Heather Bodnar and Bethany Gedeon.

“Heather’s wedding was in Florida, and she included her dogs in it. When she returned to Pittsburgh, she said that it was the best part of her wedding, and wanted to expand the business here,” said Karcinski.

As the company, which also has a branch in Las Vegas, continues to grow, it will continue in its mission to “treat pets like our own while helping shelter animals find their homes.” In addition to donating a portion of wedding proceeds to local shelters, the Tampa branch also has a Yappily Ever After program, which allows people to include adoptable animals in their wedding days with the hopes that the animals will get adopted.

Bow Wow Weddings was started by Myles Ragin and Donald Valentine this past December in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with the goal of helping couples involve their pets on their special days.

“We were both accountants, and we wanted to start a business together where we could do something more meaningful in our lives,” said Ragin. “We both grew up with animals and have an immense love for dogs, and Donnie came up with the idea after having been involved in weddings where people were concerned about who would be taking care of the dog while everyone was at the ceremony.”

Bow Wow Weddings offers a number of services including dog boarding before or after the wedding, and walking dogs down the aisle. They also provide bow tie and floral rentals for collars, transport dogs to and from the ceremony, and provide photographer assistance for pet photos.

“We’re starting to see more and more weddings incorporating dogs, whether that’s walking down the aisle or having them participate during cocktail hours,” said Ragin, adding that the company also provides dog-themed cocktails (for humans) as well. “We have weddings coming up where the dog will be the flower girl, and another one where the dog will be hidden in the back of church, and will run down the aisle with the rings after the groom whistles.”

As pets become more important in people’s lives, Ragin expects the business to continue to grow.

“People have become more interested in owning pets; after the big COVID boom, a lot more people have dogs,” he said. “They are understanding more and more how dogs are special members of the family. They are there through thick and think throughout your life, so they should be there at your most special moment as well.”

Pet-friendly Venues

While not all venues are open to having animals attend, quite a number of facilities in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas are willing to let pups accompany their people down the aisle. These include hotels such as The Westin Pittsburgh and Fairmont Pittsburgh, as well as country parks, Seven Springs Mountain Resort and more.

“We have more than 100 weddings booked for the 2022 wedding season, and about a quarter of these weddings have their dogs as part of the celebration,” said Emily Daniels, events manager, Pittsburgh Botanic Gardens.

A beautiful location for ceremonies and receptions with the convenience of one location for ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception, Daniels said the Peirce Celebration Garden and Davidson Event Center at the Gardens offer a serene, romantic setting that can mold itself to fit many different aesthetics, including pet-inclusive ceremonies.

“We’ve had many people include in their initial inquiries with us that they would like to have their pup as a part of their ceremony,” she added. “Pets are an important part of the family and more people are celebrating that relationship.”

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