When Barb and Frank Prevort of Menomonee Falls decided to breed their German shepherds, their 5-year-old granddaughter objected.
“You can’t have babies unless you’re married,” the girl said. So her grandparents staged a wedding for the two pooches in their backyard.
About 30 human friends attended the nuptials, which were performed by a family friend. The Prevorts’ other dog — a white collie — stood up for bride and groom. The Prevorts’ granddaughter served as a flower girl.
The dogs, who’d been taught to bark on command, responded to their vows with a “woof.” Well, actually Jutta answered for both of them, Barb Prevort said.
Friends brought the newlywed couple gifts. Cake and Champagne were served.
The only downside to the wedding came later, when Jutta gave birth to puppies that were half-German shepherd and half-white collie.
“My granddaughter was very mad,” Barb Prevort said. “She told me that Teddy should get a divorce.”
When the Prevorts’ dogs got hitched in 2002, “people thought we were crazy,” Prevort said. But today, doggy nuptials are blossoming, as people find new and unique ways to pamper their pets. Canine bar mitzvahs, known as “bark mitzvahs,” also are a growing trend.
When pet owners dress up their dogs in miniature white dresses and tiny tuxes, some believe the barks that signal “I do” reveal puppy love.
These animal lovers say their pooches can feel real longing for other pets, but experts aren’t so sure. Most people agree a wedding is just for fun or charity when the groom is drooling and the bride’s gown needs tailoring for her tail. After all, “you may now lick the bride” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
“Pet marriage or weddings are for people,” said Dr. Bonnie Beaver, executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and a professor at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
Owners host weddings because it makes them feel good, she said. People can’t know what dogs are thinking, but studies have shown they do experience emotion, Beaver said.
“Fear is a classic example,” she said. “But we don’t know if they experience it as you or I would.”
Others say it’s all about the animals — even if that means the first dance is a walk around a patch of grass instead a waltz.
“The weddings are for the dogs,” said Adina Slotsky, the owner and CEO of Hollywood Pet Parties. Still, birthday parties, dubbed “barkdays,” are much more popular, she said.
When owners plan doggy nuptials, aka “puptials,” they can go all out and stage some real tail-waggers. There are groomsmen and bridesmaids of every breed — and even some people who get down on all fours — flowers, music and a reception with food both people and pooches can enjoy, ranging from apple slices to baby back ribs with spinach.
All pet weddings move quickly because of short animal attention spans. With all the distractions, dogs spend lots of time on leashes.
A simple wedding costs about $300, Slotsky said. But it can easily grow to thousands of dollars if guests are plentiful, the venue is top-notch, the food is extravagant, a band plays and a florist creates centerpieces, she said.
The most lavish pet wedding took place in New York in 2012 when Baby Hope Diamond, a fluffy white Coton de Tulear, married a poodle named Chilly Pasternak as a charity fundraiser.
It was a ceremony for the ages, complete with limos, a $6,000 designer dress, sushi chef, mixologist to create “puptails,” florist, orchestra, wedding planner and parking valets. Ellen DeGeneres’ pet food company furnished a dog food buffet.
The event raised over $158,000 for the Humane Society of New York and earned a place in Guinness World Records for the most expensive pet wedding. Everything was donated and guests spent up to $10,000 for a table of 10.
One thing pet owners don’t have to worry about is divorce. But because animals have unique personalities just like people, there is no guarantee two animals will get along, Beaver said.
No studies show pets like or love one another, but “it is very common for two or more individual animals to spend a great amount of time together and show signs of stress if separated,” she said.
But some stick by the belief that dogs love, including Carol Bryant, co-founder of Wigglebutt Warriors, the fundraising division of the dog health website Fidose of Reality.
“I do believe that dogs can love and be in love with each other,” said Bryant, whose cocker spaniel married another dog for a company fundraiser.