The heavy, ivory, oversized envelope arrives. Elegant calligraphy announces with a flourish that you are invited to witness yet another dear friend walk down the aisle.
Whether this lavish event takes place in the Grand Ballroom of the Plaza Hotel, on a wide, sandy beach in Montauk, or at a farm in the Hudson Valley, it will have to be crafted, curated, and choreographed. And that is where I, the wedding planner, come in.
There are approximately 150 details I consider when I am creating the look and feel of a wedding. I must ask the bride and groom hundreds of questions, and they, of course, pose many questions to me: “What happens if it rains?” “Are there enough local hotels for our guests?” “What will my vegan friends eat?” “How will my guests get home?”
Although traditionally most of these enquiries are about people, I have lately found myself responding to questions about pets. In many cases, of course, the pet is a dog: “Can we bring our dog to our wedding? How can we make him part of the ceremony? Can he be the ring-bearer?”
But the pet is not always a dog. Recently I was told, “We want to have our alpacas (yup, alpacas) welcome our guests to the cocktail hour. How will that work?”
How indeed? I had no idea how that would work, since until that moment I’d had no alpaca policy. I made one up on the spot: 1) The alpaca must be brushed and squeaky clean. 2) Spray each alpaca with Showsheen (the animal-friendly equivalent of Febreze). 3) The alpaca must be equipped with a muzzle because, although alpacas rarely bite, they do tend to spit.
“I want doves,” a groom told me in October. “I want doves to be released at the end of the ceremony.” Was this a tribute to Channing Tatum’s scene in the 2012 movie remake of “21 Jump Street”? In any case, the doves were a big hit and even circled three times around the ceremony site before heading home to Rhinebeck, about 10 miles to the east.
“Yes, absolutely! Yes, of course!” I say with a smile to all of these questions. I’ve made it a rule to say yes as much as I possibly can to my clients, which is easy when it comes to animals. I myself have horses, dogs, chickens, donkeys, and a cat, and they add love, humor, and tranquility to an otherwise crazed schedule.
When couples come to Oz Farm, my wedding venue in Saugerties, in the Hudson Valley, they are often spellbound by the magic and mystery of my barn and the horses.
“We want to get married in the barn surrounded by all the horses in their stalls — can we do that?” “Could my fiancée ride in on a horse?” “Will my guests be able to ride the horses and ponies during the cocktail hour?” “Can the kids play with the mini ponies?” “Your two donkeys (Fred and Ethel) are so adorable! How can we include them in our celebration?” “Can you give us a unicorn?”
To all these questions, I am delighted to answer “Yes!” A little, sparkly horse headband topped with a silver or gold cone, and white, flower-bedecked reins instantly transform an earthly horse into a mythical creature. Kids love the ponies so much, we have to head off tantrums when we tell them it’s time to go home.
Guests are often taken aback when they arrive to find that the guest list is not restricted to humans. “I expected the bride to walk down the aisle on her father’s arm!” exclaimed a silver-haired aunt of the bride. “I thought I was seeing things when she floated in on a beautiful horse. I was shocked, but she was a vision! This wedding is magical — truly unique — I shall never forget it!”
I’m happy to say that I hear this lady’s reaction echoed time and time again.
Whether you bring your own beloved pets to an animal-friendly venue like Oz Farm, or want to make our horses part of your important day, we understand that animals offer us joy and comfort. They often bring a welcome whisper of calm to an occasion when emotions run high.
And finally — let’s face it — our four-legged friends are frequently better behaved and more gracious guests than our two-legged ones.
Jennifer Oz LeRoy is a wedding planner in the Hudson Valley, the Hamptons, New York City, and Florida. She has turned her 82-acre Hudson Valley working horse farm into a wedding venue. For more information, visit http://www.OzFarmNY.com.
By Jennifer Oz LeRoy