Downeast Dog News

Including your Dog in the Big Day

By Susan Spisak | Feb 01, 2019
Photo by: Allyson Blais Martins Wedding

As dog-loving owners are tying the knot, many are including their fur BFF’s in their ceremony. It's a growing trend, especially for those having home weddings. As more sites are welcoming dogs for outdoor ceremonies, it's increasing beyond the backyard. So, if you’re considering including Bella but are still uncertain, a few couples who did just that share their experiences--and resort experts weighed in on what their venues offer as well.

"It was important to have them be part of the big day--they're part of the family,” explained Hilary Porter on why she and now hubby Ronald Porter chose to include their dogs. The Porters were married in 2016 in their yard in Freedom. Hilary had their Vizslas, Gemma and Ginny, walk down the aisle with the maid of honor and a bridesmaid. (Ronald wanted them to trot in unattended, but she squashed that idea.)

“I think they did very well,” she said. Once Ronald came into their line of vision, they grew more confident despite the 80 people attending. When they arrived at the altar, a groomsman took over as their handler and seated them on their hay bales with the signs “Best Dog” and “Dog of Honor.”

The wedding went off without a hitch, and their day holds fond memories. “It was fun to have them...they were my babies and they're still my babies.” And since then, the Porter Pack has welcomed a baby girl named Rebecca.

Sheena Martins and her husband Dan are transplants to the state. She’s a California native and he’s a New Jersey guy who met out west. “After moving a few times, we decided Maine was the place to be due to its dog friendliness--not even joking about that.”

While they were engaged in 2012, they waited to wed until they purchased a home--they wanted to marry there with their four dogs present. So, on July 17th, 2015 in their Readfield backyard, Sheena and Dan’s dreams came true. The dogs were outfitted--white dresses for Clementine and Juno and bow ties and cuffs for Brownie and Pinto, and friends held their leashes at the altar. They were married with seven guests--it was a low-key ceremony that was just their style.

“I couldn’t imagine not having our four dogs included in our wedding...They were there from start to finish and very well-behaved.” Like the Porters, the Martins are growing. They are expecting a baby boy in March to be named Oliver.

Hannah and Mark Kazilionis became Mr. and Mrs. this past October at their camp on Branch Lake in Ellsworth with one dog present. While they have two dogs, a female Weimaraner named Ruca who is “a complete princess” and a Bloodhound mutt named Jambi, the latter’s howling prompted them to leave him indoors.

“[Ruca] would be highly offended if we didn’t let her watch her parents get married,” said Hannah. The Weimaraner was initially okay, but then added her own drama. “She sat next to us, but when we began our vows, she walked over and laid down on my train--as if it was her new fancy dog bed--and refused to get up. We all laughed and knew it was so typical of our girl, always wanting to steal the show.”

Elsebeth LaForge, owner and stylist at Coastal Creations Pet Salon in Bucksport, decided to have her best-behaved dog, a male Bichon Frise named Schnabel, participate in her happy day. She got the idea from a customer whose daughter had her little dogs in attendance. (While Elsebeth wanted to include her Dachshund, she didn’t make the bridal party cut because she’s not a fan of strangers.)

She and her fiancé Joseph married on their property in Sangerville in September of 2014. The tuxedoed Schnabel did very well (he’s been in grooming competitions with Elsebeth, so he’s used to commotion) and was handled by her cousin’s daughter, but the bride had a backup plan. “There was always was an option to put him away in a quiet room if need be.”

Christina DiOrio, Catering Sales Manager at Cape Elizabeth’s luxurious Inn by the Sea, said their pet-friendliness is why they’re seeing more dogs in weddings. Couples, whether they be bride-groom, bride-bride or groom-groom, may come to the Inn to host a larger outdoor destination wedding and want their pet included. “[The dog is] special to them as well,” she said. Since the Inn offers dog-sitting services, the pet can be taken back to the couple’s room after the ceremony, or the sitter can stay during the reception to add support.

Christina said they’ve had many spur-of-the-moment elopements as well with the couple’s dog included. Typically, they’ve come to the beachfront Inn for a vacation because it welcomes their four-legged and say, “‘Hey, why not? Let’s get married.’”

Linekin Bay Resort in Boothbay Harbor is a gorgeous 20-acre compound with lodges and cabins scattered along its waterfront and wooded area. Cherie Scott, Director of Wedding Sales, said they’ve had many outdoor weddings with couples’ “sweet babies” participating.

They offer an exclusive experience--you can book the entire property and have up to 150 guests for an unforgettable weekend that includes the outdoor ceremony and reception with your leashed pet in attendance. (Your pup must bunk in one of their spacious pet-friendly cabins--ask a relative to stay with her so you and your new hubs can enjoy the honeymoon suite.)

For a small seaside ritual, Linekin offers elopement packages. If it’s just you, your husband and Bella, you’ll stay in one of the rustic comfy pet-designated cabins. If you have a dog-sitter, they both can slumber in the cabin while you and your spouse head to a lodge room.

“The whole island is dog-friendly,” said Mary Chancy, Property Manager for the historic and private House Island just off the coast of Portland. This Casco Bay resort can accommodate 25 to 1,000 guests with your fur friend included, be it an elopement, small gathering, or elaborate ceremony and reception.

House Island has three abodes--all open to your pup. Rent one or all for overnight guests up to 40. Regardless if it’s a daytime or overnight affair, the resort will ferry guests across Casco Bay to the island--although it’s a short journey, it’ll be memorable.

The New England Outdoor Center or “NEOC” in East Millinocket is a four-season wedding location---it’s located on Millinocket Lake overlooking the state’s highest mountain, Katahdin…what a backdrop for your outdoor ceremony (large guest tents are available). Ailish Keating, NEOC ‘s Marketing Manager, said they’re “very flexible” on customizing your big day, and all their cottages allow dogs for a small fee. (Some couples choose to honeymoon here as well.)

Ailish said wedding parties may take advantage of the area’s adventures (think white water rafting and hiking) or trek to Baxter State Park for the day. (Because this park is not dog-friendly, she recommended the dog daycare, Katahdin Kritters). That said, if you’re only going out for a short time, a staffer can stop by the cottage to let your socialized dog out for a quick walk.

For a quaint weekend-long event, the dog-friendly Coolidge Family Farm in New Gloucester could be just the ticket. Misty Coolidge, co-owner with husband Peter deBear, offers indoor and outdoor weddings and receptions for 200 guests or fewer. The barn offers family-style dining, tented dinners can be held on the grounds or for a fun experience, a food truck can be brought in to delight your guests. “However they want their day to flow, my property works,” said Misty.

Included in the package is the use of the rustic barn and colonial farmhouse; a Gambrel home and romantic cottages can be rented as well. Misty is proud that she offers many services, will customize packages, and treats her couples and their guests as family.

In the heart of the Downeast Region and tucked in the woods is The Alamoosook Lakeside Inn in Orland. Owners Barry and Debbie Fonseca are dog-lovers and are happy to customize your wedding package--which includes use of the lakeside grounds, the 150-seat dining room, lobby, lawn and garden areas--with your fur friend included. Barry said 99.9% of their ceremonies are lakeside--couples choose their Inn for the serene setting.

This charming Bed and Breakfast has six-bedrooms that can be added to your package if you desire (two rooms are dog-friendly). The Inn’s Chefs will gladly modify menus to fit your personal preferences and include elegant dinners and buffets, to outdoor picnics and lobster bakes.

So if you're about to say “I Do,” why not include that loyal companion? Having a favorite canine attendant can make your already special day even more so!