Waitrose & Partners Weekend Issue 613

18 AUGUST 202 2 42 WEEKENDING WhenHelen Brooks married her fiancé Alex in June, there was no doubt that her adored dogs, Cookie andHeidi, would be part of the big day. “They’remy world. They’re just fabulous – far better than somany other humans,” says Helen, 29, a professional golfer fromRibchester in Lancashire. “I got themboth before I met Alex, and they’ve been withme through the good, the bad and the ugly, so they were an absolute must. They had blue collars as my ‘something blue’, and they were there for everything from the confetti toss to the last dance.” Ems Rae Searle, an ethical marketing strategist fromFarnham in Surrey, felt the same way – and went one step further. When she and her fiancé Nathan eloped for a lochside wedding in the Highlands, their rescue dog, Daisy, was their only guest – and, she says, the perfect maid of honour. “Daisy is part of the family, and I couldn’t imagine not having her involved,” says the 26-year-old. “It was never even a question for me, which is why we had her over guests! Our photographers, who are amarried couple, were our witnesses, and the celebrant brought his dog along as well.” Having your furry friend at your wedding is nothing new, and even celebrities are fans. RobbieWilliams and Ayda Field had all eight of their dogs as bridesmaids at their 2010 marriage, Ronan Keating’s pug, Aussie, was ring-bearer when he wed StormUechtritz in 2015, and Kate Lawler’s terrier Shirley was honorary flower girl at the Virgin Radio DJ’s marriage toMartin Bojtos in June. What is new, however, is the number of dogs being included in the big day, driven by the surge in people getting pups during lockdown – and becoming evermore attached to themwhile working fromhome. Google searches for ‘pets at weddings’ are up 200% since 2020, making it the biggest wedding trend for 2022, according tomoney.co.uk, and pet website yappy.com suggests that a quarter of engaged couples plan to have their dogs at their nuptials. Their research shows that 58%of pups are assigned the role of ring bearer, 34% go down the aisle as a doggy bridesmaid, and 17%– like Helen’s hounds – even join the newlyweds for the first dance. For self-conscious Helen, this was ideal. “We were dreading the first dance because we’re not the sort of couple that likes eyes on us,” she admits. “But after we’d danced on our own for a bit, the dogs were passed to us. Alex was holding Heidi, I was holding Cookie, and in that moment I wasn’t thinking: ‘Oh God, people are looking,’ I was thinking: ‘I’m just here on the dancefloor withmy now-husband andmy two dogs,’ and it was lovely.” Jayne Longrigg, who runs dog-friendly wedding venue Kilminorth Cottages in Looe, Cornwall, has been inundated with enquiries. “Covid has massively driven dog ownership, A bride’s best friend More couples are including their dogs when they get married, and it’s a trend that looks set to stay, writes Emma Higginbotham A LEAD UP THE AISLE Ems Rae Searle with rescue dog Daisy on her wedding day