Updated: Jun 20, 2019
By Anne Walter
Small? Big? Back home in Germany or at an Australian beach? Eloping to an exotic island destination or going somewhere local and dog friendly?
Following my partners proposal, we had some pretty daunting decisions to make. Looking back at it now though, it had been pretty clear all along, really. We DO actually call Australia our home these days and have always dreamed about getting married at the beach. Also we couldn't possibly leave the most handsome wedding accessories, Sage and Loki, out of the picture. A small DIY dog-friendly beach wedding was meant be!
Step 2: Find a dog friendly reception venue
Apart from all the other parts (refer to steps 3-6) this was definitely the hardest. Luckily, we had narrowed down the guest list to around 40ish and really only wanted the 'having friends and family over for the weekend-vibe', not a formal venue.
However, to my utmost surprise, the selection of stunningly beautiful, large, pet friendly beachside holiday homes that will happily host even a small wedding function is SEVERELY limited. Hence, I quite literally spent a good 387 hours of my pre-matrimonial state skimming through hundreds and hundreds of holiday homes on 'Stayz', 'AirBnB', 'HomeAway' and the likes. Having nearly given up hope, we could hardly believe our luck when we first laid eyes on this beauty.
The stunning Balinese Villa with a Great Ocean Road address was a dream come true and brought back warm memories of our Asia backpacking 20's. Once again, it seemed meant to be.
Step 3: Find a dog friendly ceremony venue
So, now we had narrowed it down to a Great Ocean Road address and next had to find a beach near Lorne. Luckily, even in the height of summer, there's a beautiful selection of 24 hour dog beaches on offer in the area (I'm hoping somebody from the Bayside council will take note of this, it's possible folks!!). This document and the very kind volunteers at the Lorne tourist information happily laid all the options out for us. After many beach inspections, we opted for the Airey's Inlet end of Fairhaven Beach, pretty much right underneath the lighthouse. All we needed was a wedding permit from the Surfcoast Shire and soon after, happily frolicking dogs, windswept guests and stunning wedding pics were guaranteed.
Step 4: Hire a dog friendly photographer
Talking about stunning pics: if there's only one piece of advice you remember from this blog, it should be this: hire a good photographer! And if you love pictures of your dogs as much as we do, then you'd best hire a dog-friendly one!
No matter how hard you try to enjoy every second of your special day, time will fly like you wouldn't believe. So it's ESSENTIAL to have lovely photographic memories that will last a lifetime!
Our wonderful photographer, Matt, from Matt Krumins Photography calls the beautiful little dog Pippa his own and hence immediately knew how to befriend Sage and Loki. Which really speaks for him, because Loki is notoriously hard to befriend. See for yourself, but I think the pictures say it all, and more than half a year later I pretty much still marvel at them every day.
I really can't wait when, in say, 20 years from now, we will all sit together to look at the photos (Sage & Loki being the world's oldest dogs by then) and we will be talking about how young we all looked, and remembering how happy we were on our special day at the dog beach.
Step 5: Wedding prep for the dogs
The most crucial part, really. You do want your most important wedding guests to look their absolute best. Whilst it was hard to improve on the stunning looks of our dogs, our trusted groomers, Dogue in Martin St, Brighton, managed to do just that. You hand over your oblivious pre-wedding fur kids, get on with the wedding prep and a few hours later pick up 2 stunningly poofy, obscenely shiny and deliciously smelling balls of wedding-ready floof. To top it off, on the special day Sage was wearing a stylish neckerchief we had bought at Dogapolooza the year before and Loki modelled a rather pricey but oh so handsome bow-tie collar purchased from Dogue just for the occasion.
On a more serious note, to make sure our little Mr. Anxious would rise to the occasion he was wearing a sneaky Adaptil collar underneath his bow tie and enjoyed the Adaptil diffuser next to his dog bed, just to take the edge of. He was more relaxed than ever, so it actually may have helped. That or all the sneaky bits of food the dogs were getting from ALL the wedding guests (and bride) ALL night long, hard to tell what did the trick :)
Step 6: Make sure your dogs are safe and having a good time
Having a small wedding really helps this cause. I guess if you're not an expat though and need to invite all your long lost cousins and great uncles plus half the neighbourhood you've known your entire life, you'll end up with an event of greater than 150 people.... in that case I'd strongly recommend that you hire a trusted dog sitter of your choice who accompanies your guest(s) of honour to the ceremony and takes them home for a sleepover... In our case, all we needed to do was assign a designated dog sitter (aka dog savvy friend) to hold on to Sage and Loki during the ceremony and they kinda just hang out with the crowd afterwards. Having said that, I do pride myself in mentioning that, albeit all their many quirks, Sage and Loki's party manners are impeccable. Neither of the two is a countersurfer or would ever run off... if you can't be so sure that your buddy won't dig into the wedding cake at the first chance he gets its probably best to crate-train prior to the wedding to have him safely tucked away or send him home with said dog sitter after the photos...
For our wedding reception, the dogs just mingled and looked cute, which meant they got goodies from all the guests and probably had the time of their life. We did make sure they had a separate room with their beds as a retreat but they wouldn't have any of it but chose to 'party' with us until the end, which meant falling asleep right next to our little dance floor in the early morning hours.
Step 7: Plan your post wedding travels
So, we were really lucky and my parents, grandparents as well as best friend from back home were able to join for the wedding. This also meant, however, that a proper honeymoon would have to wait and we needed to take everyone sightseeing in Victoria straight after the wedding. I think it would've been quite sad to leave the fur kids behind once the celebration was over, so we booked a stunning pet friendly place for all of us on the Mornington Peninsula to spend a week together and recover from all the wedding stress.
Part two of the 'family-honeymoon' was a trip to Wilson's Prom National Park though and we had booked the dogs in with our usual trusted sitter, Katja at waggingtail.com.au, well in advance. The whole family was very sad to have to say good-bye to them at that stage, but I'm guessing all the wombats at the prom were quite relieved when they heard that Sage and Loki wouldn't show up to round them up :)
Step 8: Have the most wonderful day of your life
I guess I have to admit I was a bit surprised about just how wonderful our wedding really turned out. Everyone told me beforehand that my wedding day was going to be the best day of my life. But after being stressed out for months and months on end while meticulously planning all the little details of our special DIY event, I did question not just once, whether it was all worth it. But oh, how it was! Marrying the love of my life, at one of the world's most stunning places, with our dogs by our side - what more could a girl wish for?!