Lauren, 32, and Michael Meinsen, 33, included their chihuahua, Chloe,...

Lauren, 32, and Michael Meinsen, 33, included their chihuahua, Chloe, 13, in their October wedding at the Centerport Yacht Club. Credit: Kate Nastasi

Rachel DeMartin, of New Hyde Park, had one request involving two very special family members when she married her now-husband, Alex DeMartin, of New Hyde Park. 

“We’re not getting married without our dogs,” Rachel, 29, recalls saying ahead of her 2022 nuptials. “Everything revolves around them and all our friends know and love them,” she adds.

Alex, 29, agreed, and a standout moment of their Sea Cliff Manor wedding involved Hudson and Isabella, their dogs, making an aisle entrance. Isabella wore a flower collar and Hudson, who carried the rings, donned a custom suit that matched the groom's garb. Rachel recalls, “Everyone broke out into laughter. It made me really happy to see my dogs were bringing other people happiness.”

Lauren, 32, and Michael Meinsen, 33, included their chihuahua, Chloe,...

Lauren, 32, and Michael Meinsen, 33, included their chihuahua, Chloe, 13, in their October wedding. Credit: caitwillphotography

In keeping with the “make it yours” wedding trend, there are heartfelt ways to include dogs, penguins, sea lions, sharks, butterflies, goats and ponies on your wedding day.

Kate Nastasi, CEO of the Center Moriches-based event and wedding planning company Events By Kate, says, “I plan about 20 weddings each year, and more than half of the couples ask if they can include their dog in their wedding. I see friends and clients getting married in their 30s and having children a little later in life. So, their dogs are like their babies.” Though Nastasi mentions most couples take wedding photos with their dogs or join them walking down the aisle, it might not end there.

It's so popular that Veronica Silghigian runs a local company, Pawfect For You, that provides caretaking services exclusively for dogs on wedding days. Silghigian and her staff manage about 200 weddings per year where brides and grooms include their dogs as flower dogs and ring bearers. Some dogs participate in the first dance or attend the cocktail hour, while others join the cake cutting ceremony and munch on specially made pup cakes.

Kaila, 32, and Jeff Frame, 31, of Greenville, South Carolina, wanted to take photos with a sea lion during their 2019 wedding. Atlantis Banquets & Events in Riverhead made it happen. Couples can host their special day in the Long Island Aquarium or the Sea Star Ballroom venues and take photos with sea lions, penguins, butterflies and an owl (who will join the group later this year. “I told my husband the sea lion was my favorite kiss of the day,” Kaila says. Passionate divers can even have their wedding ceremony underwater in a cage surrounded by sharks.

Daisy the “flower goat” will be availble for wedding ceremonies...

Daisy the “flower goat” will be availble for wedding ceremonies at the Long Island Game Farm in Manorville. Credit: Morgan Campbell

And for those who want to involve a “flower goat” or “flower pony” in their wedding, the Long Island Game Farm in Manorville has opened a new wedding venue “with wooden floors, black beams on the high ceilings, and windows that face the woods,” and, of course, the animals, Nastasi says.


Rachel and Alex DeMartin, 29, of New Hyde Park, included their dogs, Isabella and Hudson, in their July 2022 wedding at Sea Cliff Manor. Credit: Studio 27

“Every single dog wedding I manage is custom and has its own timeline and checklist,” Silgihigan says. Three weeks before each wedding, Slighigian has a Zoom meeting with the bride and groom and asks detailed questions about their dog’s personality, habits and needs. From there, she creates a timeline that encompasses every moment the dog will be involved in the wedding.

Nastasi adds, “I always carry baby wipes during wedding photo ops in case dogs get mud on their paws.” Silghigian chimes in, “A lot of couples worry their dogs will stop when they’re walking down the aisle. I was at a wedding when the dog walked down the aisle, sat down, and scratched his ear. Everybody just laughed and they’ll always remember it.”


Marielisa Andaloro, 30, and her fiance, Michael Bortoloni, 31, of South Setauket, have their wedding planned for Aug. 4 at the Bourne Mansion in Oakdale. Their dog, Luna, will wear a beaded collar, walk down the aisle, and be in the photos. Andaloro says, “I’m anticipating Luna’s going to want everyone to pet her while she’s going down the aisle, and she’ll pull Michael super-duper fast. She a puller, but it’s OK because that’s her personality.” Since the bride and groom’s families will be coming together officially, Andaloro plans to change Luna’s last name to Bortoloni.

Lauren Meinsen, 32, of Commack, says having her dog, Chloe, in her wedding photos, “is a memory we'll never forget.” 

And Jennifer Puma, 32, of Rocky Point, had her dog, Penny, serve as ring bearer at her 2019 wedding to her now-husband, Michael, 38, at Leonard's in Great Neck. “Penny’s a little shy, so we did a meet-and-greet with the dog sitter before our wedding," Puma says. "When Penny walked down the aisle with the dog sitter, she was timid, but when she saw me and my husband at the end, she wagged her tail. It was an 'aww' moment for everybody.”

Rachel and Alex DeMartin, 29, of New Hyde Park, included...

Rachel and Alex DeMartin, 29, of New Hyde Park, included their dogs Isabella and Hudson in their July 2022 wedding at Sea Cliff Manor.   Credit: Studio 27


“During your wedding, you can get a photo op with a penguin, or take photos with sea lions and get kissed by one of them,” says Daniel Lanieri, director of food and beverage for Atlantis Banquets & Events, associated with venues based at the aquarium. Lanieri explains, “Our trainers are good at getting the penguins and sea lions to do what they’re supposed to. However, the penguin might walk away for a bit, and the sea lion might be giving kisses and decide to go back in the water and swim around for a couple of minutes before he decides to go back to kissing.”

Lanieri also highly recommends the butterfly garden as a special place for wedding photos. Rachel Tomasky, 37, agrees. “I got married in November 2015 and my photos in the butterfly garden are my absolute favorites,” she says. “There was fall foliage outside, and it was like summer inside the garden. We got a taste of everything.”

Kaila and Jeff Frame remember feeling enchanted as they glanced over at sea life and coral reefs while dancing and eating during their wedding. Yet, they loved interacting with the penguins and feeding the sea lions most of all. “Honestly,” Kaila says, “those moments were probably the most amazing part of my wedding.”


“Woodland Hall, the new wedding venue at the Long Island Game Farm, would be a great space for couples who are all-around animal lovers, or couples who want to try something unique,” Nastasi says. Couples who anticipate having kids at their wedding might enjoy it as well.

Melinda Novak, Long Island Game Farm president, suggests a place to begin. She says, “Our squirrel monkeys and lemurs have been taught how to create art and were introduced to paintbrushes.” Engaged couples can take an animal’s artwork and insert it inside their wedding invitations. Novak continues, “During a wedding, we can put a flower wreath around a goat’s neck or in a pony’s mane and lead them down the aisle. The goats can mingle outside during the reception and there are great photo ops with animals dressed up with flowers.”


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