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LifestyleWeddings

Pets scamper down the wedding aisle with brides and grooms

Getting friends and family to save the date for their wedding was a no-brainer for Don and Regina Vasquez: They left it up to Smith and Wesson.

Costumed as bride and groom, the two Weimaraners appeared on custom photo postage stamps the couple used on "save the date" cards for their impending nuptials at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs church in Queens and the Bridgeview Yacht Club in Island Park.

The pair had been Don Vasquez's gift to his fiancee three years earlier, celebrating her acceptance into the New York City Police Academy.

"I knew they would play some sort of intricate part in our wedding because she is all about her dogs," says Vasquez, owner of Evolution Productions, a Plainview entertainment company.

The 65-pound littermates delivered. The cards left guests "extremely wowed," he says. At the wedding, the couple really let the dogs out as they stood with the newlyweds on the receiving line on July 28, 2006.

Move over bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls and ringbearers, pets are joining and, in some cases, upstaging their owners on their special day.

For her June 13 wedding, Lauren Fitzgerald will have Gus, her 4-year-old golden retriever, serve as best man at her nuptials to Raymond McDonald. The Sayville pooch will be delivered in style to the grounds of the Hamlet Willow Creek in Mount Sinai: A white Cadillac Escalade will chauffeur him and Lola, a Newfoundland owned by her sister, Tara Tortora.

Driver and vehicle will be supplied by Houndstown USA in Ronkonkoma, where Gus will stay during the honeymoon.

"Everyone knows we are crazy dog people, so this was expected," says Fitzgerald.

Tommy and Abby Benizio know the feeling.

At the couple's wedding in the Smoky Mountains of Abby's native Tennessee, Tommy's beloved prairie dog was ring bearer. The plan was for him to walk down the aisle on a rhinestone-studded leash.

"We said, 'He is our son, he will do the rings.'"

The organ music, however, unexpectedly riled the tuxedo-clad rodent, who initially was "upset" by his outfit, says Abby. So a friend carried him to the altar as the couple held him and exchanged vows.

"He was just fine and snuggled up," she says.

There were no fancy duds for Sadie the pit bull at Venessa and J.D. Wallace's wedding on June 7, 2008. "I decided not to put anything on her, I knew she would tear it all off and want to run amok," says Wallace. That Texas, wedding had two maids of honor: "My sister Monica and Sadie," says Wallace.

At Jody and Stephen Ferraro's October 2006 ceremony in Fairfield County, Conn., the rings went flying after Bracco, their canine ring bearer, stepped on the ribbon holding them around his neck.

But "he was a good boy," says Jody Ferraro. "We'd been worried he was going to lift his leg on the altar."

And on June 7, 2008, Sarah Couts' French bulldogs witnessed her marriage to Tony Foster on the golf course of a Missouri country club.

"There was no question," she says, that Stitch and Lilo would be present: Only a dog-friendly wedding venue would do.

Stitch made his way down the aisle with the groomsmen, but Lilo initially got scared and had to be helped on her way.

Even dogs, it seems, can get cold feet before a wedding.

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