Words Of Wedding Wisdom: ANIMALS AT WEDDINGS

Welcome to this series of articles based on my popular book, “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” … a few juicy extracts that you might like, to give you a taster of what the book can do to help make your wedding (or a friend or relative’s wedding) superbly successful.

This time, we look at…

Animals: horse-drawn transport

I know lots of people these days fancy the idea of being driven to the ceremony and to the reception in a beautiful horse-drawn carriage, or even in a small cart pulled by a pony. I know there are numerous companies that specialize in supplying horse-drawn vehicles for weddings and make a good living out of it.

I also know horses and ponies very well, having ridden them most of my life and known many people who are into carriage driving.

If this is something you are contemplating, I hate to be a killjoy, but think carefully. Unless it’s an experienced wedding carriage puller, even the most placid and laid-back horse or pony is unlikely to be comfortable with crowds of people waving and shouting excitedly. And even those experienced carriage pullers can be spooked by a car backfiring or other sudden, loud noise.

You might think that a couple of dear old cart horses couldn’t possibly be anything other than sweetness and light as they pull you to your dream wedding. But if you have ever seen a couple of 19 hand Shires spook at full gallop (I have, and it’s terrifying) you may prefer to consider a more mechanical option.

If after all my wet-blanket ravings you still want to go the horse-drawn route, here’s my advice.

Horse-drawn wedding vehicle companies

There are many of these around and you’ll find them in your local Yellow Pages or online via Google or other search engine.

Having got to know the people and horses involved in quite a successful such company local to me, I have to say, check carefully and get some personal recommendations first. The company I got to know used young, inexperienced horses and equally young (therefore cheap) and inexperienced drivers. In the main they got away with it when they had wedding groups on board but they did have some dreadful accidents when loading and unloading horses and vehicles.

Ask the company for references and also visit their yard and ask to meet their horses. If the horses look calm, clean and in good health you’re probably OK. Beware horses that seem shy, skittish, sweated up, underweight, or with scars on their heads and other harness areas of their bodies (mainly the neck, shoulders and back.)

Private horse-drawn vehicles

This may be the better option, especially if you know the horse’s owner well and trust him or her and his/her judgment. A privately owned horse is likely to be more of a docile pet than one owned by a carriage yard and is also likely to have a better relationship with its owner/driver.

Almost certainly the owner will want to rehearse the journey with the horse (beware if s/he doesn’t) so it doesn’t encounter any surprises on the day. You might enjoy going along for the ride, if you have time, to make sure you don’t have any previously unknown qualms about horse-drawn transport. Also, assuming the vehicle used for the rehearsal is the same one to be used on the day, you can check out realistically how easy or hard it will be to climb up into and down from the vehicle in your wedding attire.

On the day, it’s a good idea to warn as many of your bridal party and guests as possible that you will be arriving and departing via real, live horsepower, and tell them not to do anything that could cause a fright.

Other animals at weddings

I once went to a beautiful wedding in northern France, in a small village near Arras. The whole village turned out for the wedding, including the family’s various dogs as well as some of the farmers’ herding dogs. It was a lovely touch, especially as the bride and groom are animal lovers, but as you can imagine we did get some snarls and growls while standing around waiting for photographs to be taken.

If you have a dog or other pet and want it to be at your wedding, do allow for the fact that the animal is likely to be nervous in such an unfamiliar environment and may not behave too well. In any case, it’s a good idea to get someone responsible to look after the animal at all times. And of course, don’t forget to check with the officiant and/or owners of the ceremony premises if animals are allowed.

For all 174 pages of helpful tips and advice, grab your copy of “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” from Amazon (USA), Amazon (Canada), Amazon (UK) and all other Amazons.