Anybody who knows and loves Amy and Anna Crandall of Kalamazoo knows how attached they are to their dogs, Dalton and Tucker.
It was no surprise to family and friends when the couple involved their dogs in their wedding ceremony on Oct. 28, 2017 at the Lawton Community Center in Lawton.
"It was a requirement," said Amy, a real estate agent who has had Dalton, a 9-year-old Pitbull Terrier/Labrador Retriever mix, his whole life.
"He has gone everywhere with me. Even before I met Anna everyone knew to expect me and Dalton if I was coming."
Since the couple got together everyone expects Anna's dog Tucker now, too. Amy said the 5-year-old Labradoodle is "shy" and it took a little while for he and Dalton to get used to each other.
"Tucker is afraid of everything from plastic bags to pizza boxes for no apparent reason. Dalton is tolerant and it took a little bit of time to win him over, but once they were used to each other they became inseparable," said Amy. "I can't take Dalton anywhere alone. Tucker will lose his mind."
Some of the activities the Crandalls enjoy as a family include going on dog walks, trips to the dog park and the dog beach (Kruse Park in Muskegon) where they met Elissa Patterson of Elissa Patterson Photography in Howell.
"Our dogs got to share a hot summer day on Lake Michigan together. And at the time it was their early dating, we kept in touch over the years, and sure enough I got a call one day asking to photograph their wedding," said Patterson.
"Capturing their wedding was absolutely easy. These ladies are surrounded with an amazing cloud of love. They have so much support and goodness in their lives. When you see so much joy and happiness those moments are easy to capture. Even during their quiet moments and the times someone wouldn't think of as a photograph I found beautiful and picturesque. Without sounding cliche they are exactly the type of couple we should all want to be like. And I was the lucky one they asked to keep their moments in print."
"I met Anna – she's a civil engineer – when I was working at Lowe's," said Amy. "Anna is shy. She was looking for a shower curtain. She figured out where they were then she ran away."
Later, they messaged each other on a dating website and went out on their first date. The relationship developed and Amy, being the romantic she said she is, created a scavenger hunt for Anna.
"It started at 3 p.m. at a winery. I placed clues all around Kalamazoo at our favorite places," said Amy. "Our friends and family were involved. There were people at each stop. It ended at 8 p.m. at Bronson Park where we got engaged by our favorite statue then went to a local brewery to celebrate."
Anna said, "The scavenger hunt was so much fun. It was better than I could have dreamed of. I was ecstatic when I got the last clue. I couldn't wait to see Amy. I ran to the park to find her."
The Big Day
Not many wedding venues allow pets to enter unless they're service animals, but the Lawton Community Center changed their rules to allow Dalton and Tucker to participate.
"It was important for them to be a part of our wedding because they're our guys. They're our family. It wasn't an option that they wouldn't be there," said Anna.
Dalton and Tucker attended the rehearsal dinner, hung out with the wedding party the night before, walked down the aisle and were provided with front row seating during the ceremony.
"Dalton was super well-behaved. Tucker followed his lead," said Amy.
Anna added, "I was a bit worried that Tucker was going to have a hard time with all the people around because he can get pretty anxious. Both boys just hung out with the bridesmaids being their awesome selves."
When asked if they have any advice for other pet lovers who want to include their fur babies in their wedding ceremony, Amy said, "If you have animals that are well-behaved and listen, then totally do it. Tucker, who we were worried about doing it with – he totally rose to the occasion. He was super good. You have to make sure you designate someone to dog-sit so you don't have to worry about them while you're there. We had someone pick them up from our house prior to the ceremony. They brought them out to the venue and they brought them home. It was awesome to have them with us all day."
It sounds like a great idea to have your pet in the wedding. "Shooting couples with their pets can add a wonderful dimension to the tone and composition of a wedding ceremony or engagement," said Janice Milhem of Milhem Images, Inc. in Ann Arbor. "Generally, our pets are calming and keep us grounded. They can be a welcomed distraction from 'wedding jitters' of the event at large – and create an on-camera story that conveys the love they share for each other."
However, it's not for everyone, she said. Think twice before it could backfire. Here are a five tips to avoid surprises:
1. Temperament – Is your pet calm, easy to manage in a small or large party of people? If not, go no further. Or consider a pet portrait sans ceremony.
2. Energy Level – If your pet has too much energy and is out of control it will lead to problems. Low energy pets may not move at your pace and if your wedding is a precise and scheduled series of moves it may also be disruptive.
3. Size Matters – Small pets are much easier to work with or carry down an isle. Large pets may not, especially if their temperaments and energy levels are not in sync with the workings of the event.
4. Clothing and Attire – Will your pet wear them or not? Some pets can be trained in advance but don't think that a pet who's never worn a sweater will now submit to the torture of a top hat for the day's event.
5. Backup Plan – Always have a back up plan. Have a guest on-hand to keep the pets occupied or taken away once the party begins.
"I love to capture emotion in my images," said said Jay Dreifus of Jay Dreifus Wedding Photography. Dreifus photographed Grosse Pointe Woods couple Peter Caborn and Donald Morrissett with their Yorkies Cleaves and Calvin, and their Cockapoo Reno (aka "The Tail Waggers") during their wedding recessional on July 22, 2017 at the Waterview Loft in Detroit. He said, "When couples include their pets in their photos it clearly adds an extra touch of love, smiles, and laughter to the session."
Karola Wollstein (left) and Diane Stead (right) with Hansi and Sylvie, their Wheaton Terriers. The couple was married in June 2017. Photo courtesy of Milhem Images, Inc.
Tim Wilson (left) and Steve Perry (right) with Merlin and Rufus, who recently passed away. The couple was married in the Fall of 2016 and were happy to include them in this special day together. Photo courtesy of Milhem Images, Inc.