Ramp Up the Fun with Wildlife at your Wedding

 
by Jennifer Cram - Brisbane Marriage Celebrant © (22/11/2020)
Categories: | Wedding Ceremony | Wedding Planning |
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Signing the register surrounded by
                    kangaroosI'm a sucker for animals. Put me in the same space with anything furry or fluffy and I melt. As does a huge proportion of the population. So opting for a pet-friendly wedding is a no-brainer as far as I'm concerned.  And though my concern for your privacy stops me from taking selfies with you, or any photos in which you are identifiable, I'll become unashamedly snap happy when it comes to your fur kids, or any animals present.

Couples have been including their pets in their wedding ceremonoy and wedding photos for quite a few years now. It is no longer a novelty. But that doesn't mean it is old hat. Every pet has a unique personality that is reflected in how the react, interact, and add an element of unpredictable charm and fun. Including your fur kids in your wedding will never grow old and never be boring because they are part of the family. In addition, pets in weddings has taught us that, as well as being downright adorable, having animals around you on your big day can be comforting and soothing, especially if you're feeling nervous.

So it didn't take long for couples to start thinking beyond their own fur kids and explore the idea of adding a wildlife element to their wedding. Or for businesses to add a wildlife experience to weddings, or expand a wildlife experience business to include weddings.

To successfully include wildlife in your wedding requires some thought and preparation. There are many options to choose from, but, before you make a decision and lock that decision in, there are a few things you need to consider.
  • Your budget
    Involving wildlife in your wedding can be very pricey
  • Guest phobias
    I'll never forget being at a wedding where doves were released indoors at the reception. One of the people sitting at my table shrieked and ducked under the table where she cowered while venue staff did their best to catch the birds. It took a lot to convince her that the birds were back in their cage and she could safely come out. She was visibly shaken and jumpy for the rest of the night. Phobias about birds, butterflies, and reptiles are not uncommon. And name any animal and there are people who are scared of them, not limited to dogs (most common), but also cows, horses, and sheep, etc etc
  • Allergies
    It seems that an increasing proportion of the population has allergies of one sort or another. While it is routine that guests are asked for food preferences on RSVP cards, have you ever seen an invitation that asks about non-food allergies?  I know I haven't. When planning on involving animals in your wedding allergies should be on your radar. For example, most people regard alpacas and llamas to be interchangeable, but alpacas are not only much sweeter in nature, their fur is hypoallergenic.
  • Hygiene
    There's no polite way to say it. Most animals poop when they need to, regardless of where they might be. In addition, animals can harbour and pass on a wide variety of diseases, so it is always a good idea to wash your hands thoroughly after touching any animal. One thing COVID-19 has done has made us all more careful about hand hygiene and the provision of hand-washing or sanitising facilities at ceremony sites is currently mandatory, so it won't be an additional task or cost. But you will also need to make sure that you have a system in place to quickly and efficiently deal with any "accidents" together with a means of hygienically disposing of the accident.
  • Animal welfare
    Thankfully, we live in a society where animal welfare has a high priority both socially and enshrined in law. Nonetheless, protections are not equal across all species. So, while not illegal to release butterflied specially bred for the purpose, the RSPCA counsels against it due to the high probability that the butterflies will starve to death after release, or, if improperly handled, die before they can be released.

Hire some wildlife




A steadily growing variety of wedding industry businesses that hire out various exotic animals and birds means that you will have plenty of choice. All animals-for-hire come with a handler, with one notable exception. Some are hired out for photo-ops. Some have been trained to participate in your ceremony, usually by presentation of your rings. And some are provided just to be released
  • Wild but tamed/trained
    Birds of prey (raptorsglove ) trained to fly to a glove can be hired to present your rings
  • Exotic but domesticated
    Animals such as alpacas and llamas are available for hire. They usually come wearing lovely floral collars and attractive bridles and leads.
  • Domesticated but unusual
    Miniature horses, miniature donkeys, unusual breeds of goats, Highland cattle, pet pigs, even your common and garden backyard chooks can be fun additions to your wedding photos
  • Wild cards
    Doves (white homing pigeons) and butterflies are two creatures whose presence at weddings is purely so they can be released. Doves come with handlers, and strict conditions if the business is reputable. You'll need to make sure you have wipes of some sort to deal with bird poo. It is very common that doves will poop when held and/or when released. Butterflies are delivered chilled and it is up to the couple to ensure that they are cared for in the optimal conditions to ensure a successful release.

Choose a wildlife experience venue

a

, for
Zoos, theme parks that include animals, safari parks, and aquariums can be a great choice if you want to include animals in your photos without having to take responsibility for them in any way - in other words, the staged animal photobomb where you stand in front of an enclosure so that animal curiosity does the rest, or where you can enter an enclosure and have the animals around you.

Down on the farm

 out


More and more rural properties are diversifying by hosting weddings. Some of these properties are farming more exotic domesticated animals, including camels, various species of goats, alpacas, llamas, and unusual breeds of cattle. Many also offer accommodation and/or camping faclities from very basic all the way up to glamping.  Interaction with animals may be part of the deal. But even if it isn't, the most ordinary farm animals can create unexpectedly magic moments. Years ago I married a couple in the garden of Birches Restaurant up on Mount Mee. Cattle on the adjoining property were grazing a long way off. During the ceremony, they moved across the paddock, very quietly and politely, until, by the time I declared the couple married, they were lined up right at the fence. They seemed completely riveted by the romance of the occasion. The line of cows made a backdrop better than any arch or arbour.  Magic photos.

Roaming free




Australia has more than its fair share of wild creatures doing their thing and tamed by no-one. Birds are everywhere. Many bush areas around Brisbane are home to wallabies and kangaroos that happily venture onto golf courses and other areas in suburbia. Whether you are in the city or in the country, you will encounter them. When they put in an appearance they add a hugely charming surprise element to your wedding, one that guests adore.  At certain outdoor locations in Brisbane you can virtually guarantee that an eastern water dragon or two will put in an appearance. I love them, and over the years have learned a trick or two to encourage them to hang around. Visits from cockatoos, galahs, and lorikeets might also add an ooh-ah element.

Uninvited and unwelcome wildlife




Get married outside, particularly in summer, almost anywhere in Australia and uninvited wildlife will turn up, particularly flies, midges, and mosquitoes. I've also had a wedding invaded by green ants. It pays to check the site out thoroughly, and make sure to pack the bug spray and wipes. Unless you plan to release butterflies. Bug spray will kill butterflies.

Some can also be a problem. apart from noise (crows and cockatoos are notorious) - ubiquitous bin chickens (ibis), in Brisbane and other areas, to say nothing of seagulls, and swooping magpies. Which leads me to suggest that food, birds, and wedding ceremonies don't mix. Leave the picnic until after the official proceedings.

In the warmer months snakes are on the move. Occasionally I will have a couple eloping to Brisbane from elsewhere who are concerned about snakes. The good news is that snakes at a wedding are a rare occurrence, given they tend to avoid people. I've heard a story or two about weddings where a snake put in an appearance but I stress it is a very rare occurrence simply because couples tend to choose for an open area, away from undergrowth, for their ceremony site, and movement of people preparing the site sets up enough vibration of the ground to scare off any snakes that might be in the vicinity.

Animal welfare




For many people, potentially some of your guests, using animals for entertainment is something to be avoided. While they would, like you, regard your furkids as family, and therefore have no problem with cats, dogs, or horses, hiring exotic creatures to perform at your wedding could be divisive, regardless of how careful you have been to deal only with reputable businesses that ensure that the welfare of the animals is first priority.

Very early in your wedding planning you will also need to ensure that the venue you have chosen will be safe for the animals you plan to hire, and that any flowers and plants you intend to use in floral decorations, bouquets, and boutonniere's are safe if the animals choose to help themselves to a nibble. Many popular wedding flowers are toxic to animals.

I definitely advise that having a backup plan if conditions on the day mean that a reputable handler will not allow a hired animal to participate. Or at the very least be prepared to accept that decision with good grace.

Embracing wildlife without being controversial




Your wedding is a beautiful opportunity to showcase your values and interests. If your interests extend to animals there are many ways to include them in your wedding without having them present in the flesh, as it were.
  • Add them to your theme, or theme your wedding around them, featuring models or graphic representations of your chosen animal in wedding decor, items you use in your ceremony, table and aisle decorations, or as additions to bouquets or the lapels of the men in the wedding party
  • Host your wedding or reception at a wildlife sanctuary that allows you to have the animals at your event and protect them at the same time
  • Add an animal charity, rights organisation, or sanctuary to your wedding registry, asking guests to make a donation in your names
  • Sponsor an animal instead of providing bonbonniere (favors) for your guests and put the details on each table
Thanks for reading!
Jenny xxx Let's talk soon about how you
                      can have the best ceremony ever
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