By Seren Evans-Charrington
A stay at a boutique country hotel in the Scottish Borders that provides luxury accommodation and fine dining sounds charmingly romantic. Add the mention of a wedding held in a secluded area of the hotels gardens at the site of the Victorian dove cote, complete with red carpet treatment and champagne on ice and I’m almost tempted to take my vows all over again. Indeed Cringletie House is delightfully dreamy with its gallant architecture and I must confess that a short stay at this former Baronial Castle made me a little starry-eyed.
As I got ready for the big day I had to remind myself that it wasn’t me getting married and so I pushed aside hopes of finding a Scottish Laird and got on with primping the brides bouquet. As the birds tweeted and the sun shone the wedding party took a short meander from the hotel down a path into clearance in the woods, where the old dovecote was dressed for a one of a kind wedding. Before you reach for your big hat and the box of Kleenex I must warn you that this is was no ordinary wedding, this was the first doggy wedding to take place in the Scottish Borders and a wooffingly fine affair.
Before the wedding, Miss Molly ( a Bearded Collie, Poodle cross) had enjoyed a hen party at a vintage tea rooms wither best chums and then enjoyed being pampered by her human companions before being seen hanging out with her dearly beloved feline friend and confident, Harvey at the bar sipping a delicious cup of cold beef tea. Whilst pandering to the whims of my dog, I consoled myself that pet pooches have occupied the thoughts of actions of higher mortals than me, indeed Queen Victoria owned many dogs in her lifetime and she wrote affectionately about her first spaniel, called, Dashy in a diary entry of 9th January 1839:
‘I sent for Dashy, who Lord [Melbourne] accused of having crooked legs, which I would allow! We put him on the table and he was very much petted and admired by Lord M, who was so funny about him! We gave him tea and Lord M said, ‘ I wonder if lapping is a pleasant sensation,’- for that is a thing we had never felt. ‘ (from More Leaves from the Journal of a Life in the Highlands, by Queen Victoria).
I consoled myself with the thought that if Queen Victoria felt it fit to pamper her pooch and feed it tea then at least I was in good company as I got my Molly ready for her doggy wedding.
The relationship between Molly and Monty is unique as not only was there a titanic difference in size with Molly’s head being bigger than Monty’s entire being, (Monty’s a Dachshund) but they could also be deemed as Britain’s first doggy internet dating couple, as they had actually never met before the big day. Hotel Manager, Jeremy Osborne (father of the groom) came up with the idea of holding doggy weddings as a bit of fun and when we got chatting we decided that Molly and Monty would make for the perfect arranged marriage couple. Well my philosophy has always been to be innovative and do something different, so on a fine morning after a hearty Scottish breakfast at the hotel, I found myself pinning a headdress to my somewhat bemused dog and heading off to my doggy wedding.
Now by this point you might be thinking that this is a somewhat barking idea, but us Brits have been eccentrically attached to our dogs for centuries and whilst doggy weddings might be a new thing, pandering to a pooch is nothing new. The Victorian novelist, Mary Ann Evans, known under her pen name of George Eliot was given a pug by a close friend, John Blackwood in 1859 and her letter to him about the arrival of the pug captures the curious canine connection that the British have with their dog companions, an excerpt from her letter reads:
‘Pug is come! –come to fill up the void left by false and narrow-hearted friends. I see already that he is without envy, hatred, or malice –that he will betray no secrets, and feel neither pain at my success nor pleasure in my chagrin’. (From Faithful to the End, by Celia Haddon)
There is no doubting that dogs are in our hearts and our literature. We are raised to have a love of dogs especially when you think of Pickles, the terrier that appears in Beatrix Potter’s, ‘The Tale of Ginger and Pickles’. Pickles and Ginger, a characterful tomcat ran the village shop. They let all their customers have their groceries on credit and because of this their till was almost empty forcing them to eat their own goods. One day their wasn’t enough money to pay any bills or to buy Pickles’ dog licence and so Pickles hung up his shop keepers apron and became a gamekeeper. No wonder so many children plead to own puppies!
Well back to Miss Molly and Monty’s big day. With the wedding party assembled and the bride and groom in their best attire the wedding was ready to commence. Mark Barrett’s (also known as the head bar tender at Crincletie House) officiated the proceedings and dressed in a morning suit he read out the vows that would see Molly and Monty pronounced Mr and Mrs Mutt. Both dogs sat obediently as the vows were read and rings (to be worn on their collars) were exchanged.
‘’I take you Molly to be my lawfully wedded doggy wife. I vow to love you and share my doggy treats with you, as long as we both shall live. I take you, to share muddy puddle baths and roll in the grass with, as I offer myself to you, with all my faults and strengths. I promise to always keep the water bowl filled to share the sofa with you. I will help you when you need me to bite someone’s ankles, and turn to you when I need a lick on my face or a big hairy cuddle. I choose you as the dog with which I will spend my life”
‘’I take you Monty to be my lawfully wedded doggy husband. I vow to love you and share my doggy treats with you, as long as we both shall live. I take you, to share muddy puddle baths and roll in the grass with, as I offer myself to you, with all my faults and strengths. I promise to always keep the water bowl filled to share the sofa with you. I will help you when bigger dogs gang up on you, and turn to you when I need a lick on my face or ankles to be bitten. I choose you as the dog with which I will spend my life.
The dogs signed the wedding register with a paw print and then it was off to enjoy a wedding breakfast. A low table was laid, filled with delectable doggy delights. Champagne was on hand for the humans whilst the dogs tucked into a doggy wedding cake and a selection of specialist dog ice cream from Billy and Margot’s. There was a table full of bones and treats for Molly and Monty to romance over. With the vows said, the register signed and the wedding breakfast well and truly devoured, there was just enough time for some group photo’s before heading off for a walk around the grounds.
Crincletie House is a family owned hotel and their first dog wedding is testimony to their flexible approach to guest’s requests and events. They were brilliant with my young family and needless to say dog friendly. To me their first doggy wedding was testimony to the fact that whatever event you want to host they will do their best to accommodate you. Indeed it seems that a lot of couples decide to have their dogs attend their own doggy wedding and I’m guessing this is what sparked the idea of an actual woofy wedding.
The wedding may have been barking, but it was incredibly good fun. When you consider that Lord Byron had a monument built in honour of his beloved Newfoundland called Boatswain after his departure to doggy heaven in 1808, a doggy wedding doesn’t seem so outlandish. Byron’s tribute to his dog captures the deep admiration and affection that dog lovers feel for their wagging tailed companions,
‘Near this spot
Are deposited the Remains
Who possessed Beauty
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
And all the virtues of Man
Without his Vices.’
The beautiful sentiment of this eulogy captures the love many of us feel for dogs and on this note I conclude, why shouldn’t dogs have a woofy wedding? After all Sir Winston Churchill had a poodle called Rufus and every evening when the family sat down to dinner, Rufus’ personal tablecloth was put down and he was always served first. Who knows if doggy weddings had been around in Winston Churchill’s day he may well have organised one for his dear Rufus.
If you fancy booking a woofy wedding yourself or fancy looking for that Scottish Laird, then visit the Cringletie House website www.cringletie.com