“You may sniff your bride.” 

With that, Erica Arnold, assistant director of Life Enrichment at Poydras Home in New Orleans, bound Beckam and Peaches in furry matrimony, capping a ceremony weeks in the planning that will be talked about for months and years.

The Aug. 4 wedding joined a dog who frequently visits her owner’s mother and a pooch owned by an employee who came to work with her each day. The ceremony had every trapping of a human wedding, including being delayed by a COVID-19 outbreak. 

Decorations, fancy clothing, guests, refreshments, and a “priest” — Arnold — who wore a white collar made of card stock, were all part of the delight residents and staff shared with the anticipation of planning and the pomp of the event. Some staff even attended on their day off.

“It was definitely an idea that started with elders, and took off,” said Arnold. “It grew in enthusiasm from the elders and families getting involved and the staff getting involved. They were so excited about it, it took over. It was a huge focus for weeks.”

Poydras Home is pet-friendly, allowing residents in both independent and assisted living to have a pet. Dog visits throughout the community are encouraged and welcomed for skilled nursing residents too. In 2021, Poydras partnered with a local animal rescue organization on a program that links memory care residents with frequent visits from trained dogs.

Arnold said as much joy as residents got from the special day, the staff, still working under COVID restrictions, may have had more. The wedding was an all-hands-on-deck morale booster, Arnold said.

“Coming out of the COVID pandemic, we’re looking for some fun around here,” she said. “We’re still wearing masks. The residents are not. It’s not over for us. So we’re looking for anything we can do that’s an affordable, fun kind of bootstraps entertainment.

“It was really well received. Everybody is tired of the doom and gloom in the healthcare industry these days and ready to get back to normal, and do fun things again. This was a really welcome diversion.”

Much of the decorations were from previous craft project supplies, while clothing for the bride and groom came courtesy of their owners. Poydras Home provided the refreshments, which was its main expense.

The idea sparked when staff began scheduling activities for June, which includes National Pet Wedding Week. Beckham and Peaches had been pals for quite some time. Beckham visited often and Peaches was there every day.

Best yet, a happy ending is assured: Peaches’ owner left Poydras soon after to take a job in a new city and marry her own fiancee. 

“We won’t have to worry about things souring between the bride and the groom because they’re not going to see each other,” said Arnold.