Wagnolia Bells ensures brides and grooms can easily make their four-legged family members part of the most important day of their lives.
Written by Baljot Singh
Like most brides, when Kathey Garret’s daughter got married in May 2019 she had a grand vision for the details that made up her big day.
“My daughter (Mary) wanted her dog, Archie, at her wedding,” said Garret.
On the day of the ceremony, however, it poured rain. To keep the pup out of trouble — and out of the mud — Garret, her husband and the rest of the bride and groom’s family members were tasked with taking care of Archie.
It was a hassle — but also an inspiration.
After the groom’s father almost missed the mother-son dance to take care of the dog and Kathey was left wet and muddy, the wheels in her head began to turn.
“I remember myself wishing there was just one vendor that could take care of the dog,” she said.
So, Garret went to work, and Wagnolia Bells, a full-service pet chaperone service for weddings and other events, was born.
It was a big leap for Garret, a retired military spouse who spent most of her life working as an English teacher or in retail. But the self-described “forced extrovert” and dog lover saw a gap in the market she was excited to help fill.
“I reached out to businesses in northern Virginia, Houston, Texas and Minnesota who helped me get started,” said Garrett. “I got pet-CPR certified and took courses at the University of Mississippi and began booking my services last summer.”
The business, named for their first family dog, Magnolia Bell, provides pet attendants for ceremonies and receptions, chauffeurs the pet to and from the venue, assists with the photo shoots, and feeds, walks and cleans up after the pet. Their goal, Garret said, is to keep the animal as happy and comfortable as possible.
“I hired other chaperones, and I make sure they are pet-CPR certified through the Red Cross, have reliable transportation, are physically fit enough to stand for six to seven hours and know how to care for these animals independently,” said Garrett.
Before a wedding, Garrett or a team member meets with the pet and its owners to get an understanding of their temperament and sensitivities, and to learn about their role in the event.
“From the moment that we met Kathey, we knew our Siberian husky, Saber, would be in excellent hands,” said Carrie Henson, a former Wagnolia Bells client. “She met us two days before the wedding to do a meet-and-greet with Saber. She took him on a walk to get to know him a little bit and so that he would be familiar with her on the day of the wedding. She took him the day before the wedding to the venue site for a trial run so that he would nail his act as ring bearer in our wedding.”
Garret and her team also work with clients to plan ways to incorporate their pets into their events.
“After we booked, she (Garret) always made sure to keep in touch with ideas and different ways to include Winston, our French bulldog, into our wedding day,” said Megan Kuntz, who used Wagnolia Bell’s service for their September wedding. “I couldn’t imagine our wedding day without her and the care she gave Winston. She even stood by our photographer with toys and got him to look attentive for the camera.”
Garret believes the demand for Wagnolia Bells and services like it will continue to grow as more and more brides and grooms look for ways to incorporate their four-legged family members in their big day.
To learn more about Wagnolia Bells and its services, find the company at WagnoliaBells.com and on Facebook and Instagram. Garrett pledges 10% of the revenue from each booking to a shelter of the client’s choice. The company operates in north Mississippi; Jackson, Mississippi; Birmingham, Alabama; and Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee.