With a wedding party of fourteen dogs of various breeds and sizes, Smiley, a rescued Greyhound, and Sami, a Poodle-Bichon mix, were brought together in canine matrimony in a special ceremony at Hope Hospice in Bonita Springs.

Anne Haxter, a long-time volunteer and trainer for the Hope Pet Visitor program, created the event as a way to bring patients and families together for an afternoon of smiles, laughter and joy.

“We’re original as far as we know,” says Haxter of the doggy nuptials. “And we have a lot of fun. Everyone does; the patients, families and even the staff really get into it.”

At Sami and Smiley’s wedding, the veiled bride donned a gown and a garter, the bridesmaids wore purple, and the groom and ushers did their best to keep their tuxes on.

“One woman asked her husband to bring her a really nice blouse for the occasion. Well, he brought her a white one, and she said, “I can’t wear white, the bride is!” recalls Haxter, who has organized two such weddings over the past two years.

With patients, families and furry friends in attendance for the ceremony, the celebration went beyond the standing room only crowd in the community room.

“We tied dog food cans to the back of a dog buggy, hung a sign that said, “Just Married,” and did a parade to the other patients’ rooms who couldn’t come to the ceremony,” said Haxter.

From a wedding cake decorated with paw prints to a second cake baked just for the dogs, the volunteers were totally committed to making the celebration a grand experience for everyone in Hope’s care.