A Four-Legged Ring Bearer? She Can Help

by Stephanie (Coartney) Dulaney ’09

Nicole (Richard) Johnson ’06A pet’s companionship is something special to share, so for many couples getting married, it only makes sense to include their furry family members in the big day, too. As the owner of WedPets, Nicole (Richard) Johnson ’06 has launched the St. Louis area’s first pet-handling business for weddings. The former marketing and management major creates customized packages for couples looking to incorporate their pet (or pets) in their ceremony, photos or reception, handling everything from transportation to potty breaks for her canine clients. Nicole discovered the need for a wedding pet coordinator when she and her husband Dane married in August 2017. “We wanted our German Shepherd, Greta, in some of our wedding photos but didn't know how that would work,” she said. “We had one friend watch Greta outside of our church during our ceremony, and another friend offered to take her during the reception. The assigned handlers didn’t know each other, so we were group texting and winging it. After the wedding, and inspired by my love for animals, I couldn’t stop thinking about how there needed to be a wedding day pet-handling service. So a couple months later, I formed an LLC.”

WedPetsFeatured at local bridal shows and on The Knot website, the WedPets bookings grew so quickly in one year that Nicole had to hire an assistant. In addition to working weddings, she is a full-time communications compliance analyst for Wells Fargo, a volunteer financial officer for the non-profit STL Dog Moms, and a dog foster volunteer for Stray Rescue of St. Louis.

“I had not heard of companies like mine,” she said. “Since starting WedPets I have learned that services have existed like this in Australia and the U.K., and it’s becoming a thing in the U.S., too, but none that I’ve seen in the Midwest. Bottom line: I saw two very important industries, the pet industry and the wedding industry. I noticed a gap, and opportunity doesn’t wait.”