Friday, April 19, 2024

2 rings and 400 dogs: Couple attends dog parade the morning of their wedding

Before getting married, Matthew and Mara Dudley walked up and down Duke of Gloucester Street in the DoG Street Strut. (Courtesy Daniel Gorman)
Before getting married, Matthew and Mara Dudley walked up and down Duke of Gloucester Street in the DoG Street Strut. (Courtesy Daniel Gorman)

Heritage Humane Society is accustomed to making matches, but the animal shelter doesn’t typically match people in holy matrimony.

However, Heritage served as the opening act in one dog-loving couple’s big day on Saturday.

Before they walked down the aisle that afternoon, West Virginia natives Matthew and Mara Dudley spent Saturday morning parading with more than 400 dogs and fellow dog lovers at the first annual DoG Street Strut.

The Strut helped raise funds for Heritage’s rescue and adoption efforts, and while the Dudleys had their wedding to get ready for, they said they couldn’t pass up the chance to help homeless animals.

“We felt it was a great opportunity for us to relax the morning of our wedding,” Matthew said. “We didn’t want to go all day without seeing each other…we said why not do this dog walk, something we love to do, and also have the opportunity to be together the majority of the day.”

The Dudleys said their vows just before 3:40 p.m. at the National Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham on Richmond Road. They didn’t leave Duke of Gloucester Street until about 10:45 a.m.

A Heritage official marveled at their ability to pull it off.

“Remembering back to my wedding day, I can’t imagine doing a dog walk the morning of,” said Kimberly Laska, executive director of Heritage Humane Society. “[They’re] clearly a very animal loving couple for that to be their emphasis and focus a couple hours before the biggest moment of their lives.”

Matthew and Mara were called on stage after the DoG Street Strut, where they were congratulated by Heritage staff and the crowd. (Courtesy Daniel Gorman)
Matthew and Mara were called on stage after the DoG Street Strut, where they were congratulated by Heritage staff and the crowd. (Courtesy Daniel Gorman)

Laska added that while some couples had previously asked their wedding guests to make donations to Heritage in lieu of cash gifts, she said Heritage had never been directly involved in a wedding during her five years with the organization.

She was honored that Heritage was able to share the day with the Dudleys, and the couple was even called up on stage and congratulated before the crowd.

Matt and Mara said they had been looking for ideas for things for their guests to do in Williamsburg the weekend of their wedding, and when they came across the DoG Street Strut they knew they wanted to fit the event into their schedule.

About 15 of their friends and family members joined them on DoG Street, including wedding photographer Daniel Gorman. The Dudleys added that their friends expected nothing less than for the couple to spend their wedding day with man’s best friend.

“We loved that our families took time to do everything for the weekend for us, and we thought it was a hell of a way to spend our wedding day morning,” Mara said.

Mara and Matthew pose with their two dogs, Nucky and Logan. (Courtesy Matthew Dudley)
Mara and Matthew pose with their two dogs, Nucky and Logan. (Courtesy Matthew Dudley)

Matthew, 31, and Mara, 34, met through a mutual friend, who set them up on a blind date in the spring of 2016. The couple quickly bonded over their love of dogs.

“I never would’ve gone on a date with him if he didn’t like dogs,” Mara said.

Matt added: “It was a prerequisite, for sure.”

The Dudleys have two rescue dogs – Logan, a five-year-old mastiff mix, and Nucky, a seven-year-old mutt. The dogs had to be left in Clarksburg for the couple’s wedding weekend.

“Both of us have grown up with dogs in the home, and honestly it would feel empty without them,” Matt said. “We were away for three days and we couldn’t wait to get back to ours.”

Matthew and Mara Dudley shared their wedding day with 125 guests and 400 dogs. (Courtesy Daniel Gorman)
Matthew and Mara Dudley shared their wedding day with 125 guests and 400 dogs. (Courtesy Daniel Gorman)

They also found early on that they both loved the city of Williamsburg.

The pair have made the six-hour drive to Williamsburg several times since they started dating. Matt’s grandparents frequently vacationed in Williamsburg, and Mara’s mother and stepdad were engaged in the town.

The Dudleys were in King’s Arms Tavern in December 2016, visiting to see the holiday decorations at Colonial Williamsburg. A server suggested that the couple should return to town in the spring, to enjoy the warmer weather and greener scenery.

That’s when Matt got an idea.

“At that point in time I knew we have to come back [to Williamsburg], and that’s where I’m going to propose,” Matt said.

He proposed on their next visit to town, on April 29. For Mara, saying yes was a no-brainer.

“He’s the best human being I’ve ever met in my life,” Mara said. “It was a very simple decision.”

Matt and Mara Dudley are two dog lovers. During the photo session after their wedding, a stranger walked by with his dog. The newlyweds called him over and posed with the dog. (Courtesy Daniel Gorman)
Matt and Mara Dudley are two dog lovers. During the photo session after their wedding, a stranger walked by with his dog. The newlyweds called him over and posed with the dog. (Courtesy Daniel Gorman)

They said they settled on March 24, 2018 as their wedding date – the second anniversary of their second date, and first kiss.

Naturally, they settled on Williamsburg, a town they love, as a destination-style wedding.

The couple said they wanted to keep the wedding simple. Matt’s brother was the best man, his sister was the maid of honor, and 125 guests looked on as they said their vows. They then partied with friends and family in a five-hour reception at the Williamsburg Winery.

“It was too perfect of a day, to start off with that [parade] and then marrying the love of my life,” Mara said. “It was so corny and so Hallmark.”

They agreed it was a long day, but attending the DoG Street Strut was well worth it – and their visits to Williamsburg will continue in their married life.

“We hope this event continues on,” Matt said. “Tentatively, we intend on going next year.”

Mara added, “Hopefully next time we can bring our own dogs.”

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