Want a unique wedding idea? How about a couple of party animals?
The llamas and alpacas of Classy Camelids spread joy wherever they go. In their day jobs, they work as therapy animals, but sometimes they get to party by helping couples celebrate their weddings. Owner Shannon Joy spoke with us about how the idea for Classy Camelids came to be and what her animals can bring to your wedding. Read about other unique wedding ideas in our third issue.
Where in the world did the idea for Classy Camelids come from?
As with much of our farm’s history, the idea for Classy Camelids came from a desire to share our incredibly social and sweet llamas and alpacas and the desire of Portlanders to keep inviting us to their most memorable life moments.
In 2007, my mother (Lori Gregory) and I, had our llama, Rojo, certified through DoveLewis Animal Hospital to share as a therapy llama because of the sheer delight we saw on everyone’s face who met him.
After taking him to nursing homes and special-needs daycares and schools, we were hooked in the therapy world of bringing joy through the body of a llama everywhere we could.
After attending a few weddings, kids birthdays, and corporate events, I was beginning to realize that our animals add great value to wherever they go and we volunteer our time for the therapy work we do. So, Classy Camelids was born. It’s our way to help share the love and the word of our non-profit Mtn Peaks Therapy Llamas & Alpacas through an entertainment LLC, having one fund the other. It’s a win-win all around.
What kinds of couples come to you and why?
I have found our couples to be only the kindest, most understanding, and fun-loving people! I honestly want to be best friends with nearly all of them, and a lot of the time, we remain in touch after their wedding because fans of llamas are just cool people. As for the why? They just love llamas! And/or alpacas. Or they’ve seen our animals before and want to support our farm and give the gift of smiles to their friends and family.
Most couples are super aware of what we do in the community for therapy, that their support extends to their wedding. On more than one occasion have we gotten to follow up with couples as they reveal they’re pregnant, the gender of their baby/ies, and first birthdays. It’s such a treat to call our clients friends, often even before their wedding day.
How might couples customize their wedding llama experience to fit in with their wedding?
At Classy Camelids, our animals are so calm, cool, and collected, that we are happy to accommodate as best we can whatever the couples have in mind. Some go as far as to have their llamas/alpacas walk the aisle with a wedding party member or flower girl to carry the rings down or be a furry witness.
My favorite is to encourage couples to have us present for cocktail hour. We have the animals arrive mid-ceremony so I can sneak them in to where they will meet the couple immediately after saying I Do and leaving the aisle.
This is the perfect 10-15 minute time frame that guests are transitioning to cocktail hour, so the couple gets their own llama/alpaca photo time. Then, the animals get walked in to surprise friends and family with the most unique photo op. When it’s time for the reception to begin, the animals leave and the party is full of energy for the rest of the evening.
Do you have any advice for couples who want to make sure their wedding is fun and engaging for their guests?
I don’t think many couples realize how long a cocktail hour can feel to many guests, especially those who may not drink or are a part of the immediate family. It’s the hour you’re so excited your friends or family members just got married and you go from being super hyped and excited for them at the ceremony, to them disappearing for a full hour while you’re left to get tipsy enough to take advantage of the photo booth or wait until you can have a seat next to someone and small talk with over dinner. Gifting guests something engaging are things that they can take advantage of during this time the couple needs to enjoy being married before entertaining 150 guests.
But when llamas/alpacas are there, you forget the couple isn’t! It’s the most perfect distraction to bond guests over and creates this instant inside joke amongst everyone who was at the wedding to connect over.