Is there a place for alpacas on your wedding day?


Alpacas are increasingly popular for wedding photos, but you don’t want them wandering around during the celebration itself. Photo: dpa/ Westend61

Of the many new fads that entered the wedding world in recent years, photo shoots with alpacas – fluffy, llama-like South American mammals – are among the quirkiest and are catching on fast.

From Canada to Japan, bridal couples are booking alpacas as an exotic motif for their wedding album. Alpaca farms even offer completely alpaca-themed weddings, says Fritz-Jurgen Hieke, chairman of the Alpaca Breeding Association Germany (AZVD).

“You can take so many beautiful pictures with alpacas,” says Hieke, who breeds the animals in the eastern German region of Saxony. But this requires patience to build the necessary trust. “These are human-oriented animals. But they’re watching what’s happening.”

If you want the alpaca feel comfortable at your wedding, plan well in advance and listen to the experts. While generally mild-mannered, the cute ungulates are not immune to tantrums and can spit if upset.

Visit the chosen alpaca farm ahead of time, and come the big day, don’t bring the whole wedding party to the photo shoot. Some couples bring an alpaca and handler to the wedding venue, but this is risky because being transported can stress the animal.

Sarah Kiehl from the Association of German Wedding Planners also advises against including the animals at the reception or planning a greeting with alpacas right after the ceremony: “I recommend that you keep it separate and just do it for two people on the day.”

Or have the photo shoot in the days after the wedding, clad again in your wedding outfits. This can remove some of the stress from the couple’s hectic wedding schedule and enhance their time spent with the animals, says Kiehl.

A separate photo session also means you don’t keep your guests waiting. Yes, newlyweds can slip away for an hour, for example, after the cake has been cut and people are enjoying their coffee. But a dash to an alpaca farm and back can throw a spanner in the works.

Even a conventional wedding shoot takes about an hour, says photographer Stephanie Kunde from the German Association of Wedding Service Providers. But as soon as animals are involved, including pet dogs and horses, allow half an hour more. “The owners are excited, which is infectious, and it takes longer,” says Kunde.

It’s worth discussing your ideas with the wedding photographer in advance. “There are of course people who may not have such an affinity for animals,” says Kunde.

Bear in mind too that outfits can get dirty. Photos with animals are risky for brides who want to keep their dress pristine. Alpacas can spit, although Hieke says he was only spat on once, by a stallion. Still, reduce the chances by not bringing any treats for the animals, which can cause spitting disputes among them. Nor should you bring the bridal bouquet. “These are herbivores and they might fancy a mouthful,” says the breeder. And not all flowers are edible for them.

It’s best not to approach the animals on the pasture but to wait until they approach you and then let them sniff. “The animals are curious,” says Hieke. “If one does it, the others will come too.”

If you want to pet alpacas as well as pose with them, go slowly. Once it allows you, don’t touch its fluffy head, but slowly stroke it from the neck towards the back. And don’t touch animals that are less than a year old, especially stallions, as they are still grasping interactions and can respond aggressively.

It seems like a lot of rules, but if you take all of this on board, you can take home a “relaxed, beautiful picture,” says the breeder.

Finally, you can send the alpaca photos to the guests as a surprise afterwards, perhaps with the thank you card. – dpa/Jessica Kliem

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