Exotic animals becoming new must-have at weddings

Dec 20, 2014 1:12 PM by CBS News

When it comes to weddings, many people think bigger and bolder is better. And recently that has meant a wild ceremony involving exotic animals, which has lead to some logistical and legal issues, CBS News' David Begnaud reports.

When dreaming of a perfect wedding, nothing says love quite like - llamas?

"I never would have thought ever in a million years that two llamas would have shown up at my wedding," said Kim Ziem.

Llamas Paintball Pete and Serendipity wore matching tuxedo bibs as they stood witness to Kim and Garette Ziem's "I do's" on a beach in Florida this year.

"There was a lot of screams, laughing, just 'Oh my God,' and it was a great surprise for everybody," Garette said.
Exotic animals are becoming the new must-have for couples seeking that "wow" moment to make their wedding unforgettable.

There's even a penguin proposal at the Cincinnati Zoo, where Kyle Guthro asked his penguin-crazed girlfriend, Kelly, to marry him. She did.

In Las Vegas - where opulence is in good company - a groom of Indian descent rode atop an elephant in front of the Bellagio hotel. Some 10,000 guests danced around Tai, the 4.5-ton animal thought to bring good luck.

Tory Cooper was the wedding planner.

"It's part of their culture, and when I stand back and look at it, and I'm a part of it, how can you say anything but wow," she said.

How much was that elephant?

"Elephants cost $10,000 to bring to Las Vegas," Cooper said. "Exotic animals make for a high-end wedding because they're hard to get approval or to be able to make them come to the middle of the desert."

The Bellagio required Tai's owner to have a mutlimillion-dollar insurance policy before the elephant was allowed on site. In fact, any animal used in weddings must be licensed and monitored by the federal government. Owners of exotic animals must file a travel itinerary and ensure there's enough distance between the animal and the public.

At the Lion Habitat Ranch in Las Vegas, couples looking to get married, or perhaps have their wedding, can come and get right inside a Jeep near Bentley the lion. A handler throws a piece of steak so that hopefully he'll get in just the right position for that perfect shot. Sometimes it takes a few pieces.

What's the draw?

"Well, it beats going to Africa, lot cheaper," said Keith Evans.

Evans owns the Lion Habitat Ranch that is now open to couples looking to add some roar to their vows.

"It's become more popular to do different over-the-top weddings because everybody has a wedding photo, so they want something that nobody else has," he said.

In Huntington Beach, California, they don't want any exotic animals used as entertainment at weddings. They've had a law since 2002 banning it.

So earlier this year when an elephant was used in a wedding there, the city was not impressed.

Jill Hardy is the mayor.

"The hotel had given permission for the wedding," she said. "They knew better. We know that we had told them that this was not allowed."

No citations were issued. But it's a reminder that when it comes to weddings with exotic animals the laws may vary and the choices may be costly, but the reactions are as priceless as the memories made.

"It was the best and biggest surprise of my life," Kim Ziem said. "And it made an amazing day so much better."

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