Courtesy of the Jacobs family

A llama at a wedding fulfills a 5-year-old promise.

When Brian Jacobs’ brother announced he was engaged, there was no question he and his family would make the drive from their home in Southfield to the wedding in Cleveland, where the bride and groom live. It was also “a given” that a 5-foot-plus llama would be there, too.

“When my brother told me there was going to be a llama at his wedding, I wasn’t sure it would really happen and didn’t think about it again — until I saw it,” said Jacobs.

Plans to invite the fuzzy, long-necked guest go back five years to when the bride’s brother, Mendl Weinstock, teasingly told his sister he would be bringing a llama as a guest when she decided to get married. To get him to stop hassling her, Riva Weinstock told him to go ahead with the all-in-fun plot.

Through the years, Mendl reminded Riva of his promise. He called a llama farm the very day she became engaged to Jacobs’ brother, former Detroiter Avi Eisenberg, last October.

Not backing down despite Riva’s hopeless pleas, Mendl agreed to a compromise. The llama would be invited, but the bride would pose with him for one photo only and would neither touch nor even stand next to him.

And she stuck by her convictions, making a deliberately disinterested expression for the camera. But other guests, including the Jacobs family, made no such promise for their actions at the March 1 festivities.

“Joining the line to have our pictures taken with it became a big priority,” said Jacobs, who owns Jerusalem Pizza in Southfield with his wife, Rivka. They attended the wedding with daughters Gabriella, 16; JJ, 15; Elianna 13; and Danniella, 8½ months. “Danniella even sat on his back for one.”

Gabriella, too, said her first thought after hearing about the llama was to get her parents and sisters and pose for pictures.

“While I was getting my hair and makeup done, I heard the bridesmaids come back into the room talking about it,” she said. “I had to run out and see it. When I saw it, I didn’t believe it. It was a llama. In a tuxedo. And it had a kippah on!”

Jacobs said his brother was aware the surprising guest and its two handlers would be attending the wedding, but he did not know it would arrive in formal attire, specially commissioned by Mendl. “The llama was more dressed up than I was,” Jacobs said.

Even though llamas are thought to be well-socialized, very friendly and even fun animals, Shocky the llama’s photo shoot took place outside. Inside, two giant inflatable llamas were placed on chairs at the bride and groom’s table.

Photos of Riva, Mendl and Shocky have been shared in print, on TV, online, and through social media, including one on that has received more than 159,000 upvotes, all of which helps spur the bride’s need for payback on her brother.

For Elianna Jacobs, though, it makes her think of the excitement of a longtime plan. “At my wedding,” she said, “I’m going to have a cool surprise and make it go viral, too.”


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