Couples planning their weddings don’t all envision holding them in a church or other traditional venue, but they still want a special site. For some, the perfect trip down the aisle may be a trip down the first base line.
At Fenway Park where the Boston Red Sox play, 25 to 30 wedding events are held each year; at Citi Field, home to the New York Mets, five or six are held; at Turner Field, home to the Atlanta Braves, 13 to 18, and at U.S. Cellular Field, where the Chicago White Sox play, four to five.
It’s a choice that often indicates they have a special connection to the game.
“Typically, they are people who met here at the stadium,” says Melissa McCants Azevedo, director of special events at the Charleston RiverDogs stadium, Riley Park, also known as The Joe.
A couple of receptions or rehearsal dinners take place at The Joe each year, but it’s not too unusual for a year to pass without a wedding, Azevedo says. Those who choose the park have variety of options inside.
“We could have it at home plate or anywhere they wanted,” she says. Vows have been taken on the pitcher’s mound and one was even taken in a dugout during a game (between innings). There are the stands or a covered picnic area, too.
Food often comes into play, Azevedo says.
“We usually do the catering. We did serve hot dogs at one. It was a ballpark picnic menu. We do have the ability to do high-end food. We don’t promote ourselves as wedding planners, but we can help.”
The cost ranges from $2,000 to $5,000, depending on the food and other factors.
Sarah and Nate Crowe married in Cannon Park but held their reception at The Joe in 2004. The two met at the stadium where they worked part-time.
The reception, attended by 75 people, was held in a sheltered picnic area above the bleachers on the third base side.
“It was awesome,” she says. “It wasn’t just a nice place for a reception. It was personal. The people who were helping were friends and they went a bit above and beyond.
“I wore a regular wedding dress and Nate was in a tux. We had a DJ and there were luminarias to light up the dance floor. We served shrimp and grits. It was very nice and very classy.”
Nate Crowe, who still works there, remembers some special touches.
“They had our names on the video board in the outfield and we had everybody sign baseballs instead of a guest book.”
Trisha and Nick Benzine of Atlanta are huge sports fans, but the only team they share a passion for is the Braves. Not wanting to marry in a church, they tied the knot at Turner Field in the fall and held their formal reception there, too.
“Having the entire field to ourselves, it was amazing,” said Trisha Benzine, 33. “The view was breathtaking. You were there at night. There wasn’t anybody on the field. It’s not something you get to do every day.”
After Red Sox fans Jeremy and Melissa Cantarow of Boston were pronounced husband and wife in a 2012 church ceremony, the couple and their guests headed to a formal evening reception at Fenway Park.
“We figured for people possibly seeing Fenway for the first time, this would be a great way to see it and would be a great introduction to the city and to sort of the heart of Boston,” Cantarow said.
Before the big day, however, the couple faced skepticism.
“Our parents were a little bit wary ... because it’s not very traditional and people were like, ‘Are you going to be eating hot dogs for dinner?’ ” said Cantarow, 27. “They couldn’t imagine it still being a formal wedding.”
The party was held in a luxury event space overlooking the field. There was a sit-down dinner at tables decorated with twinkling candles, pink peony centerpieces and gold Chivari chairs, to give the room a more bridal feel.
Many people don’t realize you can celebrate at a ballpark, said Anja Winikka, site director for TheKnot.com, though ballpark weddings have grown in popularity as more couples seek unique locations.
“It falls into the category where couples did away with the idea of a traditional venue and they went for something that was truly them,” Winikka said.
Each park has its own policies on when and where celebrations can be held, and sets its own prices. Fenway, for example, charges a $3,000 ceremony fee, $7,000 to use the EMC Club, where the Cantarows celebrated, plus the cost of food and drinks.
Ceremonies and receptions at ballparks can be fancy with a night of dinner and dancing, or kept casual and folksy. They can be infused with the aura of the game (picture Cracker Jack centerpieces), or not. But no matter. It seems that if you invite people to a ballpark wedding, be prepared for most everyone to accept.
Bridal couples (and their lucky guests) love to experience the stadiums and fields in a way few people do. Imagine saying your vows at home plate with your guests watching from the stands, posing for formal portraits atop your favorite team’s dugout, or seeing your names or photos on the giant TV screens.
Ashley and Cody Crank welcomed 200 guests to their reception at Kauffman Stadium last fall, some eight years after they took in a Kansas City Royals game on their first date.
Many friends, used to going to the stadium in a baseball cap, didn’t realize how elegant a wedding could be there, Ashley Crank said.
“We shocked a lot of people,” said Crank, 37, of Independence, Mo.
“It was so magical,” she said. “I wanted it to be kind of guyish for him, but then I still wanted an elegant wedding reception. So it was perfect for him and perfect for me.”
The Los Angeles Dodgers mean a lot to Holly and Jeff Lowzik, who grew up going to games and went together weekly for about a year while they were dating.
“It’s a very happy place for us,” said Jeff Lowzik, 35, of Canyon Country, Calif. For their wedding, “We were looking for a place that represented us as best as we could.”
They didn’t want to break the bank on a $5,000 home-plate ceremony. Instead, for about the same cost, they had 50 people to the stadium’s Loge Terrace on July 4, 2011, for a casual pregame ceremony and reception featuring Dodger Dogs, steak and potatoes and wedding cake.
For the Lowziks, being there during a game was the point of a stadium wedding.
“Doing it the way we did it, we’re at a game, this is the Dodgers playing, and we’re all there experiencing it and uniting ourselves,” Lowzik said. “It was a wonderful experience.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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