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Eat, Drink and Be Married at the Ballpark

From coast to coast, couples are shirking tradition, choosing instead to tie the knot in stadiums.

April 21, 2002|CHRISTINE FREY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the season for baseball and brides, some couples are opting for a double play: At Dodger Stadium, the ring bearer presented the bands in a baseball mitt. At Camden Yards in Baltimore, the best man threw a ceremonial first pitch. At Comiskey Park in Chicago, bridal parties posed for pictures at home plate. At Edison Field in Anaheim, at least one couple married in the park's Hall of Fame, surrounded by team memorabilia.

Most stadiums have not actively advertised their parks to the bride and groom, but the construction of newer fields with nicer facilities and a trend toward nontraditional ceremonies have made the ballparks attractive to some as wedding diamonds. Not all stadiums are eager to play ball--Yankee Stadium is a reluctant sport--but many are happy to make alternative use of their fields on days not committed to Big League play.

Couples who marry at a ballpark are often returning to the place where they first met or had their first date. Some stadium employees do it for the convenience. Others simply seek a unique venue to host their own opening day. "People are looking for something different," says Genia Larson-Moore, director of sales and catering at Coors Field in Denver. "The ballpark offers something that everyone loves from every generation."

As she well knows. One day after the 2000 baseball season at Coors Field, her boyfriend asked her to accompany him to home plate. (Both worked for the stadium at the time.) There, he threw her a fastball. The scoreboard read: "Genia, my love, will you marry me?" When she said yes, the couple decided that "it didn't make any sense to go anywhere else" for the wedding, Larson-Moore, 25, recalls.

At their August ceremony, the couple hosted cocktails for 250 guests in the outfield. The wedding and reception followed in a picnic area just outside the playing field.

"I know that my wedding is going to be the talk for a long time," Larson-Moore says. And some couples step up to the plate for that very reason.

"It's not about doing what Emily Post says anymore," says Randie Wilder-Pellegrini, executive producer and president of Cordially Invited, Inc., in Beverly Hills.

Couples are planning less conventional and more personal ceremonies, preparing the reception meal with family recipes and creating table decorations with baby pictures, for instance. In keeping with this trend, event planners have seen couples move away from places where ceremonies have traditionally been held--churches or hotels--and choose locations that have more meaning to them.

"There is such a yearning on the part of engaged couples to have their wedding ceremony express themselves," says Lisa Hurley, editor of Special Events magazine. "Every element of the event articulates who those people are."

In 1996, when Susie and Brad Byers met for a blind date at Dodger Stadium, they weren't sure they'd get to first base. Five and a half years later, they went all the way. The couple, who describe themselves as being "more jeans-and-T-shirt than shirt-and-tie," wanted a traditional church wedding but not the traditional ballroom reception. At their November reception in the Dodgers Dugout Club, the caterer served Dodger Dogs alongside roast turkey breast. Tiny baseball bats and gloves dotted the icing on their three-tier wedding cake. And "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" played as the Cypress couple took to the dance floor for the first time as husband and wife. "It was traditionally untraditional," says Susie Byers, 29.

Since Levy Restaurants took over Dodger Stadium in 2000, the ballpark has hosted about five weddings and 100 receptions at its two restaurants, says Christine Wilson, sales manager at Dodger Stadium.

The upscale Stadium Club, with its white table linens and light wood paneling, overlooks right field. Only season ticket-holders can access the restaurant, which seats about 400, on game days. The Dugout Club, located behind home plate, is decorated with Dodger memorabilia, including the private photo collection of former team president Peter O'Malley and the 1988 World Series trophy. Neon blue lights and plush velvet chairs complete the decor.

Edison Field, home of the Anaheim Angels, hosted about a dozen weddings and receptions in its two restaurants and Hall of Fame last year, according to Nick Julian, premium service manager at the field. The Diamond Club features outdoor dining behind home plate, while the club level Knothole Club offers a view of the field.

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