Ballpark weddings a big hit

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For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re … married?


A major league baseball stadium might be one of the last places you would consider for your fairytale wedding. After all, come game day, the ballpark is often filled with droves of beer-swilling and -spilling, hot-dog-chomping fans, resplendent in their home-team finery.


Some couples, though, find that the massive stadiums where they enjoy hearing the crack of the bat can also be the perfect place to hear their beloved say, “I do.”


When she chose a reception site for her wedding on June 2, 2012, Melissa Cantarow of Boston was mindful that most of her 150 guests were arriving from other states.


She and her fiance, Jeremy, wanted a unique location that would show off their city, and show their fun-loving friends and relatives a good time.


Once the Red Sox fans were pronounced husband and wife in a church ceremony, the Cantarows 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 of us getting married there 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.


“We tried to dress the room up so it wasn’t your typical sticky floors, draft beer” ballpark feeling, Cantarow said. “We wanted to give people an elevated experience of Fenway.”


Though Fenway only allows weddings on non-game days, the baseball lovers enjoyed snapping photos with World Series trophies and other baseball paraphernalia. Having the wedding at Fenway allowed an otherwise formal event to be “a little bit more fun and approachable and exciting,” Cantarow said.


Baseball fans have been celebrating nuptials at major league ballparks for at least five to 10 years, and while some parks have seen an increase, the numbers remain small. Fenway has 25 to 30 wedding events a year; Citi Field, home to the New York Mets, five or six; Turner Field, where the Atlanta Braves play, 13 to 18; and four to five are held at U.S. Cellular Field, where the Chicago White Sox play.


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 on Oct. 20, 2012, some eight years after they took in a Kansas City Royals game on their first date.


The couple, who married in a church ceremony, immediately went down to the field to take photos before retreating to a dinner inside. 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.”


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 on Nov. 3, 2012, 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.”


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.


By the third inning, the group sat down in regular seats amid 55,000 other fans to watch the Dodgers fall to the Mets. 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.”


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