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Weddings at ballparks a growing hit

    Die-hard fans and couples looking to do something different are picking ballparks as wedding sites. Nick and Trisha Benzine celebrated their marriage and their devotion to the Atlanta Braves by tying the knot at Turner Field. Their formal reception in 2012 was held there as well.

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 fairy-tale wedding. 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 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.

The party was held in a luxury event space overlooking the field. A sit-down dinner was served 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."

Baseball fans have been celebrating nuptials at major league ballparks for years, but 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.

Few people realize you can celebrate at a ballpark, said Anja Winikka, site director for, though ballpark weddings have grown in popularity.

"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 club where the Cantarows celebrated, plus the cost of food.

Ceremonies and receptions 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.

Couples (and their lucky guests) love to see 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, 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.

"We shocked a lot of people," said Ashley Crank, 37, of Independence, Mo. "It was so magical. 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 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."

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