If you’re going to get married at home plate, who better to be a groomsman than Johnny himself?
Yeah, that Johnny – the one with the goofy grin who wears an oversized pot on his head.
It was all part of the plan for one recent bride and bridegroom who chose Parkview Field, home of the Fort Wayne TinCaps, as a wedding venue.
Holly Raney, the park’s special events coordinator, says more than five dozen couples have had their weddings or receptions at the ballpark since 2009. But the fact that it’s possible to have nuptial events there is one of Fort Wayne’s better-kept secrets.
Usually it’s mothers who call, and they’re very hesitant, she says. They’ll say something like, I’ve hear d you can have a wedding at the park. Is that really true?’ We’re still considered a new place in Fort Wayne to have a reception.
Raney says couples often say they chose the venue either because they had a connection to the TinCaps or to baseball itself. Some have told her they had their first date or marriage proposal at the park.
Some brides just say it’s a pretty location, and grooms tend to say If I can have my reception in a ballpark, I’m down with that,’ she says.
One couple, Zachary and Lisa Spears, was steered to the park by the groom’s mother, Mary Ann Jordan of Fort Wayne. After learning about the ballpark’s spaces for entertaining while seeking a venue for an anniversary party for her in-laws, she thought it would make a fitting setting for her son’s wedding in March.
She says she was delighted. The couple had their ceremony on the concourse, which was transformed into the dance floor for the reception and featured a spectacular view of the city skyline.
Very elegant, she says. The pictures were fantastic. With all the backgrounds, it was great.
Raney says the reason the ballpark can serve as a wedding venue is it’s designed with several areas for gathering and dining.
The Suite Level Lounge has 5,000 square feet with an upscale bar, seating for 200 and a view of the field and the downtown skyline. A portable dance floor and video and sound systems are options.
There’s also the Lincoln Financial Event Center, about the same size and able to be divided into four rooms. The Main Concourse can be set up for dining for several hundred under cover. The Centerfield Amphitheater is another option.
An additional venue, The 400 Club atop the center field wall, opens this week. With a climate-controlled seating capacity of about 200, it should be ready for wedding-related events as early as year’s end, Raney says, noting the park also can host bachelor or bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinners and pre- or post-wedding brunches.
Couples can be married in any of the gathering areas or on the field – with a caveat or two.
One of the rules is that the girls can’t wear high heels on the field, because we don’t need brides to aerate our field for us, Raney says with a laugh. Bare feet or ballerina flats or wedges are fine, she says.
Couples also have to plan their weddings around the TinCaps’ home schedule. Many weddings take place in the offseason, but they also can happen on away-game weekends.
And, people being married must arrange for their own officiant – Johnny isn’t licensed to perform marriages.
But, Raney says, he can show up for the celebration, and virtually any other detail can be incorporated.
Some couples have run pictures on the big-screen during the reception. Others have ordered baseball-themed menus, including mini-dogs and brats, sliders, popcorn and beer. Still others have had formal, sit-down filet-mignon dinners prepared in the ballpark kitchen.
For a fee, a videographer can post live video on closed circuit big-screen TVs so you can stay in your seat and watch the cutting of the cake or the first dance, Raney says. Batting cages can be opened up, which usually hits a home run during bachelor parties.
Couples can even top off their day with a fireworks display. That’s one of our signatures, Raney says.
Costs for a reception generally are $4,000 to $7,000, which is about middle-of-the road for Fort Wayne, Raney says. But because the park is open to the public for free on off-days, sometimes couples stop by just for pictures.
While the park has staff members who meet with the couple and oversee every detail, Raney says folks who get married there tend to be laid-back about such things.
I notice that a lot of our brides are much more light-hearted than you’d expect for a typical wedding, she says. If you’re going to have it at a ballpark, you’re more about the party than 1,001 details.