Wedding Details: Sports Center

Planning a wedding means sharing what you love with your guests. And there are few loves that approach what true sports fans feel for their teams. Whether it’s golfing, sailing, baseball or even boxing, you can imbue the whole day with your favorite game. One of the best ways to get started is to make a bold statement by selecting a reception venue that’s all about sports.

Melissa Paul, a wedding planner and event stylist based in Wayne, says the first step toward planning a successful sports-based reception is to get some stats together. “The first question you have to answer is how many people are coming,” she says. “The number of people at your reception will determine your venue.” Once you’ve established the location, you can brainstorm clever ways to work the theme of your reception into the details.

Paul recently helped a pair of golf-obsessed clients work some small-ball into their Big Day with personalized golf balls serving as place cards and greens flags standing in as table numbers for their reception at the Four
Seasons Hotel. The couple enjoyed a rehearsal dinner the night before at a miniature golf course complete with hot-dog vendors and a microbrew bar.

Swing and a Hit
For a venue that expresses your love of sports, it’s hard to do better than Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park. Even Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb chose the space for a recent event. The home of the Phillies also houses the 12,500-square-foot Diamond Club, a top-shelf event space. If you’re particularly devoted to the Phils, you can hold your ceremony at home plate, provided it’s on an off-season day and the team isn’t running the bases.

With space for a dinner reception of up to 250 guests, the Diamond Club is catered by the Aramark Corporation, with service under the direction of chef Glenn Richmond. Joe Giles, director of business development for the ball club, and his staff can walk you through the options for table arrangements, linens and floral services. The fully stocked bar can keep your guests happy while a state-of-the-art sound system keeps them entertained.

But what makes this space particularly memorable are the little extras that remind everyone they’re in Baseball Central. You can arrange for the Phillie Phanatic to make an appearance. You can have a former Phillies player show up to chat with you and your guests and sign autographs. There’s a fantastic view of the ballpark. And the names of the bride and groom can be displayed on the giant scoreboard.

For smaller receptions, look at the Hall of Fame Club and the Executive Dining Room. For all three, Giles recommends booking in advance. “The sooner the better,” he says. “Our wedding program is expanding.”

Greener Pastures
One of the most popular sports-related reception venues is the golf course. With rolling green hills, majestic views and understated, elegant decor, the Pine Crest Country Club in Lansdale can infuse your day with this timeless sport. As a first step toward putting golf at the center of the reception, banquet manager Sherry Muir recommends organizing a golf outing the day before, perhaps as a bachelor party, or as an activity for the whole wedding party. “Sometimes it’s all we can do to keep the groomsmen from playing golf on the day-of,” says Muir.

If you’d like to hold your ceremony at the club, Muir suggests gathering your guests on the 1,800-square-foot deck outside the ballroom that overlooks the 9th and 18th holes of the course. Inside the ballroom, the club’s chef can cook up meals to your specifications, while the on-site Sports Bar and Grille is a place to relax with a drink and some light fare before the event.

The Main Event
If boxing rings get you as excited as swapping rings, look no further than Philly’s own Legendary Blue Horizon. Built in 1865 as a series of three mansions, this storied boxing club and event space is a piece of American history.

The site of the Rocky films and the upcoming Disney film Annapolis, the club is now operated by the nonprofit organization NIA KUUMBA. You can rent out either the Carmichael Auditorium or the Blue Diamond ballroom in five-hour blocks, a bit of flexibility that CEO and president Vernoca Michael says extends to the catering and floral arrangements. “At many venues, you’re bound to use their caterers or florists,” she says. “Here, you can use our caterers, or hire your own at no additional cost.”

Carmichael Auditorium, with a removable boxing ring at the center, is suited for a seated reception of about 1,500. The Blue Diamond Ballroom, with its raised and extending stage (perfect for a band or as a place to seat the wedding party), can handle between 100 and 500 guests.

“We recommend that people book as soon as they’re ready,” says Michael. “About a year in advance.”

Sail Away
With a grand view of the Commodore Barry Bridge and the Delaware River, the Corinthian Yacht Club in Essington is a sailing enthusiast’s dream. Founded in 1892, the club seats 60 in its main ballroom, and the entire venue seats 130.

“When you book the club, the whole club becomes yours,” says general manager Debbie Richards. “You can set your hours however you need them—there won’t be anything like a 4 o’clock reception coming in and forcing you to leave.”

Richards says a popular way to work sailing into your day is to hold your ceremony or a cocktail reception on a docked boat that can hold up to 60 guests for dinner. Or, enjoy dinner in the Yacht Club’s ballroom or beneath an outdoor tent along the river. Rack of lamb and crab cakes are popular choices from the kitchen, and Richards recommends booking at least six months in advance.