To anyone driving past Citi Field on the last Saturday in March, that blaze of scoreboard color probably looked like some preseason lighting test. Actually, it was something far more electric.
Down at home plate, newlyweds Frank and Jackie Caputo were mugging in a sea of white satin and seed pearls. Around them, scoreboards proclaimed what was a megawatt moment for them and for the stadium. "INAUGURAL WEDDING, JACKIE & FRANK, 3.27.10," the signs flashed with a giddiness normally reserved for a David Wright homer.
"We were just amazed," Jackie said of the scoreboard show. "I don't think Frank has ever been happier."
It was the catering equivalent of a World Series trophy. Shea Stadium was wedding-less for its 44 years, but the New York Mets' new home boasts 18 party spaces that can - finally - accommodate everything from behemoth corporate trade shows to romantic nuptials. And for its first wedding, Citi couldn't have scripted a more fitting couple than the Queens-born, Long Island-bred Caputos.
Though Jackie, 32, is a baseball fan by marriage, Frank, 30, is a lifelong devotee. "One of the first games I went to at Shea was Game 6 in 1986," he said, referring to the legendary World Series contest when a nearly dead Mets team came back to life - and eventually to a world championship - aided by a bobble by Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner.
But even for someone who bleeds blue and orange, the likelihood of getting married on the Mets' home turf was about as high as the chances of pitching there. "Are you kidding? Not ever, not even in my wildest dreams, did I think this would happen," Frank, a salesman for a medical equipment company, said with a laugh.
All that changed last year after Frank's teenage cousin came home from a bar mitzvah at Citi Field and declared it a home run - mega-praise from a kid in the middle of the seen-it-all-done-it-all adolescent party whirl. "When he said it was the best party he'd ever been to, his face just lit up," said Jackie, who works in financial sales for MetLife. "We went to see it, and we knew this was it. It was beautiful and it was the Mets." "Oh, and it has nice view of the city, too," deadpanned Frank.
According to Heather Collamore, director of Metropolitan Hospitality at Citi Field, which runs all the non-game-day events at the stadium, in the year since it opened, Citi has hosted more than 100 shows and parties. The first weddings didn't happen until this season, though, because they usually take the longest to plan. "But based on the number of inquiries we've had, there should be a lot more," she said. (Yankee Stadium has had two weddings, with a third set for this summer.)
Though Metropolitan Hospitality can incorporate as much baseball imagery as a couple wants - former Mets shortstop Bud Harrelson at the cocktail hour, say; Mr. Met mingling on the field; the Pepsi Party Patrol firing T-shirts to the guests - the Caputos' wedding was fairly restrained. For starters, there were no Mets jerseys, just Jackie's sweeping Elma Reis gown, which her sister Janine wore for her own 2007 wedding. "She got married shortly after my mother passed away" Jackie said. "My mother loved that dress, and I loved it and I wanted to wear it." (Later, she changed into a short frock from Justin Alexander's "Pure" line.)
More, the couple had their actual ceremony not at home plate (it's permitted), but at St. Aidan's Church in Williston Park. Afterward, the bridal party of 24 - including Frank's twin brother (a Yankees fan) and a raft of cousins and childhood friends - headed by white trolley to Citi for the reception. Inside, the Acela Room, one of the stadium's major catering venues, was set for 270 guests and swathed in miles of sheer green fabric, an idea inspired by artist Christo's 2005 exhibit that draped Central Park in orange nylon.
The mahogany tables were outfitted with green runners and low vases filled with green and purple flowers (which matched Jackie's purple peep-toe pumps).
Of course, this isn't to say the pair, who met about 10 summers ago while working at the Crescent Beach Club in Bayville, ignored the fact that they were in one of the most sizzling new stadiums in the Major Leagues. The moment the Caputos arrived on this cool evening sandwiched between two stormy ones, a trolley ferried them to the field, where giant screens flashed their engagement portrait to their guests. At home plate, they received personalized Mets jerseys. And at Fanwalk, they dusted off their Jackie & Frank inaugural-wedding brick.
They raced out to the LIRR station to take portraits. They zipped into the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, with a terrazzo floor, to take wedding party snaps. And they kicked back in three luxury boxes that were turned into private bridal suites for the evening. There was even a touch of Mets orange-and-blue - in the gift paper used to wrap the engraved Rawlings baseball bats that Frank gave each of his groomsmen and in the plastic ice-cream-filled Mets caps on the dessert tables.
In the end, it was the perfect mix of the sentimental and the sublime. "The room is very modern and clean, with beautiful pillars and floor-to-ceiling windows," Jackie said. "It was just so charming and beautiful. On the city side, you can see the airport and watch planes taking off. On the stadium side, you see the field."
Of course, since this is the home of the Mets, it would be impossible to get by without at least one allusion to the team's bumpy history. For the Caputos, that came courtesy of comic Jimmy Fallon, who joked about the party a few nights later on his late-night show: "On Saturday," he said, "two Mets fans became the first couple to have their wedding reception at Citi Field. . . . Yeah, you could tell it was the Mets' Citi Field because when the bride tossed the bouquet, nobody caught it."
Not true, of course. But, for the Caputos, it was part of their fantasy baseball memory.
To get married at one of the New York Stadiums
CONTACT: Heather Collamore, director of Metropolitan Hospitality at Citi Field, 718-507-3663, or via metropolitanhospitality.com
TEAM ROSTER: With 18 spaces on six levels, weddings can be customized for anywhere from 25 to 6,000 people (that's almost one-seventh of the park).
PARTY IN BLUE AND ORANGE: You can start with small Mets touches - say, hot dogs and ice cream. You can go big - get married behind home plate while cameras project bridal images on the outfield screens. Or knock it out of the park - a Mets Legend to mingle during cocktails or Mr. Met and the Pepsi Party Patrol to hand out T-shirts to guests.
ONLY IN NEW YORK: At dinner, gaze at the city skyline while watching planes taking off and landing at nearby LaGuardia Airport.
CONTACT: Emily Hamel, director of non-baseball events, at 646-977- 8400, or e-mail: email@example.com.
TEAM ROSTER: With 23 event spaces, which can be used solo or in combo, the Stadium can handle weddings of 40 or 400.
PARTY IN PINSTRIPES: The motto here is, "Make our history part of yours" - and they take it literally. You can get married with all the Yankees trappings you want (well, maybe not Derek Jeter). Among them, a Yankees legend to greet guests; a tour of Monument Park; use of the center field scoreboard to display photos or welcome partygoers. Home-plate wedding ceremonies are out, but the Delta Sky 360 suite, which overlooks the field, pinch-hits nicely.
ONLY IN NEW YORK: Arrange to have the World Series trophy on hand for photos.