After years of attending weddings and receptions, Jennifer Janas knew she wanted “something different and unique” for her Nov. 7 nuptials to Rick McKenzie, a 43-year-old senior mechanical designer at Middough Associates, an engineering firm in Cleveland. The Parma residents were huge sports fans — a shared interest Jennifer used to lure Rick into a romantic relationship by repeatedly inviting him to use the “extra ticket” she had to Cleveland Browns, Cavaliers and Indians games. So, she thought a sports-themed event was appropriate.
Still, the 2 p.m. ceremony at Ridgewood United Methodist Church in Parma was fairly traditional. The only indication of the theme was the bridesmaids’ and ushers’ attire. Each of the five women wore a spaghetti-strapped black satin dress from Dora’s Bridal & Formal in Fairview Park with a satin sash around the waist, the color of which served as a tribute to one of the couple’s favorite teams: orange for the Browns, wine for the Cavs, red for the Indians, silver for the Ohio State Buckeyes and green for the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. They also carried a dozen Gerber daisies in the corresponding team’s colors. Each of the men was dressed in a black tuxedo with a vest and tie that matched one of the bridesmaids’ sashes.
“Notre Dame’s colors are gold and navy,” acknowledges Jennifer, a 33-year-old marketing coordinator at the Austin Co., an architectural design, engineering and construction company in Mayfield Heights. “But [the school] sometimes has gear in green. We chose the green because it stood out a little bit better.”
The tone of the event changed as soon as the bride and groom were pronounced man and wife. Guests waved rally towels provided by the Cavs as the couple walked out of the church. At Michaud’s Towne ’n’ Country party center in Strongsville, they sat at tables with names such as Bernie Kosar, LeBron and Grady Sizemore. At each seat was a mini pennant place card, program with profiles of the coaching staff (the bride and groom’s parents) and players (bridal party) and a cellophane bag containing bags of peanuts, popcorn and Cracker Jack. Attached to the bag was a thank you note written on the back of a “baseball card” with a picture of the bride and groom on a mock cover of Sports Illustrated. Attendees deposited cards in a Gatorade cooler and signed a football, basketball, baseball and baseball bat.
The bridal party’s arrival was marked by an introduction of each player. Guests cheered as the DJ hammed it up with announcements such as, “Standing in at 5-foot-3, out of Kent State University, bridesmaid and sister-in-law of the groom, Jjjeeennnnnn Markle!” Jennifer and Rick then made like LeBron James, throwing up handfuls of powder before a buffet dinner of grilled chicken breasts and beef tips.
After the bridal party danced to Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” — a song played during halftime at every Cavs home game — they participated in a T-shirt toss, heaving garments provided by the Cavs into the crowd of guests gathered around the dance floor. Each guest also received a Grady Sizemore bobblehead provided by the Indians and a souvenir cup provided by the Browns. Jennifer and Rick insist they never reconsidered including the Indians and Browns in their plans, even as the teams struggled through their respective seasons.
“We’re lifers, no matter what,” Rick declares.