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Stadium as wedding chapel

Bombers get into nuptials business

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So you've just performed your wedding vows, kissed the bride and someone gives you... 10 yards for holding?

Could happen, because the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are now in the -- wait for it -- marriage business.

Beginning this summer, the Bombers are offering wedding packages to get hitched at Investors Group Field with nuptials that could feature, upon request, the appearance of Buzz and Boomer. Or have Captain Blue driving his plane around your wedding party.

"Imagine having the bride come out of the tunnel, where the Bombers come out on game day," noted Bombers spokeswoman Kim Babij-Gesell. "Your groom is standing on the 55-yard line. You're hearing your wedding march playing over the loudspeaker as you come out. Right there, you're having a special moment."

The Bombers will have a booth set up at the Wonderful Wedding Show this weekend at the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg, with every intention of becoming a go-to destination for couples looking for the ultimate Hail Marry.

The wedding biz was the brainchild of new Bombers president and CEO Wade Miller, who has made a priority of finding as many marketing opportunities for IGF as possible. "I think it's a no-brainer to say we want to see this building full as many nights as we can," Babij-Gesell said.

At the same time, the Bombers are open to hosting ceremonies that have absolutely nothing to do with football whatsoever. "It can be as Bombery -- to make up a word -- or as non-Bombery as you want," Babij-Gesell said.

But the ultimate Bombers wedding would most certainly include a Blue and Gold-themed dinner, throwing mini-footballs instead of rice and posing with your betrothed on the 55-yard line.

Or what Jocelyn Best has planned.

Best, 23, has been a Bombers fan "since the womb." Her parents have been season-ticket holders since the 1980s.

'Imagine having the bride come out of the tunnel, where the Bombers come out on game day. Your groom is standing on the 55-yard line. You're hearing your wedding march playing over the loudspeaker as you come out'

-- Bombers spokeswoman Kim Babij-Gesell

And this is her engagement story: While attending a game at the old Canad Inns Stadium on July 28, 2011 with her boyfriend, Michael Franklin, the Bombers were trailing the B.C. Lions when Winnipeg's backup quarterback Alex Brink came off the bench to throw the winning touchdown pass. Fans, including Best, were going wild in the stands.

"When I turned to hug him, he (Franklin) was down on his knee," Best recalled. "That's when he proposed to me. I was crying. I was so excited that we scored the touchdown and won the game. And now I'm marrying my best friend."

Best had always hoped to finish the love story with a stadium wedding, but waited for IGF to be built. The plan is to hold the wedding either this summer or preferably in 2015, when the Bombers are bidding to host the Grey Cup.

The bridesmaids will be dressed in blue, Best said. The rings will be blue and gold. She wants a blue velvet cake with a football as a decoration.

"Pretty much anything we can get that's blue and gold we want," she said. "It will be an unforgettable day. That will turn it up to 11, to steal a line from Spinal Tap. It would be a day that I'll never, ever, ever forget."

The Bombers have put together packages starting at a base that includes a two-hour field rental, event staffing, chair rental and ribbon-board messaging. The bridal suite is the dressing room for the stars who perform at IFG, such as Taylor Swift. The groom's lounge, meanwhile, is the visiting team's locker-room.

For additional costs, weddings can include the use of the JumboTron for videos or slide shows or a post-ceremony champagne reception on the concourse while the bride and groom get their photos taken in the stadium's backdrop.

Asked if Buzz and Boomer could be part of a package, Babij-Gesell replied: "Sure. We can talk about any idea you have. The sky's the limit. When it comes to weddings, the options are endless."

Babij-Gesell said the Bombers have already received interest via Twitter and Facebook postings. But is a football-themed wedding really what many women want?

"Lots," she replied. "We have a huge number of passionate female Bombers fans. I'm one of them. I'm the son my dad never had."

In fact, when Babij-Gesell was married last summer, the ceremony had a Bombers theme. But at the time, IFG wasn't open for marriages.

"Every bride wants their wedding to be a memorable one," she concluded. "And what can be more unique than that? We want to become the premier place for weddings in Winnipeg. We certainly have the space. I don't think it's going to be long before Investors Group Field is going to be known as that place."

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 14, 2014 B1

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