Wednesday, July 19, 2006

8 Simple Rules For Planning A Sports-Friendly Wedding

I saw this story via Deadspin, and I have to give full credit to Micah Hart for bringing attention to a problem that all of us worry about - the weddings of our family and friends interfering with our lives as sports fans. Don't get me wrong, weddings are great, and we're always flattered to be invited. In fact, we don't mind shelling out money for a gift, giving up a significant chunk of our weekend, and often having to take vacation time, in addition to paying for travel and accommodations in order to be a part of your special day. We're happy to do that. But asking us to miss out on a major sporting event? That's going too far.

This is something I wonder about as I enter my mid-20s. I've attended anywhere between 1-3 weddings per summer each year for the past four years, mostly of older siblings and cousins. I'm now entering the period in my life where, for the next ten years or so, much of my social calendar will be filled with the weddings of family members, friends, and coworkers. I don't want to miss any of them, but I also don't want to miss a major sporting event. Of the two weddings I have attended so far this summer, one coincided with Game 1 of the Oilers/Ducks Western Conference Final, and the other with the World Cup Quarterfinals. (Note: the only thing I regret missing because of this was the excellent Germany/Argentina quarterfinal that I missed because I was flying to Ottawa while it happened. I'm fairly meh on Game 1 and France/Brazil, though Rogers Wireless made a nice profit from me checking the scores on my pda's web browser).

The point about me missing Argentina/Germany is critical, because weddings aren't just one day affairs, they often take up a whole weekend or longer. If you're part of the family, or wedding party, you have rehearsal dinners and day-after brunches to attend. And let's not forget about travel time and such. That's why it's best to follow the rules I will lay out.

Hart's own experience was sharpened when he missed out on George Mason upsetting UConn during the Elite Eight round of this year's NCAA Basketball tournament (he also missed Laettner's shot in 1992 because of a bar mitzvah). He outlines three times when people absolutely shouldn't get married. I'm going to build on that and try and determine when is appropriate, and inappropriate to be married, from a sports perspective.

Hart lists three times as absolute nos:

1. No Getting Married During College Football Season
In a vacuum, I would say there's flexibility, but you have to tread carefully. However, due to other guidelines that I will mention, pretty much all of the college football season is ruled out anyways.

2. No Getting Married During March Madness

3. No Getting Married During The Super Bowl
This one's a no brainer. In fact, I would expand it to say that no one should get married during the NFL playoffs, except for the bye week between the Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl.

So far, we've ruled out all of January, except for one, and three consecutive weekends in March. But we're just getting started.

Building on Hart's excellent suggestions, here are my 8 rules for planning a sports-friendly wedding.

Rule 1: The First Acceptable Time To Get Married During The Calendar Year Is The Off-Week Between The Conference Title Games And The Super Bowl
You don't want to conflict with the playoff games, so luckily for anyone who's chomping at the bit to tie the knot, the NFL schedule-makers provided a one-week window in which to do so. Take advantage, or hold your peace for the next few weeks.

Rule 2: Wedding Season Officially Begins After The Super Bowl
With football, both collegiate and professional out of the way, you have smooth sailing for a while. The only sporting events occupying your time are regular season basketball and hockey games, and meaningless all-star games in those two sports, as well as in football. Once every four years, the Winter Olympics take place, but unless someone close to you is competing in the games, that's no reason to delay your wedding. In any case, you should have a comfortable span of 4-6 weeks before our next impediment.

Rule 3: March Madness Is Sacred
The last two weekends in March and the first weekend of April are reserved for college basketball, no ifs, ands, or buts.

Rule 4: Tread Carefully Throughout April
Following March Madness, the lone sporting excitement occurs in the NHL and the NBA, where the regular season is wrapping up, and the playoffs are beginning. Your wedding could conflict with a do or die game for one of your teams (or the teams of your guests). If you're comfortable with that, go ahead. If not, it's best to hold off.

Rule 5: Wedding Season Goes On Hiatus At The End Of April
One of my favorite stretches in sports begins just around Arbor Day. The last weekend of April brings the NFL Draft, followed on the first weekend of May by the Kentucky Derby. By this time, we're fully into the NBA and NHL playoffs as well. It's safe to call a moratorium as long as these are going on, but if you insist, do it before the conference finals start. No one should have to miss a game from then on under any circumstances. By mid-late June, the playoffs have wrapped up, and baseball is left to carry the sports torch for the rest of summer.

Rule 6: Wedding Season Resumes Upon Conclusion Of The NBA Finals
With the playoffs out of the way, the sports calendar lightens up. Baseball season is going on, but the pennant races haven't truly heated up. Most years, this provides a solid two and a half months of down time in action, while all the other sports are going through training camp, or their draft and free agency processes. This is the perfect time to get married.

Rule 7: Every Fourth Year, Rule 6 Extends To The Conclusion Of The World Cup Of Soccer
This one's a given. Every game is so important, even in the round robin, and you don't want to miss any of them. This rule is especially salient if either the bride or groom are part of an ethnic community, particularly one that has a team playing in the World Cup. This rule also applies to the Euro Cup, held two years after every World Cup, but only if the bride, groom, or their parents are actually from a European country. Once you get beyond that, it doesn't apply.

Rule 8: Wedding Season Ends Labor Day Weekend
This actually has little to do with college football. I would say that you could get married up until Columbus Day, unless your wedding coincides with a rivalry game, or a major non-conference matchup (such as this year's Ohio State/Texas game). After Columbus Day, you're too deep into the conference schedules, and inevitably, there's a big matchup or rivalry game each week. However, Labor Day is also the beginning of the true stretch run in baseball. With only 8 of 30 teams qualifying, the pennant races mean more in baseball than in any other sport. In his book, Bill Simmons includes an essay from his old Boston Sports Guy site about going to Pittsburgh for a wedding the weekend of a Red Sox/Yankees series when the BoSox were fighting for their playoff lives. The essay does a great job of conveying the anguish he goes through wondering about how his team's doing while he's otherwise occupied. Would you want to put someone close to you through that?

After the stretch run, we get into the baseball playoffs, which you should never conflict with, then we're fully into college and pro football seasons. With the short regular season schedules, every game is meaningful, and you don't want to miss any of them. Unfortunately, there are no bye weeks for the entire league, so we're into January before you get your reprieve.

Bonus Rule: No Weddings Shall Be Held During The Week Following The Release Of Madden
Full credit to Grabia for coming up with this one.

So what have we learned? There is indeed an optimal time to get married, and the sports schedule is actually less restrictive than I thought it might be. There's a solid 4-6 week stretch in February and March, a short, if risky April season, then a 10 week or so period in June through August, which is the perfect time to get married. So it's possible to have a wedding devoid
of major sporting conflicts, where everyone involved can focus on the happy couple, and having a great time.

If I haven't convinced you to follow these rules for the sake of your guests, think about the karmic effect you might have if one of your favorite teams is playing in a high-stakes game that day. My cousin who got married earlier this month is a big fan of the Brazilian soccer team. His wedding happened to be taking place at the same time that they were eliminated by France. There has to be some karma at play there; at least, that's what I told him.

As a final comment, thinking back to all the weddings I have attended recently, only two couples have actually followed the rules I set out. Coincidentally or not, both grooms are sports fans, and incorporated attending a sporting event into their bachelor party activities. So congratulations to Bryce and Carly, and Mark and Janna, who according to the criteria set out in this post, are the smartest couples I know.


At 4:52 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Well, the U.S. National Target Championships and the U.S. National Diving Championships are on on August 5th, so I'm a little choked.

You also forgot to mention the always captivating La Grande Boucle.

And on a serious note, you forgot to mention the Madden release date. It's a floating date, but couples should really call EA and get a heads up before they plan anything, don't you agree? In fact, EA should have a set date, as a public service. Can you imagine sitting at your wedding thinking, "I could so be hammering Kimmis right now"? It would kill me.

At 5:09 PM, Blogger Alex said...

Oh shit. You're totally right. That's a major oversight on my part.

We'll add a Rule 9, excluding the week following the release of Madden.

At 8:32 AM, Blogger Kirks said...

Wow, I saw the title of your post Abboud and thought immediately that I was in the wrong. To my delight, reading through your post, I realized that it was all good.

Aside from the Target and Diving Championships, we are all going to miss the World Handball Championship in Sherwood Park on the weekend of the 5th. I did my best to move dates but there was a nagging feeling in my gut not to move the wedding a week later.

Good post Alex, it makes total sense to me but you forgot one other sport - Rugby World Cup to be played September through November of 2007. (Repeated every 4 years thereafter)

At 9:41 AM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

I wonder what Cricket fans have to endure in this regard, other than the fact that they are watching Cricket. It must be hard to pinpoint an exact date when matches can go on for an indefinite time.

At 10:23 AM, Blogger Alex said...

I went to high school with a South African guy who used to stay home from school to watch the Cricket World Cup. I seem to remember it happening in November or December, so cricket fans are covered for at least one major event by the existing rules.

I also realize that I completely overlooked the sport of golf. As an addendum to rule 4, you should probably leave the weekend of The Masters open, but for all other majors, only worry about it if you have immediate family members or close friends who are complete fanatics. For everyone else, there will probably be a TV somewhere in the club/reception hall where they can catch updates if they're that desperate.

Also, if you're from south of the Mason-Dixon line, you should probably avoid Daytona weekend in February, but you already knew that.

At 10:53 AM, Blogger Kyle Kosior said...

I have the good fortune of having a nice little fiancee who planned the wedding perfectly, so that no sports will be missed. I am even having a hockey game the day of the wedding, and the table numbers will be NHL teams, so that the tables will look like draft day!!

At 11:18 AM, Blogger Alex said...


That is the coolest thing I have heard in a long time, possibly ever. If there's space at the Boston Bruins table, can I come to your wedding?

At 6:29 PM, Blogger mudcrutch79 said...

Kyle -

Have you considered trading up?

At 8:57 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

I am even having a hockey game the day of the wedding, and the table numbers will be NHL teams, so that the tables will look like draft day!!

It would be great if you the guys could draft the women to their tables. You could even be the Commisioner, Kyle.

"With their first pick, the Columbus Blue Jackets take, from the University of Southern California, the hot blonde in blue with the nose piercing."

Then the crowd could boo or cheer the decisions. It would be fantastic.


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