Married on Super Bowl Sunday

Sabrina and Christian Regalbuto decided to turn the Eagles’ making it to the Super Bowl into their wedding day. (Courtesy of Sabrina and Christian Regalbuto)
Sabrina and Christian Regalbuto decided to turn the Eagles’ making it to the Super Bowl into their wedding day. (Courtesy of Sabrina and Christian Regalbuto)

On Sunday around sundown, more than 100 million Americans will pack into living rooms and basements; bars and neighborhood blocks; theaters and dormitories; and a futuristic downtown Atlanta palace for the biggest stateside sporting event of the year. They’ll watch Super Bowl LIII on flat-screens and projectors; laptops and desktops; tablets and the Yahoo Sports mobile app; and in person. They’ll watch with strangers or family; with throngs of friends or alone.

And a select few – a bold, or oblivious, or savagely self-important few – will be getting married.

Chances are you’ve never been invited to a wedding on Super Bowl Sunday. Because, as one owner of a planning company says, “it is similar to Christmas, Christmas Eve and Thanksgiving” in the world of matrimony. Winter Sunday weddings are uncommon in their own right. The first Sunday in February is among the most taboo wedding dates on the calendar. It appears on nearly every list of days to avoid, its social intolerability traversing regions, demographics and cultures.

Even for football agnostics, rare is the guest list that doesn’t include a Super Bowl watcher; rare is the event staff willing to work the most sacred of sports Sundays; and thus rare is the Super Bowl Sunday wedding. Yahoo Sports initially reached out to over 100 popular wedding venues. Not a single one that responded will be hosting nuptials on Feb. 3. And only one has put on a Super Sunday wedding in the recent past.

But they exist. In both dark corners of Sports Fan Hell and out in the open. Wedgewood Weddings, a California-based planning agency with 36 properties, will host five in 2019 – relatively few given the company’s scope, but not insignificant.

[Watch live: Super Bowl LIII on the Yahoo Sports mobile app, Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET]

There are, loosely, three categories of Super Bowl Sunday weddings. There are the mistakes – the dates chosen well in advance, the logistics of rescheduling upon realization too daunting to endure. There are the money savers – the low rates too tempting to pass up. And then there are the combo bashes – Super Bowl Sunday chosen intentionally for one massive, unforgettable, non-traditional celebration of football and family. And when it ends with a Lombardi trophy?

As you’ll see, packing two of life’s most memorable days into one can kindle unparalleled joy.

Making lemonade out of lemons

Shawna and Brian Mascarelli had trained their eyes on February. Specifically, the first Saturday in February. But when Shawna called the Edgewater Hotel in Seattle and was told Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 had been booked 15 minutes before she picked up her phone, Sunday the 2nd seemed like a viable alternative.

This was the summer of 2013, football as far as ever from her mind. Not until deposits were made and invitations distributed did the couple realize: “Oh, my gosh,” Shawna recalls. Feb. 2, 2014. Super Bowl Sunday.

They considered rearranging, but decided against. Then they watched as Shawna’s Seahawks and Brian’s 49ers ripped through the rest of the NFC, to the conference title game. After their respective divisional-round victories, a conflict for either bride or groom was inevitable. The Seahawks’ triumph put Shawna and dozens of local guests in a predicament.

Their solution was to embrace it. One “yes” RSVP backed out. Another snubbed her cousin’s big day to travel to New Jersey for the game. But 70-some people showed up to find a 65-inch flat-screen being wheeled from the cocktail lounge to the reception area; to the bride and groom’s table; wherever it was needed. Some brought Marshawn Lynch-inspired Skittles bouquets instead of flowers. Others eschewed button-downs for jerseys under suit jackets. Shawna wore a Seahawks garter. Brian, true to his colors even after defeat, wore 49ers cufflinks and a Ronnie Lott jersey beneath his tux.

(Courtesy of Shawna and Brian Mascarelli)
(Courtesy of Shawna and Brian Mascarelli)

For all involved – except Brian’s brother, an invested Broncos fan – the Seahawks’ 43-8 blowout of Denver was the rainbow over an evening more magnificent than anybody could have imagined. Shawna remembers waiting for her cue prior to the ceremony and “freaking out” as updates bombarded her phone. But those were the last stressful moments. The ceremony concluded before halftime.

The game, for all intents and purposes, had as well. For photos, the newlyweds escaped to an eerily deserted Seattle waterfront, an area usually swarming with tourists, but on this night serene. They then watched a delightfully calm second half. They celebrated with one “giant dance party,” the faint eruptions of fireworks and overflowing streets a perfect addition to the wedding’s soundtrack.

“At first, everyone was worried,” Shawna recalls almost five years later. “Oh my gosh, this is gonna be horrible, no one’s gonna focus on the wedding, no one’s gonna be able to properly focus on the game. But by the end of the night, everyone was saying it was probably the best Super Bowl party ever, and that the wedding was still beautiful.”

‘This is not about the Super Bowl. This is about us.’

Lorraine and Don Lieb chose Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, at Sterling Hills Golf Club in Camarillo, California, in part because of price. The Monday after locking in their reservation, Lorraine strode into work and happily informed her boss – who, in turn, informed Lorraine … ya know … Let’s just say Lorraine realized why she and Don had gotten such a great rate.

Never did they consider rescheduling. Lorraine recalls the rationale: “Let’s see who really loves us and will actually show up if they really care.” Most invitees did, though about half made some sort of Super Bowl-related remark. “People just couldn’t believe it,” Lorraine says. “Like, Did you know that your wedding’s on Super Bowl Sunday?!

And a few bailed, using sickness as an excuse. “One of them was a huge Dallas Cowboys fan,” Don says, sniffing out true motives. “And the other one, I don’t know who she was a fan of, but she was a big football fan. … Both of them were kind of flakes anyway.”

More noticeably, a sizable chunk of the 60 or 70-some guests didn’t exactly lend their undivided attention to the matrimony. Don and Lorraine declined to have the game shown on a TV above the venue’s bar. Says Don: “This is not about the Super Bowl. This is about us. They can pay attention to us.”

So some football fanatics took matters into their own hands – literally. Jason Barabasz came equipped with his cell phone, earbuds and a power pack (portable charger). His wife, Kelli – Lorraine’s boss – had given him the option of staying home. But, as he says a year later, “I’m not gonna send her to a wedding by herself.”

He wasn’t going to miss the game, though, either. His headphones, he says, “were in the entire time,” the only pause for a halftime recharge, the Eagles-Patriots shootout too captivating to miss. “When they were saying their ‘I do’s,’ I was watching the game on the phone.”

And he wasn’t alone. Nor was he surprised that his mobile stream made him one of the more popular guests, with other attendees periodically pestering him for score updates.

With the couple’s one-year anniversary approaching, even Don – who’s not a diehard NFL fan, but jokes, “I would root for ISIS against the Patriots” – has a confession to make.

“I’ll admit it,” he says toward the end of our interview, a hint of unease in his voice. “And I don’t know that I ever have until this moment, but … I snuck out a couple times and looked at my phone.”

Lorraine cuts him off: “You did!?! What?!”

Jason and Kelli were witnesses. “In between things,” Don explains. “I remember, we were sitting there eating, I snuck out when Lorraine wasn’t looking.”

Lorraine, in somewhat genuine disbelief, let out another exclamation before Don jokes: “This article’s going to cause us a divorce.”

But they laugh it off, just as they did any suggestion that the game would detract from their wedding. The greatest Super Bowl ever sped toward its climax around the time the bride and groom prepared for their speeches. Before his, Don checked his phone, and saw the 41-33 final. He gave a spoiler alert, then announced it to a room devoid of dedicated Eagles fans, but full of Patriot haters.

“Everyone erupted,” he remembers.

That eruption, though, was nothing like the one at Bensalem Township Country Club on the outskirts of Northeast Philadelphia.

(Courtesy of Sabrina and Christian Regalbuto)
(Courtesy of Sabrina and Christian Regalbuto)

Philly, Philly

Sabrina and Christian Regalbuto had been engaged for two-and-a-half years. But as block party festivities began and liquor started flowing on Jan. 21, 2018, fiancée and fiancé couldn’t agree on how to wed.

Until, that is, during the Eagles’ 38-7 rout of the Minnesota Vikings, Sabrina pitched the idea to Christian on a whim: Let’s get married on Super Bowl Sunday. As in, 14 days from now. With no prior plans in place.

On Monday morning, after sobering up and considering the borderline implausibility of organizing an entire wedding in less than two weeks, doubt crept in. “I kept going back and forth,” Sabrina says, “because I didn’t think we were going to be able to pull it off.”

But she found a dress midweek, and committed to the absurdity. For nine straight days, sleep was scarce. Parents took time off work. They hand-made football-themed decorations, from goalposts to styrofoam Lombardi trophies. They acquired Eagles balloons and personalized koozies and cheap green-rimmed sunglasses and pom-poms.

On gameday afternoon, soon-to-be-husband and wife walked down a hash-marked turf aisle lined by Nick Foles jerseys and retro replicas; an Eagles logo-checkered suit and tie; a “Philly Philly” shirt and a dog mask. They did so clad in a Reggie White jersey and Eagles shoes, respectively. The groomsmen and bridesmaids wore Birds gear. Christian’s dad officiated the wedding in full referee garb, and peered underneath a fake old-school replay hood after somebody threw a red flag to “challenge the validity of the kiss.” Thankfully, it was upheld.

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Most enthusiastically played along. Some members of Sabrina’s extended family were peeved by the unique spectacle. Two uncles departed after the ceremony to adhere to season-long rituals. A Cowboy-fan cousin-in-law outright refused to wear green, instead opting for a concealed Dallas jersey. The manager of the country club’s indoor hall, of all people, was a Patriots supporter and sported his colors. “I don’t think he stayed in the venue for too long,” Sabrina says with a laugh.

Once the “formal” portion of the day had concluded, a couple-hundred guests settled in to feast on cheesesteaks and chili and nachos and wings. They glued their eyes to TVs that had been transported from family members’ living rooms to the country club’s walls. Sabrina’s father built platforms on which to mount them. The hosts came through with cable. And then nerves set in.

NFL Films was present to capture the dramatic swings. To document Sabrina being told to “get the f— out of here” for superstitious reasons, then hearing the entire room explode as Foles found Zach Ertz for the go-ahead touchdown.

When Tom Brady’s Hail Mary fell harmlessly to Minneapolis turf, Sabrina all but collapsed into a chair, conquered by the emotional weight of the day.

It was the most preposterous of Super Bowl Sunday weddings, which to many is a preposterous concept in and of itself. But embrace the preposterousness, and it can bring unimaginable bliss.

“It’s still surreal that we pulled it off,” Sabrina says, reflecting.

Then she realizes the ambiguity of the comment, and clarifies.

“Both the Eagles, and us.”

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Henry Bushnell is a features writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell, and on Facebook.