Bobby and Laura Burling wedding photo
Rebecca Arthurs Photography

When planning the biggest day of your life means fitting it around the soccer season

When it comes to choosing a date for your wedding, the window of opportunity is pretty wide.

There are 52 weeks in the year, and - give or take public holidays - more than 360 available days.

Pick a day, more often than not at the weekend, with the only requirement invariably being that the ‘big day’ take place during the summer months.

But what if your job requires you to work most weekends between February and November? What to do if the wedding window is only ajar from December to January, when white weddings risk being set against a wintry-white back-drop?

That is the conundrum faced by every player in MLS, and one which brings its own, unique challenges.

Rapids defender Jared Watts tied the knot during the offseason. His new wife, Ali, has family in Florida, and so it made sense for the wedding to take place in the Sunshine State, in Islamorada on January 7.

“It’s kind of funny,” Watts said. “You look around at all these guys in MLS and they all have around the same (wedding) anniversary, ‘cause you can squeeze it in during the offseason.

“The wedding was in Florida, and a lot of Ali’s extended family are in Florida, so it worked out for them, and it was a warm place to be in January, but I kind of just said ‘yes’ to whatever she wanted me to do.”

Watts is not alone, as he pointed out. Others on the Rapids roster to plan their wedding around the MLS season include Bobby Burling (January 18), Sam Cronin (December 10) and Alan Gordon (December 12). Indeed, Burling and Gordon held their weddings in the same resort in Maui - Olowalu Plantation House - a little over five years apart.

“We have a two-month window,” Burling said. “And you never know what weather you’re going to get, and one of our things was, hopefully, for warm weather, no rain … and we got that in a destination wedding.”

December and January is a busy period for MLS weddings, and Burling has had his fair share of invites.

“Dan Kennedy’s was in Santa Barbara,” Burling recalls. “That was one of the better ones, just ‘cause he went to college there in Santa Barbara, and acted like he was the mayor of the town, which he kind of was, so it was a great wedding.

“Ante Jazić was another (Chivas USA) teammate and good friend of mine, whose was probably one of the first offseason weddings that we attended, again in California, up in the wine country.”

Due to travel plans the towering Rapids center back was unable to make it to the wedding of Watts or Ben Zemanski during this past offseason. Burling also played at Chivas USA with Zemanski, who is now at Portland Timbers.

Though some players do walk down the aisle during the season, these are few and far between, with players having to await the schedule release before carefully selecting a bye weekend or international break.

In a rare break from the norm, Burling was a part of Sacha Kljestan’s wedding in June 2012, but only because he was - in his own words - “in a contract hiatus with the league”. In between clubs, Burling was able to join the special occasion during the MLS season. Kljestan, now at New York Red Bulls, was then playing at leading Belgian club Anderlecht and his season was over.

The same goes for Irishman Kevin Doyle. He was enjoying the European offseason when he married Jenny at Holy Trinity Abbey Church in Limerick in early June of 2010. This came five years before his move to Colorado, when he was with Wolverhampton Wanderers.

But even then, had the Republic of Ireland not lost in controversial circumstances to France in a World Cup playoff, then Doyle would likely have spent much of his offseason in South Africa, and the wedding window would have narrowed even further.


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