It has been the venue for many great encounters over the years, but last week Barn United FC’s Haslett Park hosted a match of a different kind.
Carrickfergus newlyweds Lesley and Gary Patterson became the first couple to tie the knot at the Amateur League side’s home grounds on Friday past.
And for Gary, who plays in defence as centre-back for the club, the venue was a complete surprise until the day of the wedding.
Speaking to the Carrick Times, Lesley said: “We’ve been together 17 years and we’ve been engaged for a long time. We had started looking at hotels last year, and it was Gary who had mentioned getting married at the club.
“I honestly didn’t think it would be possible, but I thought I’d look into it myself. I asked the club committee, and found out that it would be fine as long as the pastor [who performed the ceremony] was registered.
“I thought to myself, why not? It was just something different and I knew it would mean a lot to Gary.”
Keeping the venue a secret from her groom-to-be, however, proved to be difficult in the run-up to the nuptials. “Obviously I had to put [Haslett Park] on all the invites, but I had a ‘don’t tell the groom’ sticker on the back,” added Lesley.
“There were a couple of times when people nearly let it slip.”
But thanks to careful preparation, Gary remained none the wiser over the plans until the wedding car delivered him to his beloved club’s grounds.
“I think he couldn’t believe that I’d done it!” said Lesley.
The wedding ceremony kicked off on Friday afternoon right on the pitch, officiated by Pastor James Clarke from Carrickfergus Community Church.
Some 84 guests were in attendance to witness the happy occasion as Lesley and Gary, both 33, made their vows.
And for the bridal party it was a family affair, with the couple’s son Jack, 14, giving Lesley away, while three-year-old daughter Lexi was flowergirl.
The sporting theme was continued during the reception in Barn Social Club as guests enjoyed a unique football wedding cake and cupcakes in the team’s colours.
Even the seating plan was inspired by the soccer outfit, with each table named after a player.
Meanwhile, a touching tribute to a Barn United stalwart will be revealed ahead of this Saturday’s league opener at Haslett Park.
The family of Tommy Craig, a former chairman and honorary member of the club, will unveil the refurbished stand, named in his memory.
Read more on this story here.