`I-do' Dilemma

Four local spots are in the running to become the `Today' couple's wedding scene. Each has a nice ring to it, but which is best?

August 03, 2005|By Joe Burris | Joe Burris,SUN STAFF

There's the college campus, the historic landmark, the state capital and the beachfront property. Which will be selected as the wedding venue for Mark Dale and Sarah Raley of Southern Maryland?

The twosome was selected last month by viewers as the Today show Hometown Wedding couple. The morning show pays for the wedding and the public votes on everything from the rings to the honeymoon.

Now's the time to choose the site for their Sept. 16 wedding and reception. The four finalists are Evergreen House of Baltimore, the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club in Stevensville, the Annapolis City Dock and St. Mary's College of Maryland in St. Mary's City.

Officials at each site are boasting about what makes their venue better than the others.

"St. Mary's has a campus feel, but what makes Evergreen special is that it is a historic property," said Linda Blake, Evergreen's director of special events.

The 48-room mansion and former residence of ambassador John Work Garrett is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

But Marc Apter, associate vice president of marketing and public relations at St. Mary's College, Sarah's alma mater, is quick to say Baltimore is not the couple's hometown.

"We're encouraging everyone to vote for the hometown venue, St. Mary's College," he said.

Voting will run through noon tomorrow. (To cast your vote, log onto MSNBC.com.) The winner will be announced on Friday's show.

To help viewers make the call, we offer our own compare-and-contrast guide.

Evergreen House Baltimore

The bliss factor: The wedding would be held in a manicured garden surrounded by flowers and hedges leading to a marble fountain. Throughout the 48-room mansion are Tiffany lamps, vases and chandeliers.

The potentially unpleasant surprise: A bridesmaid could get lost wandering around the mansion, and no one would find her for days.

Location, location, location: Mark and Sarah's hometown is about two hours away, so the word "hometown" is being used loosely here.

Things that make you say "Awwwwwww!" The mansion's art-filled drawing room, with original paintings by Picasso and Degas, and a piano that Cole Porter played during a visit.

What Christi Barth, owner of Absolutely Weddings of Baltimore, says: "It's beautiful. It gives you a feeling of being a princess for a day as you walk down the staircase going to the garden. That's what every bride wants."

But will Katie like it? One look at the private theater designed by Russian emigre Leon Bakst, and Ms. Couric will be thinking, "future segment."

Odds of being chosen: Good. Clearly the most stately of the four sites. It would be the frontrunner if it were near the water, a preference for Mark and Sarah.

Chesapeake Bay Beach Club

The bliss factor: This is a popular wedding venue in Stevensville, known for its gardens, sandy beaches, boardwalk-like terraces and rooftop bar.

The potentially unpleasant surprise: Finding the best man stuck in traffic on U.S. 50 along with hordes of beachgoers.

Location, location, location: Mark and Sarah have said they're partial to the water, and this beats the others in that category.

Things that make you say "Awwwwwww!" The swans floating on the bay.

What Christi Barth, owner of Absolutely Weddings in Baltimore, says: "Everything about it, from the ceremony to the cocktail hour, is in a setting that's not posh and stuffy, so you feel relaxed. The Today show usually does morning weddings, and that will sit well with them."

But will Katie like it? Beachfront property is said to feature the best sunsets this side of the Grand Canyon. Heck, Katie may want to buy it.

Odds of being chosen: Best. Being on the water in a private location makes this tough to beat.

St. Mary's College of Maryland

The bliss factor: Give this locale home-altar advantage; Sarah, her brother and her father are alumni. It helps that the college was rated by Princeton Review as the second most beautiful in the nation. Family and friends live nearby.

The potentially unpleasant surprise: Classes begin Aug. 29. Imagine the horror of bumping into an old professor who gave you a lousy grade in your Romance languages class just before your wedding.

Location, location, location: For family and friends, it won't take much petrol to get there. Pricey wedding gifts all around!

Things that make you say "Awwwwwww!" Mark kissing the bride with the charming St. Mary's River in the distance.

What Christi Barth, owner of Absolutely Weddings in Baltimore, says: "It's a pretty campus. It's in their hometown, and being at home, they would be very relaxed."

But will Katie like it? She'll get scores of students begging for her autograph. Who said this had to be entirely the bride's day?

Odds of being chosen: Great, if you want a true hometown wedding. But if the Today show were picking up the tab for your nuptials, would you want an elaborate venue or something your folks could spring for?

The City Dock, Annapolis

The bliss factor: What sets this site apart is the reception: aboard the Catherine Marie yacht. Mark and Sarah would spend their first hours as husband and wife out on the water, dancing and partying with the Annapolis shore in the background.

The potentially unpleasant surprise: Having seagulls, tourists and floodwaters as uninvited guests during the ceremony.

Location, location, location: You've got the water, the Naval Academy, the State House and a steady stream of tourists.

Things that make you say "Awwwwwww!" See yacht mentioned above.

What Christi Barth, owner of Absolutely Weddings of Baltimore, says: "You can see the entire harbor, and you get a sea-setting feel. With the yacht part, being on the water is perfect. For them, it's a personality fit."

But will Katie like it? She loves mixing it up with crowds outside the TV studio, so this will feel familiar.

Odds of being chosen: Decent, but the Beach Club probably blows this out of the water.

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