|Chaim and Shelli Sussman walk through an honor guard at their wedding Sunday at Citi Field. Aliza Fischman|
Shelli Hoffman, 23, and Chaim Sussman, 31, weren’t planning to be starting players at the N.Y. Mets stadium in Queens. But a gag turned into reality as they stepped up to the plate – er, chuppah – for the first Jewish wedding at Citi Field on Feb. 13.
“We were looking at different halls online, and Shelli mentioned that Terrace on the Park overlooks Shea,” said Sussman, using the old name for the stadium. “As a joke, I said, ‘Why don’t we just look into Citi Field?’ She filled out the application, and they actually got back to us. Then we went for a walkthrough and fell in love with the idea.”
The Jewish Standard caught up with Sussman by phone two days before the wedding, as he took a final trip to firm up arrangements in Queens.
Sussman, a teacher at Yavneh Academy in Paramus and a lifelong Teaneck resident, traces his infatuation with the baseball team all the way back to Dwight Gooden’s historic 1985 season. So maybe it wasn’t surprising that he chose a bride who also roots for the “the Amazin’s.”
“We each have a Mets jersey with our name on the back, and Mets hats,” said Sussman, who also – of course – booked the Mr. Met mascot for the occasion.
Hoffman, a day-school teacher in Yonkers, is now living in Teaneck with her new husband. Her mom, Debra Hoffman Brill, also lives locally, as do Sussman’s parents, Barbara and Stephen.
While the couple’s families found the idea “really cool and exciting,” the reactions of guests to the unusual venue varied. “People who can’t come are legitimately disappointed. Some didn’t find it appropriate – but what makes a wedding hall appropriate, either? Most of our guests [were] just excited about the possibilities for shtick.”
Sussman said the photographer was planning some shoots by the dugout and in the stands, explaining that because of the time of year – not to mention the extra thousands it would have cost to stage the wedding on the field – the ceremony would take place in the Delta Sky360 Club directly behind home plate, with a view spanning dugout to dugout. The reception was held in the Caesars Club atop the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. With room for 900, the venue was quite spacious for the 400 or so celebrants.
This was not the first kosher affair to be held at Citi Field. Journal dinners for several Jewish organizations, as well as bar and bat mitzvah parties, had already broken that barrier. But that just made it easier for Sussman and Hoffman to plan the first kosher wedding there. The venue’s management company for events, Metropolitan Hospitality, already had a history with four kosher caterers in the area.
Heather Collamore, director of Metropolitan Hospitality, spoke with the Standard the day after the event. She related that her staff had researched Orthodox weddings and met three times with the couple. As a result, “everything was spot-on per tradition. We had great reactions, and people came up and asked for information, so hopefully we’ll be having more Jewish weddings here. One of the most fun parts of my job is that I get to see people’s vision for their big day come to life.”