It stands to reason that pickleball weddings would be inevitable.
After all, it’s a game most commonly played as doubles and touted as the most social of sports. So, it was bound to happen that pickleball friendships, for some, would turn into pickleball romances followed by pickleball weddings.
The historic pickleball wedding, the one that put the “0-0-2” into the words “I do”, happened in Surprise, Arizona, 20 years ago this month.
That was when Fran Trinder and Barney Myer decided to take their mixed-doubles partnership to the next level. The couple was competing as part of the Arizona Senior Olympics held at The Happy Trails Resort in Surprise.
They were already a pair of pickleball pioneers. In 1999, Fran created a website that was a centralized source of information for pickleball rules, tournaments and places to play. The site had a retail component that sold paddles and balls from a variety of retailers, something that was novel at the time.
They were both commissioners for the pickleball event in the Washington State Senior Games and would go on in future years to be directors of the USAPA National Tournament.
But in 2002, they were just a couple of 50-something lovebirds who wanted to get married on the numerically interesting date of 02-20-2002.
All those twos were too good to pass up for the couple.
“It was during the Senior Olympics event, and our idea was that we would just get away during the event, get our marriage certificate and then come back to play.”
But when finding out about the couple’s plan, Earl Hill, the commissioner of the pickleball portion of the Senior Olympics, suggested that Barney and Fran make their marriage part of the Olympics.
“He said you can have it on Court No. 2 at 2 p.m.” Fran remembered. “And at first, we said, ‘No. People are here to play pickleball, not to go to a wedding.’”
But Hill persisted, wrangling a preacher to officiate, and getting the other 150 tournament pickleballers to be impromptu wedding guests. And so it happened on that February afternoon in 2002 – a wedding ceremony in the middle of a pickleball tournament.
“I made a pair of white satin shorts for myself,” Fran said, “and I bought a cute T-shirt top with flowers around the neck. It was on sale for $1.90 because it had a stain on it.”
She fashioned a veil for her white ball cap, and Barney got a cap that announced “Groom” on it, to go along with his tuxedo T-shirt, and high black socks.
The other players held their paddles in the air to form a pickleball arch for the newlyweds.
After the ceremony, they played that afternoon in their wedding attire, eventually winning the bronze medal in mixed doubles during that event.
“You don’t need vows for pickleball, because you already know you’re going to play it forever,” Fran said.
Barney died in 2014, but Fran still plays. She took the bronze medal in December at the 2021 Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championship at Indian Wells in womens’ singles in the 75+ event.
And due to her significant contributions to the sport of pickleball, Fran Myer was inducted in 2018 into the Pickleball Hall of Fame.
The Barney and Fran Myer wedding was the most famous pickleball wedding, but far from the only one. As the sport has grown dramatically during the past several years, pickleball players have found the idea of a pickleball wedding too irresistible to pass up.
That’s what happened to Jonathan and Heather Beasley, a couple that got married last October on a pickleball court in Easton, Maryland.
They had discovered pickleball two years prior to their wedding. And they had gone from recreational players to occasional mixed-doubles partners in tournaments.
They had decided to get married in late October, a week after a local pickleball tournament. But then they realized that many of their wedding guests were their pickleball friends who were playing in the tournament the prior week.
“So, we decided, why not just move up the wedding and get married during the tournament?” said Jonathan, age 43.
They arranged for a court wedding first thing in the morning, so it wouldn’t interrupt the schedule of games during the tournament. And they wore wedding attire that was sporty enough to wear for their tournament games after the ceremony.
“As we got married on the court, you could hear the clicking of paddles as people were starting to warm up on the other courts,” Jonathan said.
The couple found all sorts of fitting pickleball touches for their ceremony, including a pickleball paddle bouquet for the bride, and guests throwing pickleballs in the air, instead of rice, at the end of the ceremony.
“For our vows, we promised to play together,” Jonathan said.
It seemed like the right thing to do.
“Pickleball turned out to be a bigger part of our life than we ever expected,” Jonathan said. “When we’re not playing we come home and turn on the Selkirk channel or YouTube to watch pickleball matches.”
And they subscribe to The Pickler, of course.
As pickleball has grown, the idea of pickleball weddings has become a by-product of that. The pickleball-themed restaurant chain, Chicken N Pickle, started in 2016 and is now in six U.S. cities with plans to expand to four more by the end of the year.
It’s an indoor, outdoor/entertainment complex and restaurant built around pickleball courts.
“You wouldn’t think of a pickleball place as a wedding place, but we’ve done a lot of rehearsal dinners, because it’s not just a stuffy dinner,” said Rachel Santschi, the Kansas City-based marketing director for the chain.
“People can go play and then go to our rooftop area.”
With tournaments blooming everywhere year round, it’s creating hundreds of opportunities for romances to develop among devoted pickleballers.
That’s what happened to Rob and Shonda Davidson. She was living in Montana, and he was living in Oregon, when they met at a pickleball tournament in 2015 and then kept bumping into each other at other tournaments.
“We started dating in mid-2016 and I proposed the next year,” Rob, 44, said. “And because we liked pickleball so much we had a pickleball themed wedding.”
The couple got married on the courts after holding a morning playing session with the wedding guests.
Today, the Davidsons live in Phoenix, Arizona, and Rob tours the country as a pickleball pro conducting RISE Pickleball Camps.
And at those camps, pickleball players will be mingling and looking for doubles partners. On and off the court.