Swipe right forever! When Avery Armstrong and Ben McCleskey had their first date at the Atlanta Hawks’ first-ever Tinder-themed night back in 2015, they likely didn’t know they would be bringing things full circle with a wedding at the Philips Arena three years later.
The bride and groom, who first met as students at Shorter University, were excited to return to Philips Arena for their nuptials on Saturday, March 3. Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin first made the venue suggestion back in 2016, when they attended the second-annual Hawks Tinder Night to commemorate the one-year anniversary of their first date.
“We couldn’t pass up his offer!” Armstrong, 25, tells The Knot in an exclusive interview. “We were on the actual hardwood court where the team plays for our ceremony and [in] their exclusive Courtside Club for the reception.”
Armstrong and McCleskey, 23, married on March 3, at the stadium where they first met. However, the couple wanted their wedding ceremony in the big arena to still feel intimate and personal for their 300 guests.
“Even though we got married in a nearly empty arena that fits over 15,000, through lighting and simple décor we made the space feel intimate,” Armstrong says. “My florist made a beautiful backdrop with greenery and pipe and drape. I also used a lace runner to tie to the feel of my dress.”
Tinder, of course, was thrilled about the couple’s lasting connection, even offering the bride and groom a surprise of its own. “We want to congratulate Ben and Avery on their marriage,” Tinder’s Head of Brand Rosette Pambakian tells The Knot. “We couldn’t be more thrilled that our Swipe Right Night with the Hawks led to such an amazing story and a life-changing match—and we are excited to send them on their honeymoon.”
Below, get the complete details from the sports-lovers’ fun, bohemian fete.
Armstrong and McCleskey were so excited to host their wedding at the Philips Arena, and they tell The Knot that the team even “gave [them] a significant budget to help offset the remainder of the wedding costs.” The ceremony itself took place on the hardwood floor of the sporting venue, while the reception relocated to an exclusive new spot at the facility. The pair and their 200 guests enjoyed a night of dinner and dancing at the newly-opened Courtside Club.
Though Armstrong did the vast majority of the heavy lifting when it came to planning and purchasing things for the wedding, the couple decided to hire day of coordinators Ashley Polite and Blair Bondurant of Winey Blonde Events so they could make sure to enjoy the day as much as possible.
The couple enlisted the help of Emily Battles of Emily Here Photography to capture the eventful affair. “Our photographer was amazing,” says the bride. “We are so thankful to have met Emily. We love her! We gained a photographer and a friend.”
A Sister’s Touch Event Planning and Floral Design filled the space with beautiful bouquets and bountiful installations. Armstrong wanted to highlight florals and greenery at their wedding to go with the “boho” vibe, and so had a “full, loose, organic and cascading hand-held bouquet” made up of “mixed greenery, roses, ferns [and] ranunculus.”
David’s Bridal generously provided Armstrong and her bridesmaids with all the dresses for the wedding, and graciously offered up evening wear for the mother of thebride and the flower girls. Armstrong chose a vintage-inspired, long-sleeve, lace design in ivory and champagne. Meanwhile, she kept things a little less classic for her bridesmaids.
“I have 11” she says. “I like the look of different colors and styles, so my maid of honor (my sister) wore gold and the remaining 10 wore two different styles and colors.”
The Groom (and Groomsmen)
To complement Armstrong’s vintage vibe, McCleskey wore a navy suit found at the Macy’s Men’s Shop, which he paired with a champagne-colored tie and navy socks. His 11 groomsmen donned navy pants, white shirts, brown belts, brown shoes and, of course, navy socks, which was gifted by the groom.
Armstrong and McCleskey wanted to keep the party going long after they exchanged vows, and had their DJ showcase an eclectic mix of their favorite songs, ranging from country to hip-hop to worship music. Their first dance song was a bit more on the mellow side: “We wanted a Christian/worship-type song. When we heard it for the first time, we both knew it was the one.”
The bride jokes she grappled with a few nightmares leading up to the nuptials. Her wedding party apparently felt it too. “Get help. Don’t try to do everything on your own,” she concludes. “Try to enjoy all of it. You will be married before you know it.”