Football players sport tuxes. An Art Deco skyscraper is transformed into a wedding venue for one night. And confetti streams down onto Ravens offensive center Jeremy Zuttah and longtime girlfriend Heran Haile, who are tying the knot this sultry summer evening at FX Studios and Under Armour Performance Center at 10 Light Street.
Theirs is a wedding with infinite stories to tell—a writer’s dream, a writer’s ultimate challenge.
But a small challenge compared to the wedding itself, an event hinging on the transformation of a historic space, a space that only recently completed its own radical transformation into the Under Armour Performance Center gym. A savvy team of vendors—led by planners Union3 Event Productions—has had 36 hours to transform the gym into the setting for the couple’s dream wedding and then back into a high-end workout facility. The gym opened its doors just four weeks before, repurposing the old banking hall of a building, which opened in 1929—becoming the tallest office building south of New York City. The first bank that occupied it shuttered a year later.
The couple met at Rutgers University as undergraduates in 2007, less than a year before Zuttah was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he played for six seasons before being traded to the Ravens. And while football charts the couple’s story—and their life together—the longtime lovebirds did not intend to wed in front of treadmills and dumbbells, nor serve cocktails next to an immobile set of wrought-iron monkey bars.
But after visiting a string of venues that weren’t large enough to accommodate their 300-person guest list, Haile’s wedding planners, Alexa McCulloch, Lisa Gaskarth and Lindsey Stone of Union3, took her to see 10 Light Street. They visited the building’s 22nd floor, which, to Haile’s dismay, was again too small.
“What about the great hall?” Haile asked the building’s co-owner, Cary Euwer. The great hall, the ground-floor space that was to become the Under Armour gym, was unfinished, yet grand from the building’s previous life as a bank. With 50-foot ceilings and murals by R.G. Mackall depicting scenes from Baltimore history— including Lord Calvert’s landing—the space was ideal for Haile’s desire to showcase the city’s texture and charm. Despite growing up just blocks apart in New Jersey, Zuttah and Haile decided to wed in Baltimore, which became home when Zuttah was traded to the Ravens by the Buccaneers in 2014.
For the month before the wedding, Haile actually made the gym her workout home. But for the wedding itself, the athletic aspect of the space isn’t of any true symbolic importance—the couple has simply sought a great warm space to bring their guests together.
“I wanted to show Baltimore to my friends and family,” Haile says.
Zuttah and Haile also faced the challenge of incorporating their families’ heritage into the celebration—his from Ghana and hers from Ethiopia. Early on, the couple bonded over being the children of immigrants and, for their big day, they’d decided to introduce guests to a bit of Ethiopian culture through hors d’oeuvres during the cocktail hour.
I embedded myself in the process early on, attending the first design meeting at Revolution Events, an event design and production company. There I met the bride and planners McCulloch and Gaskarth, whom she’d entrusted with the process of concealing an entire gym for a night.
“The venue came with many challenges, which we were always up for,” Gaskarth says. “The gym was five months delayed opening, so we weren’t sure what the final layout was going to be until May. It was a lot of planning, then replanning when things were moved and in place at the gym. Luckily all of our vendors were right beside us, rolling with the punches.”
I joined the crew for a walk through Revolution’s showroom, where Haile chose tables, chairs and drapery. Pantone’s 2016 Color of the Year, Rose Quartz, became the event’s anchor, and Revolution’s show room provided transparent Chiavari chairs to adorn the tables.
The historic building’s great hall is flanked by teller booths, left over from its banking days. These have been transformed into alcoves, which hold exercise equipment, and hiding these became the first order of business in the transformation from gym to wedding venue. Drapery is key to this process. Revolution has covered over the alcoves with champagne satin drapery, which both hides the gym equipment and creates a more intimate space for the event. Several alcoves are lined, rather than covered over, and have became home to the bar, a photo booth and lounge and a dessert station.
“This is a working gym, and it was critical to minimize the impact our event had on its members,” says McCulloch. “We had professional movers reposition the gym equipment; we had a flooring company lay a modular flooring system to protect the turf, which was then shrouded in plastic and then, finally, carpeted. And when that was finally done, we brought in the décor, the rentals, the flowers, the sound equipment and, finally, the catering.”
On this Saturday evening in June, the great hall is finally completely ready. There’s not an elliptical in sight, and barbells are tucked behind the curtained alcoves. I sit among the guests wearing a silk, garnet- colored bias-cut gown, unknowingly next to the McCourty twins (Jason, who plays for the Tennessee Titans, and first team All-Pro Devin, who plays for the New England Patriots) and their wives. We make small talk about how awkward it is to miss the memo that a wedding’s attire is black tie (which none of us, thankfully, have done today).
The couple weds in the great hall, which has been divided in half by an immense flower wall, creating a more intimate space for the ceremony. Haile and Zuttah exchange heartfelt, personalized vows in front of this stunning, 9-foot-tall creation.
“Thank you for loving me, even though, three years into our relationship, I asked why you hadn’t scored any touchdowns,” Haile said to Zuttah. Laughter erupts.
The tops of treadmills peak over the great hall’s balcony; impressively, this is the only sign of the space’s daily use. During the ceremony, I frantically Google Ravens players, trying to confirm who’s who.
The flower wall features tessellations of blush and white peonies; blush dendrobium orchids; white blush and peach spray roses; roses of assorted colors; blush and white hydrangeas; and sweet peas. Cockeysville-based florist Victoria Clausen of Victoria Clausen Floral Events is the mastermind behind this wall, which is moved behind the DJ stand for the reception.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and kicker Justin Tucker are among the guests, who take elevators to the 22nd floor for cocktails, Ethiopian hors d’oeuvres and a stunning view of Baltimore. A child runs by, and I hear him announce that he’s looking for Flacco, so that he can get an autograph on the wedding program. I chat with the groom’s family’s childhood neighbor, Andrew Toth, who frequently attends Zuttah’s games at M&T Bank Stadium. Over Chardonnay, Toth helps me make a few more player identifications.
I spy Steve Smith, Sr. of the Ravens, Ted Larsen of the Chicago Bears, and Kelechi Osemele of the Oakland Raiders (formerly a Raven). And I meet Zuttah’s older brother, Jeffrey, and chat about his work on President Obama’s financial recovery team.
The great hall is once again transformed for the reception, and I sneak a behind-the-scenes peek at the incredibly efficient process. Pre-set tables are rolled onto the floor, and chairs from the ceremony are redistributed to provide seating for dinner.
Lush garden-style elevated and low arrangements adorn 20 round tables, a head table for the bridal party and a sweetheart table for the newlyweds. There are more than 2,000 flowers, Clausen reports, along with 230 stems of hydrangea, 390 stems of assorted greenery and 100 feet of garland greenery.
After dinner—an heirloom tomato and burrata salad, followed by a choice of teriyaki-glazed monkfish, grilled bavette steak or farro risotto, catered by Copper Kitchen—guests file onto the dance floor, and take turns squeezing in front of the photo booth. Before long, bridesmaids invade the floor with huge cutouts of Zuttah’s face, as a surprise 30th birthday celebration for the groom. #ClubZuttah emerges as a hashtag—used alongside the official wedding hashtag #JerLovesHer—documenting the epic party that rages until midnight. By 7 a.m., FX Studio will be ready to open for hardcore fitness business as usual, thanks to McCulloch’s team.
“We’re so proud to have produced the one and only wedding that this gorgeous historic room has ever held,” McCulloch says.
“Working with Heran and Jeremy was a dream. They’re such a down-to-earth couple. Meetings consisted of home- cooked breakfast, mimosas and playing with Ace, their adorable pit (who attended the wedding),” Gaskarth says. “We wanted this wedding to represent their personalities. They trusted us with this! At the end of the night, we looked at them dancing to ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ as the confetti rained down from above and honestly thought we had never seen two happier people.”
Venue: 10 Light Street
Planners: Union3 Event Productions
Flooring: Select Event Group
Caterer: Copper Kitchen
Lighting/Drape/Decor: Revolution Events
Photographer: Shane Carpenter, Readyluck
DJ: DJ Kopec & DJ Scooter
Florist: Victoria Clausen Florals
Invitations: MLC Designs
Rentals: Select Event Group
Transportation: Freedom Car
Dog Caretaker: Downtown Dog Resort
Hotels: Four Seasons, The Marriott Waterfront, The Courtyard Marriott
Hair & Makeup: Caitlyn Meyer
Photo Booth: Pixilated Photo Booth
Ethiopian Caterer: Dama