Published on 12 July 2018
It has been a big week for the University of Sunderland after hundreds of students graduated during special ceremonies held at the Stadium of Light.
But the graduations were not the only ceremonies taking place on the hallowed SoL turf.
The Stadium also played host to its first on-pitch wedding for couple Marita Phenix and Paul Leadbeater – and it could not have happened without the university’s help.
Both huge Sunderland AFC fans, Paul and Marital thought their dreams of marrying on the hallowed turf seemed to be in vain.
But, because the date they wanted to wed coincided with the graduation ceremonies - their dream became a reality.
Marita, 33, said: “We are huge Sunderland fans and there was nowhere else but at the Stadium of Light we would want to get married.
“It’s always been my dream to have the wedding on the pitch. But, when we asked they said they couldn’t do the actual ceremony on the pitch because of the regulations surrounding the licence, it had to be in the actual building.”
The marketing executive said it was a disappointing blow for the County Durham couple, who have been together for four years, after meeting on holiday.
But she explained: “Someone from the Stadium of Light rang and said because our date was in between the university’s graduation ceremonies there would already be a stage set up on the pitch and because it is linked to the building by a walkway then it would be covered by the licence.
“She said we would be the first and probably the last people to be able to get married on the actual pitch.
“I couldn’t believe it, we were so excited to be able to have our ceremony there.”
Marita and Paul, who works for a bathroom company, decided to have a late afternoon ceremony. After the nuptials, the guests all partied at the reception in the home of the Black Cats.
Marita, who was born in Malaysia, but spent most of her life in Kent, said it was her husband who turned her into a SAFC fan.
She said: “When I moved up here it was Paul who convinced me to become a Sunderland fan because he was. Now, we go to all the home games and a lot of the away games and I just really love it now.”