After years of building and maintaining a relationship, you’d think Jhonny Peralta and Molly Urig would have been eager to tie the knot in a big star-studded event befitting his position as a professional baseball player. But seven months passed after their April 2006 engagement before the Dominican-born Cleveland Indians shortstop and the Avon native finally set a date for their off-season wedding. That didn’t faze Molly — she planned their Jan. 27, 2007, nuptials in a mere six weeks.
“I think in the back of our minds we knew we wanted to get married then,” the effervescent 26-year-old bride explains. “But with the baseball season and so much going on, we never found the time to really start the process.”
Planning a quickie wedding was nothing compared to the obstacles the couple overcame during their courtship. Despite the language barrier — Jhonny spoke broken English, Molly next to no Spanish — they managed to establish an instant rapport when they met in May 2002. Molly and a friend who knew one of the Akron Aeros players had attended a game at Canal Park and Jhonny, who was playing for the AA farm team at the time, had joined the trio at a bar afterward. The two exchanged telephone numbers and started calling each other every day.
“He has such a good sense of humor — that’s what drew me to him first and foremost,” Molly says of the attraction. “He would find a way to tell me how he was feeling.”
Molly estimates that she and Jhonny saw each other once a month under similar circumstances until she returned to Bowling Green State University to finish her final term and he went back to the Dominican Republic. Although the phone calls continued, she never thought of the minor leaguer as anything more than a friend until she boldly suggested visiting him in Arizona, where he was playing in a fall league, over her October break.
You’re the one I want. Jhonny told Molly he knew she was the girl for him when she made that first call to his parents’ home in the Dominican Republic. “He thought that was just absolutely amazing,” Molly says. “He had never met a girl who would have made that effort to call him down there.”
Help! The first thing Molly did was hire Denise Shaw of A Bride’s Best Friend, a wedding planner recommended by Indians slugger Travis Hafner’s wife, Amy.
Not a team activity. Molly and Jhonny decided against inviting his Indians teammates. “If we would have done that, it would have been a 300-person wedding,” Molly says. “We wanted to keep it simple.”
Nosotros hablamos Espanol. A Spanish translator was on hand for the ceremony so Jhonny’s family could understand the proceedings. And a disc jockey made bridal-party introductions and announcements in both English and Spanish at the reception.
Latin flavor. Grilled chicken, rice and beans prepared by a Dominican cook at El Meson in Cleveland augmented a buffet dinner of chicken Boursin and beef tenderloin.
Honeymoon on hold. Although the couple spent their wedding night at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Cleveland, they have yet to embark on a wedding trip. “We just didn’t have time to do it,” Molly explains. “We had to head down to spring training in mid-February.”
“I’d never flown that far, let alone by myself,” she marvels. “Needless to say, my parents were not very happy at all. Everybody thought I was crazy. But for whatever reason, I wanted to see him.”
A subsequent week in Winter Haven, Fla., during spring training 2003 — a rendezvous that shocked Jhonny’s conservative parents, who were also in town — was enough to convince Molly to continue the long-distance romance during Jhonny’s first season with the AAA Buffalo Bisons and to join him in upstate New York for his second year there. The marriage proposal came early in Jhonny’s second season with the Indians, when he pulled out a 2-carat, princess-cut diamond in a Detroit hotel room the night before a game against the Tigers. Although the couple had looked at rings the previous month, Molly was surprised Jhonny popped the question so soon.
“He was like, ‘Well, I had the ring. I just figured I might as well give it to you,’ ” she recalls.
The bride opted for a judge to perform an afternoon ceremony at Lakewood Country Club in Westlake right before the reception. And the guest list was limited to approximately 20 immediate family members for the wedding and 100 relatives and close friends for the reception.
“There was only going to be about 20 people from Jhonny’s family in town,” Molly explains. “I thought it would be unfair to have a hundred people from my family!”
Even the search for the dress was simple. Molly fell in love with the very first gown she tried on, a strapless fit-and-flare champagne-lace number by Paloma Blanca off the sample-sale rack at The Perfect Bride in Rocky River. Her pregnant sister, who served as the only attendant, arrived a week before the wedding and picked out a long black-jersey dress with an empire waist and cap sleeves from a selection assembled by clerks at the same shop.
In fact, the most elaborate arrangements were made by Cleveland florist Stephen Tokar, who transformed a conference room off the reception space into a winter wonderland for the ceremony. White wooden pedestals topped by crystal trumpet vases of white orchids and white branches hung with tiny mirrors, crystals and crystal votives flanked the entry. Large urns of white branches hung with crystals and wrapped in strings of tiny white lights defined the ceremony space. The bride carried a clutch of cream calla lilies — her favorite flower — surrounded by deep burgundy counterparts.
Molly discovered early winter is actually a great time to get married. She notes that since service providers weren’t as busy after the holiday rush, they were less harried and able to accommodate her last-minute requests.
“If it wouldn’t have been like that,” she says, “there’s no way [our wedding] would have happened.”