Penn State Tailgates: Where Fairytale Weddings Come True

Imagine you’re walking down a grassy aisle with your partner at the end, ready to say “I do,” while surrounded by Happy Valley’s best tailgaters. With blue and white garbage bags forming the wedding arch, this tailgate wedding is the blueprint every Penn Stater needs to follow.

If you don’t know what we’re talking about, a dedicated Penn State couple, Paula and Mark Foster, decided to tie the knot at their favorite place on earth. That’s right, their Penn State tailgate takes the cake.

Their tailgate wedding took place on October 23, right after Penn State’s nine-overtime loss to Illinois. The ceremony was beautifully located underneath Beaver Stadium’s neon sign.

But, before every wedding, a couple must first fall in love. We had the chance to get to know the Fosters, learn about their time leading up to their tailgate wedding, and hear their family fairytale. 

Paula Foster first met her now-husband when her daughter, Sophie, started school with his son, Owen. They had been in the same schooling programs since age 3, so Paula was familiar with Mark and his son.

In the 2016 school year, she was also both Sophie and Owen’s computer and technology integrator teacher at Harrisburg Academy. Since she taught the two of them, Mark was around quite often, giving her old computer hardware to let her students work hands-on with.

Paula built a curriculum where students had a “Breaker Space” to dissect computer parts and learn their inner workings. Mark Foster was the consistent puzzle piece providing the tech materials, so she saw him very frequently and had no complaints.

“[Mark] was the handsome man that walked down the hallway in a full suit while I was in the computer tech room,” Paula said. “I would always look for him when he picked up his Owen.”

Their first date took place at University Park’s “OneTeam” event. Paula and Mark attended a Beaver Stadium event in 2017 where they could walk on the grass, walk through the team gate, and spend the evening in the stadium. Paula saw what he was doing to “schmooze” her.

Paula and Mark Foster on their first date (Courtesy of Paula Foster)

For the couple, fate perfectly aligned when they realized just how much Penn State played a part in their relationship. Even though they went to the same high school, their paths didn’t cross back then. As they look back, “it is perfectly full circle.”

“I was raised with my family telling me that the sky is blue and white because God is a Penn State fan,” Paula said. “My great-great-grandfather owned property near State College. I grew up there.”

From the day Paula was born, she was raised in the mountains and understood the unique environment State College provided. Even though she had such close ties to State College, she accepted a full-ride scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh. But, she soon found her way back to central Pennsylvania.

For Mark Foster, his family is one of Penn State’s founding families. The Fosters were “born and bred” at Penn State. Mark Foster’s oldest son is now a fifth-generation Penn Stater.

“You know Foster Avenue? That’s this man’s family,” Paul said.

Now, their friend group is made up of Penn State alumni, people they befriended at tailgates, and even Penn State employees. Fellow Nittany Lions makes their circle “more complete.”

Since Penn State is so prevalent in the couple’s lives, each step throughout their marriage process included a piece of the university. On December 12, 2020, the couple was officially married under a gazebo with their two children, dressed fully in Penn State gear.

Before their masquerade-themed wedding reception and celebration on October 31, 2021, the couple knew they wanted to complete their wedding tailgate fantasy. It was “exactly what they wanted to do with everyone.”

Two weeks prior to the tailgate, the couple was telling their circle that they brainstormed a tailgate wedding idea.

“Everybody went nuts,” Paula said. “Someone was going to be the flower girl and the other would be a ring bearer. We even wanted Coach Franklin to officiate! But, we all just got excited, and we didn’t do all of the details.”

Because the game was a noon kickoff, they weren’t too sure when the wedding was going to take place. After Penn State lost and they saw how down everyone was, they knew this was the best way to “salvage the day.”

“We needed a reason to celebrate. I brought the arch and we put it together at the back of our tailgate,” Paula said. “Everyone was super excited to get on board. A group of us went around our tailgate area and would say to people, ‘Hey, be there at 6 o’clock. We’re getting married.'”

At their specific lot this season, they noticed how helpful and present their neighbors have been. From the start of the season, sharing with one another has played a big part in their experience.

Like Penn Staters do best, strangers dropped everything they were doing to help out and attend the couple’s wedding. As soon as the wedding was announced, individuals lined up by the blue and white arch.

A friend posed as the reverend, people gathered and cheered, Paula Foster tossed her bouquet, and strangers became friends. That’s all they hoped for with the Penn State community.

“The most fun thing is to be able to share the Penn State experience with returners or first-time visitors,” Mark Foster said.

Mark Foster is passionate about what Penn State offers on and off the football field. This couple recognizes how much the university and athletics programs offer to all community members, students, and alumni.

“We are happy to be able to support the university in any way,” Mark Foster said. “We have a great time every time we go [to the games.] It is what we are most excited for each year.”

Mark and Paula Foster were adamant in stating that there is “no better place to be than with the people you love.” To them, it is with more than 107,000 of their closest friends.

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About the Author

Larkin Richards

Larkin is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. The only words that leave her mouth are "yinz" and "dippy eggs." Luckily, her writing has much more substance than that. As a Steelers and Pirates fan, sports can become a hot debate. Share your thoughts on dogs (specifically Boston Terriers) with her at: [email protected]

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