The first business day of the new year also was the first day many soon-to-be-married couples could book most of Seattle's 400-plus parks for their 2009 weddings. The most popular parks include Parsons Gardens, Hamilton Viewpoint, Kinnear, Kerry, Golden Gardens and Sunset Hill.

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The sky was still inky black when Eric Kinyon pulled into the parking lot, determined to tackle his most important New Year’s resolution. But wait: Was that someone already ahead of him in line?

Some hit the gym Friday, the first business day of this new year. Others hit the mall. Kinyon and dozens of other soon-to-be-marrieds got in line or hit the phones to book their 2009 weddings at Seattle public parks.

As early as 9:15 a.m., at least one popular date and park — Aug. 15 at Gas Works — was spoken for by the time a second requester made it into line. And by noon, 31 bookings had already been made — most for weekends in the coveted, sunnier months of July and August. Those 31 — despite some daylong difficulties reaching the staff via busy phone lines — were more reservations than were made all day last Jan. 2.

Still, most who book the first week of the year are able to get their first pick, or at least land a day on their desired weekend, said Julie Lee, an event scheduler with the city’s parks and recreation department.

“We find more Friday and Sunday weddings now. It might just be because of our seasons. If you’re dead set on getting married outside, you only have so many days that you can do it in Seattle,” Lee said.

Non-Saturday dates also seem to work well with the rise of family reunions and picnics she’s noticed couples scheduling lately in conjunction with weddings.

“If you’re buying a plane ticket, you might as well stay for the weekend and have some family time,” Lee said.

Seattle’s 400-plus parks feature vibrant gardens, sunsets atop this lake or that, sweeping vistas of skylines, ferries, forests, Mount Rainier, the Olympics, the Cascades, you name it. For a rental fee as low as $200, the cost is substantially less than for most private parks and facilities.

“It gives everyone an option no matter what your budget,” Lee said.

The downside: You never know who or what might wander past during vows in a public space.

Joanne Orsucci, head of the event-management unit, predicts Dragonfly Park in West Seattle and Fremont Peak Park soon will become top requests alongside Alki Beach, Golden Gardens and Kerry Park.

Kinyon, who was gunning for Aug. 8 at West Seattle’s Hamilton Viewpoint, was among a lonely trio parked since before 6:30 a.m. on plastic chairs outside the events-scheduling office in the Naval Reserve Armory on Lake Union.

“I didn’t want to have to make the call to my fiancée that it didn’t work out,” he said.

Janina Gerwig, half of another couple planning an August wedding, and her maid-of-honor Nicole Schultze, played rummy during the wait.

They all could be friends, they joked, because they wanted different parks on different dates.

This being the Northwest, Kinyon and Gerwig both chose dates with historic rainfall averages in mind, hoping for the glory that is a balmy Seattle summer’s day.

“That’s the last piece you have to coordinate: the weather,” Kinyon said with a smile.

Three of the city’s most popular wedding sites — Parsons Gardens on Queen Anne Hill, Kubota Garden in South Seattle and the Washington Park Arboretum — take reservations on a monthly rolling calendar. Want to book Parsons for your May 2010 ceremony? You can book starting May 2009. As for summer weekends in 2009, Parsons is pretty well booked solid.

The rest require good timing and a list of backup parks and dates, as Ann Doerring and Aaron Forsyth had prepared in a folder Friday morning. They hoped to land Queen Anne’s Bhy Kracke Park on Aug. 1, with Ballard’s Sunset Hill as a backup, and marveled that everyone else in line had made it out of bed.

After three hours of waiting to book the date, hoping those booking by phone hadn’t requested the same site, Kinyon emerged from the office victorious.

“Now I can make the good call,” Kinyon said, heading out of the armory to ring his fiancée.

Karen Gaudette: 206-515-5618 or