200 Newlyweds Ring in Florida Marriage Equality

Beautiful celebration marked one month of marriage equality in the Sunshine State.

Fort Lauderdale’s stormy weather didn’t come close to stopping 100 happy couples from exchanging wedding vows at 7 o’clock in the morning on February 5th. What was originally planned as a sunrise mass wedding on the sand was thwarted by quick passing thunder showers — and swiftly became the W Hotel’s most festive indoor event of the season. 

Couples from around the U.S. and the world converged on Florida’s queer capital to take part in the “new dawn” of marriage equality in the state. The “Love is Love” wedding marked exactly one month of marriage equality in the Sunshine State, with same-sex couples getting hitched from coast to coast ever since the January 5, 2015 U.S. District Court ruling.

But it was the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau that took the law to new heights, hosting couples from 18 U.S. states, Europe and South America who applied for the mass-wedding contest through various LGBT and mainstream publications in early January. 

Newlyweds Denise and Shirlee of Oklahoma applied after reading the GO Magazine Facebook post. They admitted their conservative families were unlikely to attend a wedding ceremony in their home state, so they said a joint “what the heck!” and were lucky enough to be selected from more than 200 couples that applied. 

“We got a much bigger and better wedding that we ever could have imagined!,” said Denise.

The crowded roomful of blissful couples pledged new and renewed marriage vows, with 35 lesbian couples, as well as trans, straight, and gay-male pairs participating. 

They were joined by the event’s official “Love is Love” ambassador and former *NSYNC member Lance Bass, who addressed the crowd before joining his new husband Michael Turchin, to reaffirm their recently proffered wedding vows. The pair’s original wedding was immortalized that same evening on the E! network’s Lance Loves Michael: The Lance Bass Wedding — the first American television broadcast of a celebrity marriage between two men.

Fort Lauderdale CVB CEO and President Nicki Grossman emceed the landmark event, introducing several proud local officials, and set the stage for Sunshine Cathedral Senior Minister Reverend Dr. Durrell Watkins to officiate. 

Newlyweds and recommitted couples, as well as their friends and families, followed the ceremony with a champagne toast and reception at the W Fort Lauderdale. Thirty-year couple Tom Behringer and Jose Negron won a weeklong honeymoon aboard Celebrity Cruises, compliments of travel agency Cruise Planners. And all couples received two JetBlue flight vouchers, as well as a gift bag from Greater Fort Lauderdale with presents from hotels, restaurants, spas, and local attractions.

For more information on the "Love Is Love" wedding celebration or to sign the guestbook, visit www.sunny.org/loveislove. #loveislove

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