What was meant to be a mass beach wedding to celebrate marriage equality in Florida, on the normally sunny sands of Fort Lauderdale, quickly turned to a last-minute reorganization at the fabulous W Hotel across the street, where the champagne-toast reception was scheduled for immediately after the ceremony. A decision was made around 3 a.m. by organizers to shift gears and somehow move a 100-couple wedding from the sand to the indoor W living room. Leave it to the amazing wedding planners and W events team to pull off what ended up being a historic event filled with love, in a more intimate setting.
The couples, representing 18 states and even a handful of international destinations, all came to Fort Lauderdale to exchange vows together in solidarity to prove that "love is love." Couples of different sexual orientations all participated in the wedding, with a small percentage joining to renew their vows. The wedding and vow-renewal ceremonies were presided over by the Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins, the senior minister at the Sunshine Cathedral.
In a ruling handed down in December, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta turned down a request by Florida's secretaries of health and management services and the clerk of the court in the panhandle's Washington County to extend a stay on the implementation of gay marriage in the state. A federal judge based in Tallahassee had ruled in August that the state's gay-marriage ban is unconstitutional but stayed his decision until Jan. 5 to give the state time to appeal. Hosted by the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), the "Love Is Love" destination wedding on Thursday, Feb. 5, comes just one month after the end of the stay, so really, everything was put together rather quickly but efficiently.
The official ambassador of the wedding, Lance Bass, is making TV history the same day with the broadcast of his wedding with Michael Turchin on the E! network special Lance Loves Michael: The Lance Bass Wedding, the first American television broadcast of a celebrity marriage between two men. Bass and his husband were in attendance and spent time afterwards celebrating with the happy couples before jetting back to New York for the premiere of their television show.
"Lance shares the same pioneering spirit of advocating for LGBT equality that we embody here in Greater Fort Lauderdale," said Nicki E Grossman, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We're thrilled to have him be part of our historic moment on the same day he shares his own personal wedding with the world."
Immediately after officially being pronounced married, the couples tossed up beach balls, because that's what you do at "beach weddings," and the DJ turned up the music because that's just what you do in a W Hotel. The expected rain came seconds later, with loud, crashing thunder and a heavy downpour that last for about an hour. They say rain is good luck on your wedding day. With 100 couples, apparently someone was making sure there was enough luck to go around.
Home to the highest concentration of same-sex couple households in the country, and as one of the top LGBT vacation destinations in the world, Greater Fort Lauderdale is one of the most diverse gay capitals and continues to be a destination of choice for LGBT travelers with hundreds of gay-owned and gay-operated businesses. The Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB, W Fort Lauderdale, Cruise Planners (an American Express travel representative), jetBlue and other area partners all joined together to make this a day to remember for everyone involved.
For more information on the "Love Is Love" wedding celebration, visit www.sunny.org/loveislove.
All images candidly taken and instagrammed by David Duran..