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More than 1,500 people attended the Love Elevated Mass Gay Wedding Reception to celebrate the nearly 1,360 couples who were either married or had their marriages officially recognized during the 17-day period it was legal in Utah.
Friends, family and allies of the LGBT community gathered at The Rail Center in Salt Lake City and participated in traditional wedding reception games and customs, but Michael Aaron said this was not the average wedding party.
Aaron, the publisher of “QSaltLake,” a monthly LGBT news and entertainment magazine, said the event only took 11 days to put together.
“What it takes is a community that was so about this idea that they came to us. We made very few phone calls,” Aaron said. “This is what I love about Salt Lake City.”
QSaltLake, along with other sponsors, held the event as a fundraiser to benefit Restore Our Humanity, the group that some say made gay marriage in Utah possible.
“The idea behind this was, these people dropped everything and ran to their county clerks in whatever they were wearing (and got married), and this is at least a great party for them, a great reception,” Aaron said. “It’s just fantastic.”
Special invited guests were featured all night, including Sister Dottie S. Dixon, a personality celebrity within the Utah LGBT scene. Dixon offered the opening prayer, and gave a speech commencing the event.
“Bless all the newlyweds and oldyweds here tonight, all of them who are committed to the great charge and the great change that has taken place,” said Dixon to cheers from the crowd. “Assist them in their work and help them to help others learn how to celebrate differences.”
The center of the dance floor featured a multi-tiered rainbow wedding cake. Seth Anderson and Michael Ferguson, the first same-sex couple legally married in Utah, cut the cake and fed it to each other. A “gayly-wed” game along with a first couples dance were also part of the event.
Todd Markhom and Addison Rose, a couple from Provo, were married on Dec. 23 and celebrated their union at the mass reception. Markhom said the ruling came as a surprise, and he didn’t expect gay marriage to hit Utah for another seven or eight years.
“It was an early Christmas present,” Markhom said. “We’ve been together for two years.”
Couples who brought a copy of their marriage certificates received a free goodie bag, as well as special recognition from the crowd during several toasts throughout the night.
But not everyone who attended the reception was a newlywed. Lindsey Mayer, Ogden resident, and her friend Maria Rukavina of Salt Lake are self-proclaimed “proud allies here to support the community.”
Mayer said Gov. Gary Herbert’s decree, which briefly allowed Utah to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in the state and elsewhere, has real legal consequences for Utah families.
“I’m encountering a lot of same-sex couples who are about to have a baby, or want to adopt, and because of that, they are both not going to be able to be legal guardians for their children,” Mayer said. “It’s not even about the Constitution at this point; its about the nitty-gritty details of people’s rights that they are dealing with.”
Rukavina said the night was great, but that she’s just happy there is such a large LGBT community in Utah.
“I’ve lived in Portland and Minneapolis and I just moved to Salt Lake recently, and it’s cool to see that there’s this much support for everyone.”