PORTLAND — Rob Hopkins and Michael George, dressed in identical seersucker suits, traveled from Pennsylvania to get married on a Portland stage.
They were among 10 couples who took part in Maine’s first gay mass wedding at Deering Oaks on Saturday during the 27th annual Southern Maine Pride Parade and Festival.
“We came to get married because Maine recognizes gay marriage. Maine is a beautiful state,” Hopkins said.
Festival organizers said the ceremony was intended as a celebration of Maine’s new gay marriage law, which was passed by voters in November and became official Dec. 29. Thousands of spectators looked on as the couples trooped onstage.
“How many people can say 10,000 people went to our wedding?” said Sid Tripp, festival organizer. The couples, many in matching outfits, smiled as they were officially united by Diane York, a wedding planner and wedding officiant from Cape Elizabeth, and the Rev. Karen St. Peter of Westbrook.
“Oh, my god, I feel like a Moonie,” quipped comedian Khris Francis, master of ceremonies, referring to mass weddings staged by the Unification Church, founded by Sun Myung Moon.
Some of the wedding couples said they made the decision to get married at the last minute.
Ryan Pearson and Michael Nadeau of Portland, who had been engaged for four years, said they decided Friday.
“It was very last minute,” Pearson said.
The two planned a party with family and friends after the ceremony.
Chris Fleuriel and Chris Andre of Brunswick said the mass wedding was a perfect way to celebrate Maine’s gay marriage law. They said the public ceremony spared them a lot of complicated wedding preparations.
“We know a lot of our friends will be here so this keeps it real simple. We just emailed our friends,” Fleuriel said.
Ivy Gibbs and Courtney Vandermartin of Portland, who got engaged in November, said that when they heard about the mass wedding, they knew they had to take part.
“It is nice to know everyone is supporting us,” said Vandermartin, who planned to take her new spouse’s last name.
Saturday’s same-sex newlyweds were among an estimated 300 gay couples who have been married in Maine since the new law went into effect. About 20 wedding vendors hawked their wares at a special wedding expo tent.
Portland photographer W. Jo Moser said she booked 13 gay and lesbian weddings this summer because of the new law.
“I am very pleased, “ Moser said.
Florist Liz Adams of Fleur de Liz in Portland said she hoped her action figure and button-themed bouquets would appeal to the gay wedding crowd.
“I am really, really optimistic,” Adams said.
Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at: [email protected]