Weeks after same-sex marriage became legal in Maryland, a wedding expo was held in the Tremont hotel in downtown Baltimore. In a pair of packed ballrooms, ABBA was playing—"Take a Chance on Me," of course—and vendors were vying for this new marital demographic. Beckoning from tables were caterers, DJs, wedding planners, limo services, B and B proprietors, stationers, photographers, florists. A travel agency invited couples to consider shipboard ceremonies, after which they could shoo guests on shore and embark on a honeymoon cruise. A stilt walker and balloon-twister worked the crowd; the balloons, naturally, came in rainbow colors.
Scores of couples wandered through the displays, snacking canapés and savoring decisions many, growing up, had never expected to be allowed to make. Afternoon or evening? Big or small? Dress or tux? Cakes were everywhere: tiered confections iced in lavender and silver and daffodil yellow. Couples considered what traditions they would reject, and what traditions they would embrace. Among them was a woman named Melissa, so thrilled to be a bride that she was planning to take the last name of her fiancée. "In the lesbian community, lots of people are changing their name," said Sheila Alexander-Reid, strolling with her soon-to-be-spouse, Deborah Cummings-Thomas. Both women are officiants and have facilitated same-sex weddings in Washington, D.C., since they became legal in 2010.
Cummings-Thomas said many couples who travel to the D.C. area to marry are from states that ban same-sex marriage. Returning home, they find that "being able to change their name is a way to have their home state recognize their marriage," in spirit if not in fact. For their own part, the two women had shown up at the courthouse early, the first same-sex couple to get a license in Howard County, Maryland. They were planning to share a name: They just had to figure out which one. Probably Reid, they were thinking.