Wedding bells rang throughout Washington state Sunday as hundreds of same-sex couples said “I do.” December 9 was the first day gay couples could legally marry here, after voters upheld the state’s marriage equality law in the November election.
Seattle City Hall hosted a flurry of weddings for about 140 couples Sunday. Among them were Seattle couple Danielle Yung and Robin Wyss, who entered City Hall holding hands and wearing matching white tuxedos. Their wedding party included about a dozen friends who also attended the brides’ commitment ceremony five years ago.
Yung jokes that this one is their “shotgun wedding.” She’s five months pregnant. “The baby was squirming all around this morning,” Yung said. “I think maybe she knew that something was going on.”
Yung says she’s thrilled they’ll be able to have this baby as a legally married couple. It’s a marriage she once thought would never be possible.
“When I came out when I was 14, one of the things that was hardest for me at that time was just this feeling that I’d never be able to get married," said Yung. "I had this kind of regret and sadness about that. Eighteen years later, here we are. It’s just so fabulous.”
The wedding party is soon escorted away to one of the five stages set up for ceremonies. Wyss and Yung meet privately with a local judge to go over their vows. Then, it’s time.
The women stand together in front of friends and family to exchange their vows. Half-way through, cheering erupts from across the room where Seattle couple Corianton Hale and Keith Bacon just tied the knot. The city is running ceremonies back-to-back, five at a time, all day long.
The judge continues with Wyss and Yung’s ceremony, then she concludes, “I now pronounce you married.”
Friends cheer, hug and pass around tissues, then everyone heads to a reception area. Wyss beams, “It was more emotional than I thought it would be. It’s an important day for us. It’s a story we’ll be able to tell our grandkids.”
This is also a second wedding for Hale and Bacon. After a ceremony this summer, Hale says he did notice a change in their relationship. “It surprised me how much we just kind of locked in to a deeper understanding of one another,” Hale said. “It sounds silly that doing the vows changed things, but it really did.” He expects this official marriage will reinforce that even more.
As each ceremony wraps up, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn greets many of the couples. He says he jumped at the chance for City Hall to be a backdrop for this historic day. “It just says that the city stands behind these couples and behind this right,” McGinn said. "It’s also just a message to the rest of the country.”
McGinn’s wife, Peggy, is at his side for the morning ceremonies. Her eyes are red and wet with tears. “It’s ridiculous, why we made them wait so long – I have no idea,” said Peggy McGinn. “I’m just happy for them.”
Outside City Hall, each couple is announced before they walk down the Grand Staircase about a half a block long. A huge crowd spills out from the plaza, along the stairs and into the street. Strangers give out flowers. They toss rice and shout for the newlyweds to kiss.
Some people came from as far as Vancouver, B.C. Many don’t even know any of the couples. But they say they wanted to be here to show their support, like Seattle resident Ellen Daffron. “I wanted to part of this celebration,” Daffron said. “I wanted to be witness to the front-edge of history being made in our city and our state.”
Robin Wyss, Danielle Yung and their baby-on-the-way make the long exit down the stairs. They’re overwhelmed with the turnout. Wyss says it feels like a royal wedding.
“There were just so many people here,” Yung said. “All the flowers, the screaming and clapping, people driving by honking their horns - it’s great fun.”