News (USA)

Wedding planning frenzy begins as N.J. gay couples prepare to marry

TRENTON, N.J. — Activists are still working to line up judges who could waive the three-day waiting period for same-sex couples who want to exchange vows first thing Monday, when gay marriage will become legal in New Jersey.

Garden State Equality executive director Troy Stevenson said Saturday that the effort to get couples hitched without the waiting period was a “work in progress.” Under state law, couples must normally wait 72 hours after applying for a marriage license before they can tie the knot.

Stevenson didn’t have specific details on how many judges would be available to consider couples’ waivers this weekend. But he says many marriages will be held across the state as soon as possible once the new policy takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

April Saul, Philadelphia Inquirer/AP
From left: Leigh Nachod (only hands showing), Megan Nachod, Ed Cameron, Dennis Gaspari, Renai Hall and Rose Papa cheer after affirming their identity as they applied for same sex marriage licenses at the Cherry Hill, NJ Municipal Building late Friday afternoon.

The wedding frenzy started shortly after the New Jersey Supreme Court refused Friday to delay a lower-court order for the state to recognize same-sex marriages while the state appeals. The justices said they did not think the state’s arguments were likely to prevail in the end and that delaying the lower court’s order would hurt couples who would not be eligible for federal benefits until they can be married legally in New Jersey.

Officials also noted that state law says couples married legally elsewhere can wed in New Jersey without a waiting period – a provision that appears to apply to many New Jersey couples.

Meanwhile, many same-sex couples continued to scramble Saturday to plan their ceremonies. They were reaching out to florists, photographers, catering firms, banquet halls and other wedding-related businesses to see what was available on short notice.

“Just imagine having only three days to do three months of wedding planning,” Stevenson joked.

Justin Jordan, a photographer who shoots many weddings in southern New Jersey, said he’s heard from “numerous couples” since Friday’s decision.

“Many people have been waiting anxious ly for the chance to get married, and now that they have the chance to do it, they’re jumping at the opportunity,” Jordan said Saturday. “But they’re also realizing everything that goes with a wedding, like getting a photographer or video person, buying flowers, arranging for food … it’s a daunting task when you have months to plan, let alone a few days.”

Jordan says many callers told him they want to get married as soon as they can, while others are planning to wait.

“I think a lot of couples have waited so long for gay marriage to be legal, they don’t mind waiting a few weeks or months more to have the event they want. Many of them have never really discussed what type of wedding they want, what it would entail … They want to do it soon, but they don’t see a need to rush into it just because they can.”

While same-sex couples discussed their options, officials in towns across the state were preparing for a rush of weddings.

Newark Mayor Cory Book er and David DelVecchio, mayor of the gay-friendly community of Lambertville, both plan to lead ceremonies for gay couples at 12:01 a.m. Monday. A handful of towns, including Hoboken and Collingswood, opened municipal offices Saturday to accept applications for marriage licenses from same-sex couples.

Among those seeking their licenses Saturday morning were Hoboken residents Paul Somerville and Allen Kratz, who have been together since 1985. They were previously married in Oregon in 2004, only to have the union nullified by the state’s supreme court. They also have been part of a domestic partnership in 2006 and a civil union in 2008, both through the city of Hoboken.

“It’s wonderful,” Kratz told The Jersey Journal ( ) when asked how it felt to be able to marry his longtime partner. “Civil rights always come too early for those in a comfortable position of power, and never soon enough for those who have been denied life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

The couple said they will receive their license on Tuesday, and plan to wed Thursday in a private ceremony officiated by a federal judge.

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