Iconic spot serves as background of first same-sex wedding in Philly
by Angela Thomas
May 29, 2014 | 707 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Philadelphia Museum of Art provided the background to Philadelphia’s first legal same-sex wedding.

Fairmount residents Ashley Wilson and Lindsay Vandermay, both 29, were married by Common Pleas Judge Diana Louise Anhalt on the steps of the iconic museum just after midnight May 23.

They were among 18 couples who received a marriage license May 20, within hours of a federal judge striking down Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage. Couples must wait three days before marrying after being issued a license.

The couple, together for three years, had previously planned to obtain a marriage license in Delaware and hold a ceremony in the Outerbanks in North Carolina, which is still scheduled. The pair met at former lesbian bar Sisters on the night Vandermay, who attended college in Arizona, moved back to Pennsylvania.

“I was there and Lindsay saw me dancing across the bar and laughing and I think she was looking for someone who didn’t take things too seriously,” Wilson said.

Vandermay, a teacher in Chester County, and Wilson, an attorney in Philadelphia, were engaged three years after they met.

“We had been talking about what our future would be for a while,” she said. “We made arrangements to get married in June and then on our way back from the Outerbanks, we would stop in Delaware. Ashley being an attorney, she had drawn up paperwork to make sure our wedding was as legal as it could be in Pennsylvania.”

Vandermay had a hearing scheduled in Philadelphia last Friday to get her last name changed — which she cancelled because of the ruling.

Wilson said she was anticipating a favorable ruling, but was still overwhelmed when it actually happened.

“In the back of my mind I thought, the ruling had to go in our favor, but I then thought, this is Pennsylvania and it is such a conservative state,” Wilson said. “I was just shocked and excited. It was kind of a rush, I just started crying when I heard.”

Vandermay said after receiving the call from Wilson, the couple felt an urgency to apply for the marriage license during the open window, in case the state appealed.

“When Ashley called and told me, I was jumping up and down and once the kids left the classroom, one of the teachers told me to go and Ashley told me she was getting in a cab to go to City Hall,” she said. “It was so quick and so fast. We didn’t know what City Hall would look like so it was sort of like, drop everything you are doing and go.”

The couple said they never anticipated how much support would surround them once they got there.

“It was so cool because when we walked in, you could tell from our excitement that we were applying and the woman at the security desk was excited and signed us in and said good luck,” Wilson said. “When we got to the Register of Wills, they asked us if we were there to apply for a license and we said yes and they just started clapping and cheering. The reception we received was unbelievable.”

The pair then awaited Gov. Tom Corbett’s decision on the ruling.

“I thought it would be appealed. I had it in my head this was too good to be true,” Vandermay said.

But the governor announced last Wednesday that he would let the ruling stand.

With that, the couple said they started talking about tying the knot in Philadelphia, and their parents helped with last-minute plans, obtaining flowers and setting up the judge to officiate at midnight.

“This is a place in history that you want to be in,” Wilson said. “It just started as an idea and, as it grew, Lindsay and I started getting more excited about the idea of getting married in front of the Art Museum — when you think Philly, you think of the Art Museum. It was an incredible view.”

The couple was surrounded by a small circle of family and friends, and were even congratulated by passersby.

“We couldn’t believe it was happening and we were so overjoyed,” Vandermay said. “People we didn’t even know were there and were so supportive. Nothing was planned but it was still beautiful.”

The couple is still sticking with their original plans and will have a ceremony June 20 at Absolute Elegance in Corolla, N.C.

“We have our wedding gowns that we had planned to wear. It will be more of a traditional type of ceremony,” Wilson said. “Like I’ve said many times, I will marry Lindsay as many times as I can.”

To follow their wedding plans, visit http://lindsayashley.ourwedding.com.

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