Emerson UU Church Hosts Day of Same-Sex Weddings

Long-awaited dreams came true on July 11 for 13 same-sex couples — with a little help from their new-found friends at Emerson Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church in Houston.

Emerson’s “Day of Weddings” was part of a nationwide celebration dubbed #just marriage, sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). UU ministers from all 50 states committed to offering free same-sex weddings during the July 11-12 weekend. Emerson co-ministers Becky and the late Mark Edmiston-Lange, who officiated at the ceremonies, challenged their congregation to think even bigger and provide complete weddings — not just the ministers, but the flowers, photographers and reception, and, of course, the wedding cakes.

Each couple experienced a personalized ceremony, including vows they chose, that lasted about 15 minutes. After the wedding, the couple signed their fully legal marriage certificate in the foyer before the wedding party adjourned to a reception – beginning with the newlyweds cutting the traditional top wedding layer for (more!) photos.

“Thank you Emerson for giving me the gift of being able to marry the love of my life,” said one of the happy newlyweds. “Thank the ministers and the church. It is a blessing to marry my soul mate.”

Unitarian Universalists have been long-time, vocal advocates for the rights of LGBTQ (lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-questioning) people. According to the Revs. Edmiston-Lange, a UU minister first performed a ceremony of union for a same gender couple in the late 1950s. In 1984, the UUA officially affirmed the practice of conducting services of union for gay and lesbian couples and in 1996 made history by being the first mainline denomination in the U.S. to support full marriage equality.

“It’s been a long time coming, but finally, LGBTQ people are free to enter the central social and legal institution of our society on the same basis as heterosexual couples,” said the Rev. Becky Edmiston-Lange. “Millions of people have been waiting for this day; millions of people have been working toward this day. We look forward to celebrating –not only the historical occasion, but this life-changing moment for each couple.”

Co-minister The late Rev. Mark Edmiston-Lange added, “It’s been many years since I performed my first same-sex ceremony, but we at Emerson are so happy to finally be able to do this. Some mainstream dominations will choose not to perform same-sex weddings, but this gives couples an opportunity to have a church wedding, rather than just a civil ceremony.”

The church reached outside its membership base through social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Meetup, and placed ads during the spring in OutSmart magazine.

The wedding day at Emerson had been in the planning stages since earlier in the spring when it became apparent that the high court would hand down a decision during the recently concluded term. About 100 volunteers, including members of Emerson and the Humanists of Houston, joined together to make the day special for guests from the time they arrived at the church to the last cake crumbs.

“It was an amazing effort,” said Katy Carpman, Emerson’s Director of Religious Education. She estimated that volunteers put in more than 500 hours in preparation and event-day activities. Many volunteers stayed long after their designated shifts ended, just to witness the ceremonies, support the couples and share in the occasion’s profound and perceptible joy. “People stepped up to make boutonnieres and nosegays, provide music, cater the reception, welcome and usher guests, help the couples, and do everything it takes to make a wonderful wedding,” Carpman said.

One member of the congregation commented the morning after the day-long celebration, “I’ve never been prouder to be ‘us’ than I am right now.”