Lindsey and Jessica’s wedding weekend in Maryland: 2 families becoming 1

Just over six months ago, Lindsey Dawson and Jessica Chipoco were anxiously awaiting the results from the November 2012 election. The couple, who have been together since 2011, sat watching the numbers roll in, hoping that their neighbors in their home of Silver Spring and the rest of the state of Maryland voted in favor of Question 6, which extended the freedom to marry to same-sex couples.

"I was so elated that it passed - not just in our state, but in the other states where it passed," Jessica said. "This is where we've bought a home, and we hope to have children here. It's validating now to live in a state where the people said, 'Yes - this is how it should be. This is what's right.'" (Photos by Helen John)

Two weeks ago, on March 30, Lindsey and Jessica were able to have the wedding of their dreams in the state where they live, at an outdoor retreat location in Maryland. The venue is just a quick walk away from the hiking trail by the Potomac River where they got engaged to each other.

Their Big Day was actually a Big Weekend - a celebration distributed over several days, beginning on the Friday before the wedding. Family members and friends were encouraged to stay in lodges and bunkrooms on site of the rustic outdoor retreat spot as they came together for the first time.

From get-to-know-you games to an evening bonfire to a huge Italian dinner on Friday, the weekend served as a chance to celebrate Lindsey and Jessica's love and truly merge the two families. "For both of our families, this was the first time that our cousins and aunts and uncles were meeting," Jessica explained. "Everyone kept explaining and echoing that they had never felt so much love in one room."

On Saturday, Lindsey and Jessica were greeted with a perfect Spring day. They prepared for their ceremony. (Photo of Lindsey, left, by Rachel Garay Photography)

They promised to love, honor, and cherish each other forever.

They each kissed their bride.

And they made their way to their wedding reception, where they'd continue celebrating with their friends and family members.

The couple's gorgeous wedding weekend took place in front of a particularly significant backdrop: Just days before, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two landmark cases: the legal challenge to Proposition 8 in California and the legal challenge to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal respect to legally married same-sex couples. The Supreme Court cases were the most dominant story of the week, with millions of people worldwide fixing their eyes on the freedom to marry's day in court.

"Marriage hit this kind of fever pitch the week we were getting married," Jessica said. "It was on the cover of Time magazine! One of our witnesses said, 'Talk about picking a week' during his speech and marveled on this year: We've been riding a wave since Election Day, and it was so cool to be a part of that."

"Visibility makes a difference - and it matters," Lindsey said, explaining that it felt rewarding to join her family members for such a wonderful celebration in the middle of the national conversation on why marriage matters. "This visibility is political - and I'm really pleased to be a part of it. Now, after a few weeks of being married to Jessica, I feel a little different. I don't feel any more committed to her than I did before, but I feel like the strength of that commitment is deeper. And to deny that commitment to anyone else, in some ways, feels like a larger, more significant denial."

Lindsey, Jessica, and millions of people across the country will continue to keep their attention focused on the Supreme Court - by June, the Court is expected to announce its decisions in the marriage cases, and they have a real opportunity to stand on the Right Side of History and move marriage forward. Until they do, loving couples like Lindsey and Jessica will continue to stand up, declare their love for each other, and demonstrate that the freedom to marry matters - and that all couples should be able to commit themselves to each other - publicly, legally, and visibly.

Photos by Helen John