Three sets of newlyweds became the first same-sex couples to say "I do" inside the chapel at the Anne Arundel Circuit Courthouse in Annapolis on Wednesday.
Marylanders voted to uphold a law legalizing gay marriage in November, but it didn't take effect until Tuesday. With state offices closed for New Year's Day, Wednesday was the first time couples could marry at the courthouse.
"It's kinda weird right now," Shantel Graves said. "It's kinda like I never saw her before; never kissed her before. It's all brand new."
Graves married Jerica Pope, her girlfriend of three years, in a private ceremony on Wednesday afternoon. The couple plans to have a formal wedding and reception near their home in Glen Burnie in April.
When they got engaged, the couple considered going out of state for their nuptials. In 2010, Maryland began recognizing same-sex marriages from out of state, according to The Washington Post.
Being one of the first same-sex couples to marry in the courthouse chapel made Graves feel a bit like she was a part of history, but Pope said that didn't matter to her.
"Just being able to share this moment together is good enough for me," Pope said.
For Tanya Rodriguez and Wendee Montes the day was 13 years in the making.
"She was my first lesbian girlfriend," Rodriguez said. "She actually kind of brought me out of the closet."
Montes knew she'd found her soul mate almost immediately, but Rodriguez said she "was kind of immature at the time." The couple separated for nearly seven years before rekindling their relationship.
They exchanged tear-filled vows in front of two of the couple's six children and plan to have a reception in August for extended family and friends.
"It's an amazing, amazing feeling," Rodriguez said. "I knew I was going to cry."
Since Gov. Martin O'Malley certified the election results on Dec. 6, approximately 43 same-sex couples have registered for marriage licenses in Anne Arundel County.
A Pasadena couple came in for a license on Wednesday afternoon with plans to return on Friday after the state's mandatory 48-hour waiting period.
"We knew that it was legal now, and the kids have been dying for us to do it," Hansen Longfellow said.
Linda Davis, who supervises the Marriage License department at the courthouse, said she expected more people to show up. She thought a morning protest outside the courthouse by the controversial Westboro Baptist Church might have deterred some couples.
Four members of the Kansas-based church held signs and sang songs disparaging gay marriage in front of the county courthouse on Wednesday from 8 to 9 a.m.
All three couples arrived after the Westboro's members departed for the Baltimore County Circuit Court in Towson. Montes and Rodriguez said the group wouldn't have stopped them. After a "long road" to the altar, the couple didn't want to wait another day.
"No one is guaranteed tomorrow," Montes said. "If something happened to her, I wanted to be able to say she was my wife."