“We thank you for filling this space with love,” event co-host Alli Baldwin told the sea of 53 couples — 25 of which were getting married for the first time, while the rest were renewing their vows for the occasion. The 106 women had gathered on Oct. 15 on the lawn of Roux, a guesthouse owned by Baldwin and her wife, Ilene Mitnick, who had come up with the idea of a massive ceremony when deciding to renew their own vows.
“Alli and I wanted a quiet renewal of our vows, but we’re really passionate about bringing women into town,” Mitnick tells Yahoo Style, noting that they had talked about having their own ceremony in the fall — which coincides with a 32-year-long Provincetown tradition, Women’s Week, with special events geared toward lesbians happening all over town.
While envisioning the en masse commitment back in January, Mitnick says, the couple worked tirelessly throughout the year to make it happen — even contacting officials at Guinness World Records to find out how they could make it into the book. She was told the category of “Biggest Mass Lesbian Wedding” did not exist, but that to make it one, there would need to be 100 couples taking part. And though they didn’t reach that, Mitnick says, “We believe we did set a record.” (It appears to be true, as other past similar events, such as in Ohio in 2012 and earlier this year in Rio de Janeiro, had a mix of gay and lesbian participants.)
But record or not, the organizers were thrilled with how it turned out.
“There was such joy and love — it was a beautiful event,” Mitnick says, noting that it attracted hundreds of onlookers who spilled into the surrounding street and borrowed milk crates from the nearby deli on which to stand for a better view. Bride Pride’s participants ranged in age from 25 to 72, Mitnick adds, and traveled from 15 states including Michigan, Florida, Tennessee, and California.
The day’s officiant was comedian Kate Clinton, a long-beloved figure in the lesbian community, who kept everyone laughing with lines like, “You are a basket of adorables!” and “We are only one menstrual cycle away from this election cycle being over!” But Clinton inspired tears, too, by declaring, “I am here because I believe in the miracle of two women exchanging vows of marriage,” and by having participants recite “I will” to moving vows, including, “Will you love and respect her?” and “Will you promise to trust each other — to be flexible, generous, courageous, and committed to making your relationship flourish together?”
Upon their arrival in town, brides-to-be checked in at Womencrafts, a 40-year-old feminist book and gift shop in town, to receive a swag bag and a warm welcome from owner Michelle Axelson, who heard many of the women’s personal stories and photographed them holding a big “Mrs. & Mrs.” sign to mark the occasion. “There was a clear theme that, for the LGBTQ community, love and marriage is still a political act,” she tells Yahoo Style. “It was a privilege to show up for people whose families would not, and to surround the brides with love. It was political, personal, tender, and I cried the whole time.”
Mitnick says she was also moved by hearing the women’s stories, which served as a reminder of her luck when it comes to living in Provincetown, often referred to as the gayest ZIP code in America. “[Same-sex marriage] is legal everywhere, but it’s not easy everywhere,” she says, making particular note of a couple who made the 20-hour drive from Tennessee because, had they married at home, they would not have been supported by family. “We knew it was a reality that people live in places where it’s difficult to be themselves,” says Mitnick. “But to be hit with that was very moving.”