Many of those relatives were among the 60-some guests gathered on the roof of the couple's Harborview home at midnight for the wedding ceremony. Each man had chosen a brother to serve as his best man as vows were exchanged.

They feasted on a catered meal — crab cakes, smoked salmon, marinated beef tenderloin, two kinds of cake — and celebrated as fireworks exploded over the harbor.

"It was wonderful," Williams said.

"There were vows, and in fact, as we were saying them, one of my nieces was holding an iPad with a countdown clock so that the wedding could be officially ended in 2013," he said. "We had to wait for about 30 seconds because we were a little fast, and then we counted down 10, 9, 8 and so forth, and then Rev. [Stephen] Mann pronounced us married and everyone cheered and the fireworks went off."

The marriage, Williams says, is "the final bow on the package" of the couple's deep commitment.

"We know that we're unusual in that we've been together for 29 years and we've never had the chance to stand up in front of our friends and family and say our vows," he said. "We did want to stand up and say, 'We do.'"

For Katie and Sharon Dongarra, the official state marriage certificate brings a similar sense of satisfaction.

The two met when they were teenagers working at an Arby's restaurant in their hometown of Seaford, Del. Sharon had turned away from the meat slicer when she spotted Katie refilling the coffee pot. A spark passed between them.

The pair were friends for a long time before they shared a kiss on Aug. 12, 1995, the date they celebrate as their anniversary. But soon they were parting ways — Katie was heading off to Washington College and Sharon accepted a job with the Red Cross that took her to Turkey, Korea and Kuwait.

They poured out their feelings in lengthy letters, Katie detailing classes while Sharon described aiding the residents of the countries in which she was working.

Sharon came home to surprise Katie for her 21st birthday. She held Katie close as she prepared to leave, feeling, she recalls, "like I was going to die."

"It was really at that moment I knew I wanted to be with her for the rest of my life," Sharon said.

The women moved in together during Katie's last year of college, then made a home together in Baltimore. They moved to Georgia together so Sharon could attend chiropractic school. On the 11th anniversary of their first kiss, they exchanged vows at a commitment ceremony at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.

The Dongarras paid an attorney $6,000 to prepare documents granting them many of the rights that couples receive when they pay a fraction of that for a marriage certificate. After Katie gave birth to Lucy, another lawyer helped the family through the adoption process so Sharon could have full rights as a parent.

But still, something was lacking. The Dongarras wanted that piece of paper that proved they were a committed couple, equal to any other.

They joined the campaign for Question 6, knocking on doors, volunteering at a phone bank, chatting with voters outside the polls on Election Day. Asking strangers to vote for their rights felt unnatural, said Katie, who works for a mortgage company.

When same-sex marriage passed, the couple decided to make their marriage official as soon as possible. They wanted Sharon's mother, who was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in August and whom they describe as a "tireless proponent for gay rights," to be able to celebrate with them.

And so, at midnight, the women stood in front of an antique clock in their home to promise their lives to each other — in the eyes of the state.

As they made plans in the days leading up to the wedding, the Dongarras weren't sure if they would wake Lucy for the ceremony or let her sleep through the excitement. But they agreed that she was most important reason for them to celebrate a wedding.

"We've done OK as outlaws," said Sharon Dongarra. "But Lucy needs to know her moms' relationship is as legitimate as anyone else's."

Baltimore Sun reporter Kevin Rector contributed to this article.

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