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Provincetown abuzz with wedding plans

Gay marriages, celebrations set

PROVINCETOWN -- For so long, it seemed the celebration might not happen here, that a judge or governor might stamp a heel on same-sex marriage, and then what to do with a 2-karat band and a guest list?

But with gay marriage green-lighted to move forward on Monday, this tiny coastal town is abuzz with wedding preparation. Conversations up and down Commercial Street whirl around ceremonial details.

''Formal casual," Peter Bez, 46, said to the question ''Informal or formal wear?" at a meeting yesterday with the Unitarian minister who will marry him and his partner of 27 years on May 25 at 2 p.m.

Still unclear, he said, is what selections he may ask friends to read at the church ceremony, which will be followed by a reception at the inn he co-owns with his partner, Chuck Anzalone, 52, a painter and graphic artist. ''I'm going to search my Buddhist teachings," Bez said. ''Or maybe something from Sondheim."

At the town hall, intricate maps chart the work locations of nearly 60 volunteers recruited to handle the typing, filing, and questions of the hundreds expected to file their intention to marry on Monday. Already, 110 couples have made appointments, with many more drop-ins anticipated. A smaller fraction are expected to hold ceremonies on Monday because to do so requires a waiver from the three-day waiting period from a judge, and the nearest courthouse is 45 minutes away.

Provincetown processed just 19 marriage license applications last year, but these days, the business of marriage has become a consuming focus for town workers, some personally so. An estimated 10 percent of the municipal work force plans to marry, along with two selectmen.

Meanwhile, officials are bracing for a crush of media with more than 40 outlets -- including Dutch and Japanese TV stations -- slated to descend on this town of 3,400 full-time residents with its penchant for street theater and flair.

Provincetown made a splash with its selectmen's vote to defy the governor's mandate that same-sex couples residing out of state who marry here must declare their intention to live in Massachusetts. Town officials said all that is needed is a sworn affidavit by same-sex partners that they know of no legal impediment to their marriage.

The vote caused a dustup with Governor Mitt Romney, with his spokesman this week suggesting that Provincetown was just steps away from marrying 10-year-olds.

Town Manager Keith Bergman says the extrapolation was unkind. Moreover, contrary to the hype that has preceded it, Monday, per his wishes, will be a day of dignity and business, one of paperwork and little pomp.

''This is not about flamboyance," he said. ''We're about the business of getting marriage-intention forms filled out and marriage licenses typed up."

Indeed, Provincetown chose not to open its municipal offices at the stroke of midnight, as Cambridge will do. Its doors will open at 8 a.m. -- a move that some believe helped divert a group of gay-marriage protesters to Cambridge.

''We're letting Cambridge be the Dixville Notch of same-sex marriage," Bergman said, referring to the town in northern New Hampshire that quadrennially is the first to vote in the nation's first state presidential primary.

Of course, formal propriety is not something easy to enforce here. Drag queens regularly perform in front of Town Hall. A local hotel has arranged a bachelor party for tonight, billed as a ''Last Chance Dance."

Still, many here say that marriage itself, with all its formality and legal imprimatur, is propelling many to adhere with an un-Provincetown-like rigidity to stricture and custom.

Alison Hyder, the minister at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House of Provincetown, said the same-sex couples she is marrying have been more inclined to request ceremonies in the church sanctuary, rather than the dunes favored for civil commitment ceremonies.

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