Miss Maine, Juliana Morehouse, will be the first married woman to compete at Miss USA.
Morehouse told Insider she would've moved her wedding if the rules hadn't changed last year.
She got married in April and had light-up crowns and sashes for guests at the reception.
Miss Maine, Juliana Morehouse, will make history as the first married woman to compete in the Miss USA pageant.
Morehouse, 23, has been competing in pageants since she was 16. Inspired by her mom — a former Miss North Carolina who was second runner-up at Miss USA 1994 — Morehouse has dreamed of making it to the Miss USA stage since she was just a girl.
"I decided on my 7th birthday that I wanted a Miss USA-themed birthday," Morehouse told Insider. "I was Miss USA of course, because I was the birthday girl, and we did a little evening gown competition in my foyer at home."
Morehouse was inspired to start competing in pageants after seeing how much her mother loved the experience.
"Two of her best friends are former Miss USA contestants," Morehouse said. "And it launched a career in television news for her."
"Pageants are really a microcosm of the real world in a way," she added. "I think it's prepared me in more ways than one as I embark on different chapters of my life."
Morehouse was already engaged before the Miss USA organization changed the rules to allow married women to compete in the pageant for the first time in its history.
Morehouse's now-husband, Taylor Reed Locklear, got down on one knee in April 2022, a few weeks after Morehouse had placed third runner-up in the Miss Maine competition.
She knew she wanted to compete for the title one more time, but the possibility of a rule change hadn't even crossed her mind.
"We went ahead and set a wedding date and started to do a little planning, but made the agreement that if I did win Miss Maine in November, we'd have to move the wedding," Morehouse said.
Morehouse said she was shocked when she heard the news about the rule change.
In August 2022, it was announced that married women and mothers would be able to compete at the Miss USA and Miss Universe competitions starting in 2023. The timing couldn't have been more perfect for Morehouse.
"I've dreamed of getting married for a lot of my life, and I've dreamed of competing at Miss USA for a lot of my life," Morehouse said. "I never thought doing the two at the same time would be possible."
"I feel really honored to be the first to do both," she added. "And it just excites me because, in a lot of ways, there's an attack on marriage in our culture. And I think marriage is a wonderful institution and it can be a really positive life choice for a lot of women."
Morehouse got married on April 29 at the same church where she got engaged.
Locklear popped the question in front of St. Philip's Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on Easter weekend in April 2022.
"He chose the church because our faith is very important to us and we met a lot of really wonderful people at that church," Morehouse said. "It's beautiful as well, and it was cool that it ended up being where we got married."
Morehouse wore a custom Pnina Tornai gown that she found at Kleinfeld in New York City.
Morehouse said she and her mother had always talked about going to Kleinfeld — the famous bridal store from "Say Yes to the Dress" — and turned it into a big trip with her two sisters after she got engaged.
Morehouse loved a long-sleeved dress that suited her "old-soul personality," but she was apprehensive about the heavy skirt. Little did she know, Tornai was actually at Kleinfeld that same day doing a trunk show.
"She came in and said we can make the skirt detachable and she modeled the bottom of the dress after another I had tried on," Morehouse said. "Our whole experience was amazing, I would send anybody there."
Morehouse said her favorite part of the wedding was the ceremony.
"I really wanted it to be a spiritually moving experience for people, and a lot of that was being very intentional about the music that I chose," she said. "We had a full choir, a soloist, strings, organist, pianist, bagpipes, trumpets."
"So many people were extremely emotional, crying, and said it was the best wedding music at a ceremony that they'd ever heard," she added. "We had some people tell us it was really more like a worship service."
Morehouse incorporated her passion for pageants into the reception.
Guests received light-up crowns instead of glow sticks, as well as sashes with phrases like "Maine-ly here to party" and "Mr Drywall 2023," which paid tribute to Locklear's drywall company.
The wedding also turned into a sweet Miss USA reunion. Morehouse's mom's best friends — a former Miss North Carolina and Miss Rhode Island — were at the wedding, as were the current Miss Massachusetts, Annika Sharma, and former Miss Virginia 2021, Christina Thompson.
There were also cardboard cutouts of Morehouse being crowned as Miss Maine USA, which later went crowd-surfing on the dance floor.
"People had way more fun with the crown and sashes than I thought they would," she said. "Every person of every age, they had them on."
Now that the wedding is over, Morehouse is focused on preparing for the upcoming Miss USA pageant.
On top of studying for her master's in theology and a graduate program in clinical mental health counseling, Morehouse is working with walking coaches, keeping up with the news, and giving presentations as a community educator for the Alzheimer's Association.
And Morehouse is so excited to represent married women on the Miss USA stage.
"There's no other job that a married woman can't do because of her marital status," Morehouse said. "There are married women who are CEOs, there are married women who are doctors, there are married women who are lawyers, models, teachers, nurses, business owners — all different career paths."
She added: "Miss USA is a job, so how is that any different?"
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