Morehouse and her partner Taylor Reed Locklear tied the knot on April 29: "Becoming husband and wife has been one of the most mystical, impactful experiences of our lives," Morehouse tells PEOPLE
Miss Maine USA contestant Juliana Morehouse is married!
The pageant contestant, 23, who is pursuing her master's degree in theology, wed her long-time partner Taylor Reed Locklear in a "romantic" ceremony in Charleston, South Carolina on April 29.
The couple exchanged vows in front of 350 family and friends at the historic St. Philip's Church, where they also got engaged a year earlier.
"My favorite moment on our wedding day was when I walked down the aisle. For me, time stopped," Morehouse tells PEOPLE exclusively.
"As I draped the blusher of my veil over my face, I held onto my dad's arm. The doors to our church sanctuary opened, and Highland Cathedral began to play. While the bagpipes and the trumpet echoed throughout the church, the moment felt very regal."
The pair's love story began when Morehouse was a high school senior and Locklear had just graduated from the Citadel Military College of South Carolina. They ran into each other at Morehouse's family's annual Christmas party.
The next day Locklear asked Morehouse out to dinner, and the rest was history. "Since that first dinner, Taylor has always been a constant in my life," she says. "He never lets a day go by without telling me he loves me, and that is a gift I will never take for granted."
The pageant star walked down the aisle on the arm of her father in a custom lace gown featuring a ruffled skirt created by Israeli designer Pnina Tornai, whose designs have been featured on Sex and the City and Say Yes to the Dress. Morehouse carried a bouquet of pink and white flowers and her stunning veil featured a long train that trailed behind her.
Following the nuptials, the newlywed's reception was held at the nearby Hibernian Hall, where guests were led by a bagpiper dressed in a traditional kilt.
"As the first Miss USA contestant to get married during her reign as a state titleholder, I hope to show women that it is possible to get married and still chase your dreams," says Morehouse.
In August 2022, the Miss USA organization announced in a press release that they were changing their rules for contestants. "Effective with the 2023 Miss USA competition and state preliminary competitions, women who are or have been married, as well as women who are pregnant or have children, will be able to compete," read the release.
"Marriage is a wonderful institution, and I am pleased that the Miss Universe Organization is empowering women to do both," says Morehouse. "My husband's love and support has refined me into the woman I am, so he is certainly on the road to Miss USA with me."
The couple's reception hall was decorated with pink, lilac and red florals where guests were served signature cocktails — the Queen's Rose for her and the Gentleman's Old Fashioned for him — and treated to a champagne tower poured by the bride and groom.
Meanwhile, their wedding menu consisted of food stations that featured oysters, sushi, beef tenderloin with green beans and potatoes, mac and cheese with the option to add extras such as crab and grits, and scallops with risotto. And to fuel the late-night dancing — with a soundtrack provided by the Soul Psychedelique Orchestra — the celebrations ended with mini cheeseburger sliders.
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"We wanted southern comfort food to reflect the incredible food Charleston has to offer," Morehouse adds of the day, which was planned by Meredith Tanton of Sweetgrass Social.
When it came to dessert, the couple served mini key lime pies and banana puddings as well as their gorgeous, floral-covered wedding cake — a four-tier classic vanilla cake with buttercream icing and carrot cake with cream cheese icing.
For the evening celebrations, Morehouse changed into a party dress and as a nod to her pageant career, she added a light-up tiara and her Miss Maine USA sash.
Some of the couple's guests who have a Miss USA connection — including Morehouse's mom, who is a former Miss North Carolina USA — also brought along their sashes and posed for a picture. Other guests were also gifted their very own sashes and tiaras and were snapped tossing a cardboard cutout of Morehouse being crowned Miss Maine USA into the air as they danced.
When planning her nuptials, Morehouse says she wanted a "romantic, spirit-filled, fun" day. "Most of all, I hoped for a day that my husband and I could enjoy with our loved ones, and that we did," she adds
The newlyweds are now enjoying their honeymoon in Italy, with stops in Rome, Positano, and Capri, and they are looking forward to their future together.
"Becoming husband and wife has been one of the most mystical, impactful experiences of our lives," she says.
"We feel very privileged to have found each other while we are young, and we look forward to navigating the hills and valleys that life will bring as a team. We are teammates, companions, and lovers. While the big moments in life are wonderful, being married makes the simple moments in life more splendid. Two is better than one."
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