But on Dec. 28, the couple wed at their South Ogden holiday party surrounded by family and friends.
"We surprised all our guests … it was just a wonderful, loving experience," he said. Johnson's last float-building experience, incidentally, was for Brigham Young University's homecoming parade in the 1970s.
Organizers are expecting more than 120 entries at the Utah Pride Parade this year, a 25 percent increase from the year before. Two are dedicated to the Amendment 3 case. A gold float with the words "Our champions of marriage equality" on the side will carry the six plaintiffs in the case, who are the parade's grand marshals. The Queen song "We are the Champions" will play.
The other will feature newly married same-sex couples, many of whom wed after U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby overturned Utah's Amendment 3. Same-sex marriage was legal in Utah for 17 days, until the U.S. Supreme Court put a halt to the unions while the state appeals the ruling (the case is now in front of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver).
More than 1,000 couples wed during those 17 days, and Utah Pride has put out an open call for any and all of them to march alongside the float as well as those who wed out of state.
"We don't know how many couples are actually showing up at the parade, but we're anticipating quite a few," said Johnson.
Weight restrictions will limit the total number who can ride to 38, primarily people with movement restrictions. The float will feature the first couple to wed in Utah, Michael Ferguson and Seth Anderson, as well as the stars of the viral Home Depot proposal video, Spencer Stout and Dustin Reeser, under an arch.
Marchers are being asked to wear white and carry bells, and volunteer Jolene Mewing with Marriage Equality USA said it could be an emotional scene.
"The momentum across the country, especially with Utah leading the way …. people are going to be excited, it's going to be grand, and I'm pretty sure we're going to have cheers and lots of tears too," she said.
Mewing herself wed out of state 23 days before Utah's ban was overturned because her wife Colleen had been paying an extra $400 a paycheck in insurance premiums to cover her; they later wed in Utah after Shelby's decision.
"It was just incredible," she said.
The float's structure is a platform for mobile offices on oil fields and weighs some 40,000 pounds. It'll be pulled by a semi trailer, and it's so big that organizers are planning to enter the parade a half-block in to avoid making a sharp turn.
The 48-foot-long float not including the trailer is also a mobile nuptial celebration.
"We wanted it to be a wedding for the couples who didn't get the chance to have a wedding, just rushed down so quickly to try to get married and didn't have the time to plan carefully," said volunteer Monique Lanier. "We tried to give them something beautiful so they can feel special and important and honored."
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @lwhitehurst
Want to march?
All newlywed same-sex couples are invited to march Sunday in the Utah Pride Parade. To participate, go to 400 East between 200 South and 300 South between 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.
More information is at the Facebook event page titled "Just Married Float Utah Pride Parade 2014" or at email@example.com.
Utah Pride festival events
Thursday • 7 p.m. Interfaith Service at Wasatch Presbyterian Church
Friday • 7 p.m. Grand Marshal Reception
Saturday • 9 a.m. Pride Day 5K; 12 p.m. Dyke Rally and March;
2 p.m. Transgender Rally and March; 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Festival
Sunday • 10 a.m. Utah Pride Parade; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Festival, with entertainment beginning at noon.
For details, ticket prices and more information, visit utahpridefestival.org.