By Henry V. Thiel
Photo by Kim Coffman
If you are a pet lover, you’ve probably seen Shelby Kibodeaux and Bruce Padilla out and about with their two- and four-legged friends. Whether as event chairs or co-chairs, the couple has raised more than $1.5 million in the past few years for Citizens for Animal Protection (CAP), Houston PetSet Fierce & Fabulous Soiree, the inaugural aniMeals Best Friend’s Brunch for Interfaith Ministries’ Meals on Wheels program, and CAP’s Bad to the Bone party.
Padilla is currently regional manager for luxury handbag-maker MCM Worldwide, and Kibodeaux owns a pet-sitting service named Sit, Stay, Walk, Play. “He gets to do what he loves every single day, caring for pets all over Houston,” according to Kibodeaux’s husband.
Padilla and Kibodeaux met at Pacific Street, a nightclub in Montrose, on Cinco de Mayo in 1994. “It was more like ships passing at sea,” states Padilla. “We would see each other when we were out and about, and I always knew I wanted to meet him, but I never said anything until that fateful night when we both went to the restroom at the same time. When I saw him, I told him I couldn’t believe that after we had seen each other out for so long, we were finally meeting in the restroom!”
“I told him how cute I thought he was. I loved his red hair and goatee, and said one of these days we will be together!” Padilla explains. “I didn‘t know he didn‘t live in Houston, and that was why I only saw him every now and then. When I told him that I‘d like to go out on a date with him, he probably thought I was crazy, but I didn‘t care. I knew he was the man for me.”
Fast forward to 1996, when Kibodeaux moves to Houston and rents an apartment. “I told him he could always move in with me if he wanted. He said no a bunch of times before I finally convinced him—and the rest is history,” adds Shelby. “We‘ve been together ever since. Like a lot of gay couples, we always considered ourselves married, and referred to each other as husbands—never as partners or any other name.”
“In 2014 when it became legal to marry in New Mexico, we thought about getting married in Santa Fe, but the logistics involved proved to be overwhelming. So I said let‘s just wait until they make it legal everywhere,” Padilla explains. “It‘s just a matter of time, so we did.
“Neither of us proposed to the other, since we always thought of ourselves as being married. We knew one day we would make it legal.
“When the Supreme Court made it legal on June 26, 2015, I messaged Shelby and said ‘Now that it is legal, when do you wanna get married?’”
He replied, “Whenever we can get it all put together.”
“So we decided to do it on my birthday, August 16, so I could have the birthday party that I always wanted for my 50th that I never had, since I was diagnosed with cancer a month prior,” adds Padilla. “Such is life—but the cancer is all gone now.” Since time was short, they invited people to the party through Facebook. “We invited just over 300 people, and much to our surprise, almost every single one showed up!”
“It was a Sunday afternoon at Harwood Grill. The owner had become a friend, and he wanted to host our wedding. The place was perfect—just big enough to hold all of us.
“We always knew we wanted to have a party, and not a wedding, so it was very casual. Since we didn’t think we could get 300 people to stop drinking and having fun to watch us get married, we decided to get married before most guests arrived. We had a private ceremony with about 30 family and friends,” says Padilla. “And then the party started!
“The party was great! We had friends from all parts of our lives. My family from New Mexico, his family from Louisiana, old friends from 15 years ago, and new friends from all the charity events we do,” says Padilla. “It was great to have all our friends, and it turned out perfectly. Eating, drinking, lots of pictures, great food, great cake, a few dogs—it was just a great time. It couldn’t have turned out better if we had planned it for a year, and it was perfect for us since we are the most casual couple around.
“It was important to us to support our community,” states Padilla, “so we asked the guys at Cake Addict on T.C. Jester to make our cakes. Mine was Snoopy-themed and Shelby’s was Dalmatian-themed. The guys there are awesome, and they make the best cakes.”
Henry V. Thiel is a principal with The Epicurean Publicist.