By Henry V. Thiel
Paul Kern and Tony Lee met via Match.com in March of 2013. After chatting on the phone for several weeks, they decided to meet for coffee at the Starbucks on Post Oak Boulevard. They were having so much fun that they didn’t want the date to end, so they went to dinner across the street at The Canyon Café. When they left the restaurant, their impromptu meeting had officially become The First Date.
“From that very first phone call, I was attracted to Paul’s ability to laugh often and a lot,” says Lee.
“I was attracted to Tony’s caring attitude, and youthful good looks,” Kern confesses, even choking up a bit as he describes the man who revealed himself to be his true love.
Both Catholic, Kern knew the relationship was serious when they went to church together on Date Four.
Then, an equal number of months later, Kern, a tax man, proposed to Lee as soon as he returned from an overseas trip. “Yes, I got down on one knee, and while holding his left hand, I asked Tony to marry me,” Kern admits. “I presented him with a diamond-encrusted watch, because I wanted to spend every minute of my life with the man I love.”
Lee, however, being a physical therapist and pragmatist, declared, “It’s too soon!” and refused to give Kern the answer he wanted. In case there was any misunderstanding, he added, “Take it back to the store.”
Lee finally agreed on New Year’s Eve to marry Kern, and two years later they were married at Sweetwater Country Club in Sugar Land. “We chose it for its beautiful location and excellent facility,” explains Kern. “Plus, they had availability for the date we wanted, 12/12.”
“I used to live in the area, so I was familiar with Sweetwater,” Lee adds. “Plus, I have friends in the area.” Officiating at the wedding was Father Gary Brewton. Steven David, whom they met through the HATCH Prom at the Montrose Center, was their photographer. While the wedding was a simple affair, it was a blending of two cultures and two families.
Both grooms were escorted down the aisle by their sisters. Kern’s best man traveled from Atlanta, and his sisters, niece, and two great-nieces traveled from Pennsylvania. Lee’s brother was his best man who, along with his sister and niece, traveled from Singapore for the wedding.
The wedding’s décor mixed tradition and familial honor. In the lobby entrance to the ballroom, Lee added a wedding scroll, their parents’ wedding portraits, and a pair of dragon candles—a Chinese wedding symbol representing “double happiness.” Wedding candles are traditionally a pair of dragon and phoenix candles to represent the male and female of the couple to be married. “We had to buy two sets of candles, so we could have two dragon candles,” Lee explains, his voice a slight mix of complaint and confession.
For their honeymoon, Lee and Kern visited Lee’s family in Singapore. “We visited Tony’s family in 2014 so I could meet them,” Kern explains. “We all got along very well and had a great time. During that visit, Tony hosted his mother at a tea ceremony that expressed his love and respect for her. It was very beautiful and moving,” he says.
“When we arrived at Tony’s mother’s home for our honeymoon, the whole city was celebrating Chinese New Year,” Kern says. “It was a very festive time to meet more of Tony’s family, where we enjoyed the amazing food, visited with friends, and relaxed from the pressures of the wedding.
“Tony’s mother surprised us,” explains Kern with a big smile on his face, “by inviting us to tea, which turned out to be a tea ceremony that expressed her respect for us as a couple, and which formally welcomed me as a member of the family.
“I was so moved,” Kern recalls, wiping tears on his sleeve. “Not only had I married the love of my life, I had been accepted as a member of his family.”
Then he connected the dots for those who don’t quite grasp the magnitude of such a rite: “Unlike during our first visit, where we were not allowed to share a room, this time it was expected and blessed!”
Henry V. Thiel is a principal with The Epicurean Publicist, a boutique public relations company which works exclusively with chefs and restauranteurs. He loves weddings.