Native Houstonians Jovon Alfon B. Tyler and Justin Carter met 10 years ago outside Blur Bar. Tyler was working the door, and Carter was waiting in line.
“Justin was so darn cute that I told him I would let him in for free if he would give me his phone number,” Tyler recalls.
“May my friend get in, too?” Carter replied.
“Once we reconnected, I knew immediately that I had to marry Justin because he was the same kind, gentle kid I’d met so many years earlier—just older.”
Tyler let them both in after getting Carter’s phone number.
Tyler, 42, is a funeral director at Bradshaw-Carter Funeral Services. Carter, 31, is a student at the University of Houston and a service manager at HEB Montrose Market.
For their first date, they went to the Art House Café where they chatted over coffee. Then they visited the Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral where they indulged their shared passion for architecture.
“I was immediately attracted to Jovon’s dynamic personality and his impressive physical presence,” Carter says. “He is passionate and eloquent in his speech—something that 21-year-olds would want to model themselves after. I wanted, and needed, to know more about him. I was really attracted to his dashing good looks.”
“What intrigued me about Justin was his innocent nature—his kind and sweet spirit. He is quite simply the best person I’ve ever known,” Tyler says. “He has a great sense of character, values, and ethics. I’m positive he’s never told a lie a day in his life. He is among the purest souls I’ve ever had the privilege to encounter. Plus, I’m a sucker for redheads.”
Tyler says their greatest challenge as a couple was that Carter was still finding his voice in the community.
“I am charismatic and constantly in the public eye,” Tyler says. “I always encouraged Justin to find his own voice, to be his own person, separate from me. Freedom is very, very important in a relationship, and I believe a person needs to experience that freedom daily.”
Conflict arose when Tyler’s friends and family were slow to embrace Carter as his boyfriend. “I am sure it was because I had always been a serial bachelor,” Tyler says. “And that Carter was not in our same social circles and just came out of nowhere. I also think that they were convinced Justin would flame out like the rest of my relationships.”
After three months of dating they did break up, but through the miracle of Facebook they stayed in touch. Six years later, Tyler reached out to Carter with an invitation to meet and catch up. By the following summer of 2015, Tyler and Carter were a couple living together in Montrose.
“Our time apart taught me that you cannot go into a relationship trying to change someone,” Tyler says. “You must love them completely—warts and all.”
“What I learned from our relationship the first time around is that every struggle you go through in a relationship will help form you into the best husband you can be,” Carter says. “And to make a relationship work, it takes complete honesty and mutual respect.”
What they also learned was that they have to keep their romance alive by taking time out of their schedules for each other—whether it’s a weekend trip to Puerto Vallarta or a dinner and a show at the Alley Theatre.
“Once we reconnected, I knew immediately that I had to marry Justin because he was the same kind, gentle kid I’d met so many years earlier—just older,” Tyler says.
When Tyler was sent to Memphis for work, he invited Carter to join him so they could visit Graceland, Tyler’s favorite place on earth. But once they were on the road, Tyler realized that he really wanted to make a marriage proposal. Even though he didn’t have a ring, he popped the question at Elvis Presley’s grave the next day.
Even though they had planned to marry last year in the Graceland chapel, the election of Donald Trump was so disappointing that Tyler wanted to move their wedding up exactly one year so they would have something to look forward to.
Tyler sought the blessing of his boss before calling his mother, former Houston mayor Annise Parker. He then asked his friends Richard Holt and Mark McMasters if he could use their home for a small wedding of no more than 40 people. It was only then that he informed Carter of his plan, telling him they had only 12 weeks to plan their wedding.
On January 20, 2017, Rev. John Tucker (an Episcopal priest), Rev. Cindy Goza (a Baptist chaplain), and judge Steve Kirkland officiated for their wedding at Holt and McMasters’ home.
The procession included eight groomsmen, eight groomsmaids, Tyler’s sisters and cousins, three flower girls, nieces, goddaughters, and godchildren. It was so long that it took three songs—“The Lord’s Prayer,” “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You,” and “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”—to get everyone down the aisle. Carter was escorted by his father, who is also gay.
For their vows, Carter told Tyler, “You can be free with me or without me, but I’d rather you be free with me.” To which Tyler replied, “Red, I love you with my whole heart, body, and soul from this day until eternity.”
More than 200 guests attended the wedding, where every smile and laugh was captured by photographer Dalton DeHart.
The newlyweds decided to forgo a traditional honeymoon in favor of traveling throughout the year and celebrating their vows every day.
They reside in Montrose.
This article appears in the January 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.