Mark Marotto’s first love was music. “I was married to my music for many years,” Mark admits. But, as much joy as music brought him, there was something missing in his life. “I didn’t realize what it was until I met Bayron.” Mark grew up in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, and directs the choirs at Lone Star College-Montgomery. The 45-year-old also chairs the school’s visual and performing-arts department. He went to Duke as an undergrad and the University of Michigan for graduate school.
Bayron Tabora, 35, from Santa Rosa de Copán, Honduras, is the founder and owner of Castellanos Home Solutions, a remodeling and contracting business. The University of Houston-Downtown graduate also has an art studio at Silver Street Studios called Castellanos Fine Art. The two live in Houston’s Rice Military neighborhood.
Mark and Bayron met in March of 2017 at Guava Lamp. “While chatting, Bayron showed me pictures of some paintings he had done, and I knew immediately I had met someone extraordinary,” Mark says. Three days later, they ran into each other completely by chance at the Eagle. After several hours of talking, they realized that their friends had left them without saying a word.
Bayron feels much the same way about art as Mark feels about music. “To me, art means showing your true soul to the world, [but that was missing] in my life until five years ago. Before I met Mark, I was afraid to show my work to other people. Mark has made me believe in what I do. He is the greatest inspiration and support in my life. Everything I do relates to the happiness and love he inspires in me,” Bayron says.
A few weeks later, Bayron surprised Mark by taking him horseback riding. “It was the most beautiful date I had ever been on,” Mark says. A little over a year later, it was Mark’s turn to surprise Bayron while horseback riding—this time with a ring. “It had been raining in the days prior, and the horses had to swim through a river,” Mark recalls. “I never thought I was going to make it. Bayron is the experienced rider.”
When they made it across the river to a field, Mark quickly got off the horse, got down on one knee, and asked Bayron if he would marry him. “He said yes, and later he shared that he had just spoken to his friends about planning to propose to me in the months to come,” Marotta says.
The couple chose Brenner’s on the Bayou as their wedding venue after they had met friends there for happy hour and knew immediately that they had found the perfect location. The ceremony was on October 13, 2019, with their friend Becky Shuman officiating. Shuman was the president of the Houston Cecilia Chamber Choir that Mark used to conduct.
“Shortly after Mark and I met, he invited me to a concert he was conducting called Butterfly Dreams,” Bayron says. “During that concert, I had visions of holding hands and getting married to Mark.” Bayron got so freaked out that he left after the concert without even saying goodbye. “I went home to paint a butterfly.”
Bayron later gave the painting to Mark as a gift, and that was when butterflies became the theme for their wedding. During the ceremony, the couple invited their friends and family to write their wishes for them on paper butterflies. “We built a small boat out of paper, placed all the butterfly wishes in the boat, and set them free on the bayou after the ceremony,” Bayron explains.
Although the butterfly boat took everyone’s breath away, that wasn’t the only memorable moment of the ceremony. Music, of course, also had a big impact on the evening. “Sharing my life with Bayron has brought a deeper meaning to all that I do, including music,” Mark says. “And the best part is that I get to introduce some of my favorite music to him, and see him experience it for the first time. It may be hard to imagine, but he had never heard “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” It ended up becoming the final song at our wedding ceremony that we all sang—Bayron included—as we walked out,” Mark says.
Although the two did not specifically seek out LGBTQ vendors, they worked closely with their friends on a number of wedding details, including photography and the music. They featured Bayron’s artwork in the programs and invitations.
Sometime this year, they plan to honeymoon in Honduras so they can continue the celebration with Bayron’s family members who could not attend the Houston wedding.
“I am particularly looking forward to meeting Bayron’s grandmother Lela,” Mark says. “Early on in our relationship, Bayron shared her story about the courage it took for her to run away at age 16 with her boyfriend, marry, and build a family together with 14 children. In Bayron’s words, ‘When there is love, you just take that next step and figure it out together.’ I am looking forward to doing just that with the most beautiful man I know.”
For Mark, being with Bayron feels like coming home. “Every day reveals yet another layer of what a beautiful person he is. Bayron is the most kind-hearted, loving, and courageous person I know,” Mark says. And although Bayron would never admit it, he is quite the singer in his own right. “Every now and then,
I will sit down at the piano and he will sing some boleros that would knock your socks off!” Mark says.
Bayron feels the same way about Mark, calling him “the kind of person who can change someone’s world with just a smile. I know that because he brought life and colors to my world from the first moment he smiled at me at Guava Lamp. Mark is a gentleman—kind, affectionate, and more than anything, he is real. He is everything I always dreamed of in a husband, and thought I would never find.”
Like a beautiful song, their story is one that could make even the most stoic among us believe in this crazy thing called love.
This article appears in the August 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.