By Henry V. Thiel
Photos by Thomas & Penelope Photography
Matt and John met at Rich’s in 2002 by chance—with the help of two friends who each unwittingly played matchmaker.
In Matt’s corner was a college friend who convinced Matt to drive all the way from College Station to Houston just so he could visit a gay bar for the very first time—a rite of passage for all young gay men. “He wanted to take me to my first gay bar, so I wouldn’t have to be nervous my first time alone,” confides Matt, “and so I could have somebody slip me a drink, since I was just 19 years old.”
John’s social calendar that evening was already booked with a movie night at his place with a group of friends. They all bailed. There was a friend in from out of town, however, to rescue John from moping at home and swapping the proposed movie for another showing of Beaches. Despite weather to match the evening’s almost cruel theme, John’s friend managed to drag him out in the drizzly night and into Rich’s.
John’s night soon spun a 180—on the dance floor, appropriately enough. That’s where he met Matt, who was fated to never have a better gay-bar experience from then on. Before either of them realized, it was 2 a.m., and the four of them ended up at House of Pies. John offered his couch for them to crash.
“We spent the next three years driving back and forth between Houston and College Station until Matt graduated from A&M in 2005, and moved to Houston,” remembers John.
“When we started discussing buying a house together,” John explains, “we talked about getting married. We decided that we didn‘t want to fly to another state where marriage was legal, or get married without our family and friends.”
“And we also didn‘t want to have a wedding here in Texas that would have just been symbolic,” adds Matt. “After being together for seven years, calling each other ‘boyfriends’ didn’t feel quite right to either of us. We were married in every way but on paper.”
There was that hint of frustration in the telling, that small burn many in the LGBT community have experienced. “So we went and picked out rings, and made a commitment to each other.”
In the summer of 2015, Matt was glued to scotusblog.com, waiting for the Obergefell court decision to be announced. After hearing the news, he grabbed John‘s ring that John had left on the kitchen counter after washing the dishes, and raced downstairs to tearfully pop the question.
John‘s response: “Wait, what‘s the Supreme Court‘s decision?”
“Um, I kinda need an answer to my question” was Matt’s reply.
“A month before our wedding, we took our rings to the jeweler to have them engraved with our wedding date and initials,” says John, looking at his left hand. “Not having them on for a month after wearing them for six years was really tough. We both felt like a piece of us was missing, and we were thrilled to get them back at the ceremony.”
They chose to have their ceremony and reception in a stunning old firehouse called Station 3. They saw pictures of the venue online, and as soon as they saw the exposed brick and windows in person, they knew it was where they wanted to get married.
“And c‘mon,” says Matt with a mischievous grin, “two gay guys sliding down a pole—it’s the perfect entrance for a gay wedding.”
Matt found their photographer at a bridal show. “Thomas and Penelope had never shot a GLBT wedding before,” admits Matt. “They did a lot of research into poses and shots to make sure they did the wedding and engagement session justice. We are pretty stoked with the results.”
Café Natalie catered the reception. During dinner, a server approached the happy couple and asked to take their picture. “He told us that as a 57-year-old gay man who grew up thinking that he would never see a time when GLBT individuals would have the right to marry, he was just beside himself with happiness for us,” smiles John. “He confessed that he had specifically asked to work our event, so he could witness history in the making.”
“Since we really wanted the ceremony to reflect who we are, we picked and chose which wedding traditions we wanted to use. My dad wore the same shoes he wore to his own wedding . . . and to both of my brothers‘ weddings,” Matt laughs. “And one of our dearest and oldest friends performed the ceremony.”
John mentions choosing Walt Disney World—the same place that winning Super Bowl quarterbacks choose—for their honeymoon.
“We couldn‘t get away for a long trip, so Walt Disney World was the perfect escape for us,” says John.
Then Matt playfully corrects his husband: “We’ll officially honeymoon in Italy this summer.”
Photographers’ website: thomasandpenelope.com.
Henry V. Thiel is a principal with The Epicurean Publicist. He loves the nightlife.