When New Orleans native Chip “Rok” Ware and Cincinnati native Robert “Tank” Campbell first met, it was supposed to be a simple hookup. But the universe had something much bigger in store for Rok and Tank.
The pair met on March 24, 2014, on the Scruff app while Rok, 42, was working for a contracting company in Washington, DC, and Tank, 32, was studying culinary management at the Art Institute of Washington in Arlington, Virginia. “We thought it would just be a normal hookup,” Rok recalls, “but we immediately hit it off.” Since Rok was in DC for the full week, they went on a date every night that he was in town.
Rok, who now works in IT product development at cPanel in Houston, says he knew Tank was “the one” on their very first date at Matchbox, a restaurant on Capitol Hill. “When we were leaving the restaurant and bundling up to face the cold, something just felt right as I helped him with his coat,” Rok recalls. For Tank, it was when his close friend Jen met Rok at the Leather Leadership Conference in Philadelphia in April 2014.
In March of 2015, Rok asked Tank to marry him during a trip home to New Orleans—with the help of a friend who happens to be a tarot reader in Jackson Square. “After his reading, she asked Tank if he had any questions for her, and he said No. Then I interjected and said, ‘But I have one for you. Will you marry me?’ He was surprised, but did not hesitate to say Yes!”
The pair was engaged for five years, during which time they kept making (and changing) their wedding plans. “The logistics of a wedding are so much to ponder, especially with all the community work we do, and owning a store,” Rok says. In 2016, the couple opened The Montrose Forge, a Houston leather/fetish store located at 711 Fairview Street. “We are a small business that is committed to the community, so our personal plans took a back seat.”
With all of the challenges they were facing last year with COVID-19, they decided to just have a small wedding ceremony in July. “Once things are a bit more conducive to having gatherings, we want to have a celebration with friends and family. That will prove to have its own set of challenges, I’m sure!” Rok says.
Before finalizing their July plans, they each contacted their mothers to make sure they would be comfortable just watching the wedding via livestream. “Tank’s mother is a healthcare worker, and my mother has lymphoma. So we made the decision to get married in a small ceremony surrounded by eleven close friends in the backyard of the home of our friends Brandy and Dusty, with our friend Robert Raney officiating.
They streamed the wedding and the signing of the marriage license and Ketubah, and encouraged donations to PWA Holiday Charities in lieu of gifts. “We are blessed in our lives, and we always encourage people to do more for their community when they are able,” Rok says.
The couple’s vows were very special to both of them. “It was five years of feeling coming out all at once. But the time with just the two of us streaming live and talking with the people who could not attend in person—that was very special. We were smiling ear-to-ear, and [even though] I protested, Tank smashed a slice of cake into my face with no hesitation!”
Since Rok is Jewish and Tank is agnostic, they did their best to incorporate aspects from both of their lives into the ceremony. “From my Jewish faith, we signed the Ketubah, wore yarmulkes, and we each smashed a glass. I also wore a tallit, or prayer shawl. For Tank, we included wearing kilts to honor his Scottish heritage. And the officiant happens to be pagan, so we were able to incorporate the point of view of some of our dear friends into our ceremony as well,” Rok says.
The honeymoon they had in mind was not really an option during a pandemic. “We originally wanted to visit Europe, and specifically Berlin and Munich. Instead, we just dove right back into our store and our community work with Bayou City Pups and the Space City Sisters,” Rok says.
Though they started out with short-term plans, the pair ended up with lifelong love. “Tank is one of the most giving people you will ever meet, and is a fierce defender of his friends and family,” Rok says. And as Tank is quick to point out, “Rok has the ability to find a positive in just about any situation. It can be frustrating, but it’s also inspiring.”
This article appears in the January 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.