Byron K. Menard, 58, and Joe A. Perez Jr., 59, danced the night away to a mariachi band and “Love Takes Over” by David Guetta, featuring Kelly Rowland. They were surrounded by their closest friends and family after exchanging wedding vows on June 10, 2023. The date was significant for the couple because it marked their seven-year anniversary. Their story shows that it is never too late to fall in love.
“We did find each other a little bit later in life, and we just plan on enjoying every single moment. It’s just been a miracle that we have found each other, and we don’t take it for granted,” Byron says.
Their story is one centered around the thriving neighborhoods of Montrose and their home in EaDo. After meeting briefly in 1990—a meeting Byron jokes that Joe did not remember—they finally connected at the place many gay men connect: the gym.
“We reconnected in 2016,” Byron continues. “Joe was working as a trainer at Houston Gym after recently retiring from a 30-year career at Shell. I observed how he handled himself with clients, and what an awesome personality he had. I had been single for around three years, and got the courage to ask him out for coffee. He said, ‘Let’s go on a real date and go to dinner.’ I loved his straightforwardness from the start.”
It just so happens that Joe had been observing Byron at the gym as well, and also recalls that meeting. “I said, ‘Let’s go to dinner,
I know where this is going.’ The reason for being so direct is because Byron never speaks to anyone at the gym unless he knows them. There were only a few people that he had had conversations with that I had noticed,” says Joe.
Byron hails originally from Lake Charles, Louisiana, where he also went to college before earning his doctorate from Texas Chiropractic College in Houston. Joe is a native Houstonian. The two men spend much of their time between Galveston, Houston, and, of course, Louisiana.
“I’m not sure when the exact moment was that I realized I wanted to marry Joe, but very early on, probably within three or four months, I brought him home to meet my family in Louisiana and I saw the way they reacted to him. They instantly fell in love with him. I knew he was the man I wanted to spend my life with,” Byron explains.
Joe agrees that meeting Byron’s family had the same impact on his feelings toward his future husband. Both men also agree that it is honesty, faithfulness, and tender hearts that form the core of their love. They both cry easily at movies and CBS Sunday Morning pieces—a tenderness that they consider to be a sign of strength.
The two are also foodies who love to frequent all the great restaurants that Houston has to offer. Three pivotal moments played out for the couple in these restaurants: their first date at Tango and Malbec, and two years later at the same restaurant, when Joe presented Byron with a promise ring over dessert. Then Byron proposed at Sorrento on their fifth anniversary. Luckily, Joe made sure the two men were looking sharp, despite not realizing this night would forever change his life.
“I made sure we had new shirts to wear because Byron will post our whereabouts and food, and I did not want us in a shirt that social media had already seen us in,” Joe explains. “He told me that it was a special dinner because we had been dieting, and that he loves me so much and wanted to do that for us.”
Joe recalls his response to the big question: “‘Yes, I will marry you!’ The entire restaurant clapped and people congratulated us.”
Their wedding ceremony was held at Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church on West 11th Street, where the men are members. One of their favorite things about Resurrection is that it is a church for all people. They were also honored to be married by Rev. Troy Treash.
The ceremony featured many special moments from family and friends. Joe’s niece, Angel Hernandez, gave a toast to her uncles that related to the community and their love. Joe’s sister surprised them with a mariachi band that he says his mother would have loved. His nephew, Christen Thurman, played the piano during the unity candle ceremony. Byron’s brother and sister also toasted the couple, and both men were escorted down the aisle by their sisters. In all, there were around 190 attendees.
“We had a couple of butch, manly-male family members that I wasn’t even sure were going to attend the wedding that came up to me with tears in their eyes saying that was one of the most beautiful, warm, heartfelt weddings they had ever attended. Now that was special!” Byron says.
Joe was also pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming support. “My sister-in-law said, ‘Now, I am not going to a church wedding.’ Five years later, she was walking down that church aisle with Byron holding his arm with love, compassion, and joy.”
“Of course, the most special part of the wedding was Rev. Troy pronouncing us husband and husband, and saying that I could kiss my husband. I don’t think I could have possibly smiled any wider—a very magical moment!” Byron recalls.
The ceremony was also special because it featured several LGBTQ vendors from the Houston area. They include Elite Catering, which both men thought was amazing.
“To those who think that they will never meet their person, special someone, life partner—someone who will care and love them—I say, ‘Don’t give up!’” Joe concludes.
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