“Do you remember MySpace?!” The question made Ray chuckle as he began to explain how he met Simon, his now husband. “It was the glory days of MySpace and I got this random message from this character named Simon. ‘Hey, ran into your profile through a mutual friend. Read your testimonials. You seem cool. Can I add you?’’ Ray reacted by asking himself: “what do I have to lose?’”

Ray and Simon became pen pals between March and May 2006 writing to each other frequently, really getting to know each other and not once doing anything “dirty!” They spoke about “family and work and regular everyday stuff.” Emails became phone calls, which became Simon finally getting in his car to visit Ray. The two were living in Southern California.

“I just got into this stranger’s car!” said Ray, and they spent the day together going for coffee, having lunch at the Olive Garden, going to the beach at Torrey Pines and ending up back at Ray’s watching Sister Act II, naturally! “I was so surprised that we were able to spend a full day together and have so much fun. Which was definitely not what I was used to,” said Ray. “Everything felt organic, nothing forced. He even cancelled his rehearsal for me!” remarked Simon.

"I was so surprised that we were able to spend a full day together and have so much fun!"  

Simon commuted from Riverside to San Diego, sometimes every other day. “Then, one beautiful Cinco de Mayo morning, we made it official,” they both said laughing. “It took me a few months to move.” It was at this point that Simon said, almost as an aside, “Ray was my first boyfriend!”

Simon comes from a religious family and, though now out to his parents, for years “billed” Ray as his best friend. “I was like another son, being invited to everything. His father showed me off to their friends.” But, as Simon noted, “once they knew he was more than my friend - my boyfriend – things changed.” And, they haven’t really been the same yet. “My mom is getting better about it, but my dad still struggles.”

For a period, they weren’t interested in getting married. “We were kinda against it. I was more focused on becoming a dad,” said Ray. In fact, there was even a period where the two separated. But, as their paths re-crossed and their relationship deepened, marriage took on greater meaning. It was the combination of realizing that marriage would confer on each other’s partner rights and the fact that Ray’s more conservative older brothers were very much in favor of the two marrying, that Ray set out to propose.

"We were kinda against marriage. I was more focused on becoming a dad!" 

“Simon was about to graduate so I asked my brother to take his graduation pictures.” One evening, at home, Ray set up prints of these pictures on 3 easels, hiding each under drop cloths. One by one, Ray unveiled Simon’s portraits, but the third took Simon by surprise. It wasn’t of Simon, but of Ray, on bended knee with text that read: “Will you?” Simon turned to find Ray, dressed as he was in the picture, on bended knee, asking in real life: “Will you?”

Their original thought for the wedding would be to get married at the courthouse and then have a party at a bar. But, once again, Ray’s older brothers weighed in: “They said to me: ‘wait! You’re not going to have a wedding? You deserve this. You owe it to yourselves.” Ray went on: “I was so touched by this. I told Simon, ‘I guess we are going to have a wedding!’” And so theirs became a 230-person affair! “Oh my god… planning a wedding… we didn’t know where to begin! We were the first of our group of friends and everyone was looking at us to lead,” Ray pointed out. Simon interjected to say: “Oh my god, hire a wedding planner. It is worth every penny.”

Over the course of the year planning the wedding, Ray and Simon reported having some “bridezilla” moments, but ultimately said that they “had the best time! Planning was so awesome! We saw eye-to-eye on so much!” Simon said that the hard part was setting the vision for the wedding, but the rest was easy. Especially, when they fell for the first venue they saw: Liberty Station in San Diego. “We wanted our wedding to be masculine and have character,” said Ray. “We also wanted a bit of a Parisian vibe,” which the couple created by referencing the Pont des Arts or “love lock” bridge. Locks and keys were everywhere from cufflinks to cake-toppers and everyone was encouraged to lock their own love lock to a prop fence in the venue.  

“The pastor who married us was of Southern Baptist background,” Simon shared. He’d known him for many years and was especially drawn to the pastor’s story. Two years prior, the pastor’s own son came out, causing the pastor to change his stance on homosexuality. This garnered a lot of community attention, especially among the congregants. “He was on a journey realizing that the stuff he was preaching had affected his own son deeply,” Simon continued. “So when we got engaged, I asked if he’d marry us. We were his third gay wedding.” 

Ray and Simon’s guests were at first curious about having a Southern Baptist marry the couple. But, as Ray shared: “he put everyone at ease so quickly. And his words were so touching. Today, most of our guests comment on how great his message was.” Simon continued: “He started by saying: ‘I know a lot of people at this wedding are at your first gay wedding and that you might be wondering ‘should I be here?’ Relax. Jesus is here. This is pure love.’”

“We were raised in religious families, but we aren’t shoving religion down people’s throats. But, truth be real, one of the reasons I fell for Simon was because of his faith. I believe in something greater than myself and it was important to be with a partner that felt the same way.”

For both grooms, their favorite moment was the moment they exchanged vows. “It was the heart of the wedding,” said Ray. Simon also pointed out that “when I got to the venue, and saw my cousin and my younger brother, I just started baw-ling! It was so emotional when I got there, knowing that most of my family wasn’t there, but there was still so much joy.”

And joy carried over to the party. Rather than have a seated dinner, the couple rolled in a Korean BBQ, tacos and pizza food truck! “We wanted our guests to stay engaged and mingle and not be stuck at a table,” explained Ray. To help with the freewheeling vibe, guests were treated to an indoor and outdoor bar, a DJ and a band!

“You have to remember that the wedding is about you, and not anybody else.” At one point during planning the couple remembered checking in with each other to make sure they were doing this for themselves and not everyone else who was giving them input. “You have to do what is going to make the day memorable and special for you. Do not lose focus on the real reasons why you are doing this. It all has to be out of love.” Simon weighed in once again: “Hire a wedding coordinator. Hire them months before!”

With faith at their backs and friends at their side, Ray and Simon are enjoying their time together as husbands. While children are next up for them, they are taking some time to be married. “Though we’ve been together for ten years, being married has made it all feel new.”