Bryan Batt -- who you've probably seen in
-- and his husband, Tom Cianfichi, were together for 25 years before they decided to tie the knot. The couple can attest that love at first site is a real thing, and that the hard work comes afterwards.
Bryan and Tom now reside together in New Orleans where they co-own
, a small, home-accessory store that keeps them grounded and working together.
Sitting on a NoLo streetcorner, the two men share their epic love story.
: How'd you first meet?
I was an actor at that point, and we met in Akron, Ohio doing a theater production of
, 26 years ago.
Yes, 26 years ago in beautiful Akron, Ohio in the middle of winter. There was nothing else to do there but call him up!
What were your first impressions?
Bryan was playing Che, so he was a principal, and I was an understudy. So I got there a little later than he did. We were at a hotel and I didn't know where the rehearsal space would be. But we were given contact sheets, so I went to Bryan's hotel room. I thought he'd know his way to rehearsal because he'd been here. I remember when he opened the door, it was literally love at first site. I was like -- that guy is hot!
It was this butterflies-in-your-stomach, giddy-kind-of-love, which I guess blossomed into the real thing.
My next question was about love at first site! Obviously you two believe in it.
Yeah! And then the work begins. You just have to remember why you got in this in the first place. I'm a firm believer that the grass is never greener on the other side.
So did you guys start dating right away? Were you both openly out?
No we were not out to our families. It was gradual. We really weren't out all the way. It was the late '80s. I'm a firm believer that everyone is on their own timeline, and you can't force any kind of self-discovery, especially when it deals with something so basic and so intrinsic as love and attraction. We just did it on our own course. We told our parents pretty much right away. Then the rest of our family. It was exactly how it should go and we were very blessed.
That's really lovely to hear. Where'd you two go after the show wrapped?
We were both based in New York. And then we were living together.
And that was that!
And you guys now live in New Orleans?
Yep, that's where I'm originally from. Tom and I opened up a business there 13 years ago, a high-end gift shop called Hazelnut, and it's been a real success. It put a lot of things in perspective. There's a whole world out there outside of show business. I thank Tom for doing this, and allowing me to find other interests.
I imagine having a store in the place you live grounds you in that community.
Definitely. And when I'm not on a set I'm cleaning the store with a mop! When you have a business that's what you have to do.
You get to do what you want to do and be with the person you want to be with.
Let's go back to September when you two got married.
It was beautiful. There wasn't a dry eye in the house.
Was it relatively small?
It was small for New Orleans. Between all of our friends and different worlds, it could have gotten really big. It was either going to be in a wonderful courtyard under these gorgeous oak trees, or in a superdome.
So we kept it small because that was what we really wanted. And it was just magical.
After being together for 25 years, what made you finally decide to marry?
For many years we thought we didn't need to. We're of a certain age and never even knew this would be a possibility. But as the LGBT community made all of these amazing advancements -- that I'm so proud of -- we thought, you know what, we need to do this.
Who proposed to who?
Bryan had been asking me for years to marry him, even before it was a possibility, and we'd talk about it and laugh about it and kid about it. When DOMA was overturned I looked to Bryan and I said, "Yes, I will marry you."
There are many kinds of weddings, but we're pretty traditional in that sense. His father was his best man, my brother was my best man, we decided on their palettes, and we did have the whole dearly-beloved-we-are-gathered here-today-wedding outside. It was beautiful.
There's a powerful notion in hearing about a same-sex wedding that's "culturally traditional."
When we found we could do it, we were both like, "Well this is how we want it."
Did you go on a honeymoon after?
We're working on that!
I think couples should have a vacation before and after. Let everyone else handle the wedding and you just show up!
What's your hope for the future of marriage equality in the next 10 years?
Full recognition and then move on. Done. Now what? Let's make the playing field all fair and equal, then let's see what we can do.
Any advice for engaged couples?
Don't let the ring bearers or flower girls have coffee before the ceremony. Keep the chocolate away from the kids!