The first time Martin “Marty” Mariano met Tom Tucker he knew Tom was someone he wanted to keep around.
Maybe it was because they were both young, aspiring actors drawn to the Big Apple. Or perhaps it’s because when a mutual friend introduced them to each other at the piano bar, Don’t Tell Mama, they wound up chatting until dawn. Or maybe, just maybe, it was simply love at first sight.
“I told Tom [that night], ‘I think you’re the one,’” says Marty. “I had never met anyone quite like him before. I felt this was the person I could spend my life with.”
Tom was a little hesitant at first – he was only 23 when they met and had not officially moved to New York City yet.
But Marty seemed to be on to something, because ever since the two met, they had become inseparable — and before they knew it — they had spent more than a quarter of a century together.
Over the years, the men merged their lives. They moved to Astoria, worked together as servers at the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square, and supported each other as Tom continued his education and Marty climbed up the food and beverage ladder within Marriott.
Marriage, however, was a milestone that had not entered the picture.
“For people around our age, it’s not that we didn’t think it was possible,” says Tom. “It just wasn’t our path.”
“We felt we were the Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell of the gay community,” adds Marty. “We’d always be together, but we didn’t need gay marriage.”
That attitude started to change when Tom lost both his parents and marriage became a possibility in New York.
“We started to think seriously about it,” says Marty. “We wanted our rights, and we felt it was important to say to the world, ‘Hey, we matter.’”
Marty decided to propose. He wanted to do it while they were visiting London, Tom’s favorite city, and on 11/11/11, because the number 11 is special to them.
The couple had to live apart for a couple years when Marty got a promotion in Philadelphia and because one of their favorite songs was Rufus Wainwright’s “11:11,” the two made it a point to call each other every day at 11:11, morning and night.
Marty kept waiting for the absolute perfect moment to pop the question when November 11 finally arrived, but the day seemed to fly by. Marty didn’t want to miss his chance, so while the two were at a bar waiting for friends, he texted Tom, “Will you marry me?”
Tom texted back: “Yes.”
The men were in no rush when it came time to set the date. But after being engaged for over a year, they decided it was time. They went to City Hall and applied for their marriage license, then had 60 days to get all the details sorted out before their license expired.
Marty knew what it entailed, having planned weddings for a living as the director of food and beverage at the JW Marriott Essex House Hotel. But he and Tom wanted to keep things loose and not too structured.
“We wanted a relaxed, pressure-free ceremony,” says Marty. “We wanted to keep it simple and intimate.”
Marty always had a fantasy about getting married in Central Park, so they chose the Bethesda Fountain for the ceremony.
“I feel like I’m in another world when I’m there,” says Marty. “It’s so romantic.”
They picked Aug. 19 for the big day and kept the guest list to about 20 friends and family, which was a challenge.
“We underestimated how important it was to particular friends of ours to see us get married,” says Marty.
The grooms wore blazers and khakis for a Cape Cod feel (“Nothing too matchy-matchy,” says Tom), and they told their guests to wear bright colors for a bold, summer look.
The men wanted a fresh-cut, garden vibe for their flowers, and toted bouquets of royal blue irises — Tom’s favorite flower.
“I didn’t want to do anything we wouldn’t ordinarily do,” says Tom. “The sight of the two of us with little nosegays – it’s just not us.”
A friend suggested the officiant, an independent Catholic priest. Marty found their photographer, Ryan Brenizer by Googling New York wedding photographers. Brenizer was one of the top results that came up, Marty loved his work, and the fact that Brenizer saw himself not just as a photographer, but a storyteller, too.
For the big day, Marty and Tom told their guests to be at the fountain at 10:30 am for the 11:11 ceremony.
The men were aware that things could go wrong being that they were having an outdoors wedding in a public park in August: it could rain, be unbearably hot, or they could run into objectors. But the couple lucked out on all accounts.
“I was prepared for a heckler or two, it’s a park,” says Tom. “But without exception, people were just lovely.”
A crowd had even gathered around their group during the ceremony and applauded and cried when it was over. A Japanese film crew, that just happened to be in the area, filmed it.
Strolling through the park, pre-ceremony, left for other impromptu moments as well.
A saxophone player serenaded them with “I Can’t Help Falling in Love,” while the men were on their way to the fountain. And on the way back, he played Tom’s request, “Moon River,” for the newlyweds.
Marty made lunch reservations at A Voce for the reception, one of their favorite restaurants. In what turned out to be a happy accident, they had to change their RSVP the day of the wedding and wound up in a room with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the park in the Time Warner Center. Hot-pink dahlias sat pretty in fish bowls and after the meal, Marty and Tom invited their guests to their room at the Ritz-Carlton for cake and champagne.
“We just took our shoes off and kicked back,” says Marty. “It was great.”
The two can agree on one thing as they look back on those 60 days of wedding planning — the day went so well because they didn’t control every detail.
“It was the wiggle room that made it work so well,” says Tom. “People really came through.”
And as a wedding planner — and now someone who can speak from experience — Marty says it’s important to just let the day evolve.
“So many people get wrapped up in their weddings. Because everything has to be so perfect, they don’t let the day breathe,” says Marty. “If you don’t enjoy the day, you miss it. It’s going to be perfect no matter what.”
All photos by Ryan Brenizer.
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