Aaron Jay Ledesma knew that Timothy-Keith Schau Earley would one day be her husband on their fourth date.
Mr. Earley, whose name is Tim, had cooked for Mr. Ledesma for the first time that evening, in June 2015, serving one of his specialties, shepherd’s pie. After dinner, the two snuggled up on the sofa with Mr. Earley’s mixed-breed dog Sullivan and shared their first kiss.
“I felt the safest I had ever felt and the most comfortable,” said Ledesma. “I knew this was exactly what I wanted my life to be.”
The couple met earlier this month on the dating app Tinder. On their first date, at the Hill Café in Richmond, Virginia, where the two live, they talked a lot about their family and bonded because “we’re both grandma’s boys.” said Mr Ledesma, who considered his late maternal grandmother, Lorraine MacDougall, known in the family as Glamma Sandy, his best friend.
It resonated with Mr. Earley; As a teenager, he helped his parents take care of his maternal grandmother Anita Schau, known as Grandmother Neets, before her death in 2007. This experience was so formative that it influenced his decision to pursue a career in nursing.
That night, they sat on a bench in Libby Hill Park and talked for another two hours. Mr Earley said he envisions marriage and children in his future. It was a vision shared by Mr. Ledesma.
“We were on exactly the same wavelength,” said Ledesma. “As far back as I can remember, I knew I wanted to be a dad. It is the goal of my life.
On their second date, at Barker Field Dog Park in Richmond, Sami, Mr. Ledesma’s redbone greyhound, met Sullivan.
An even bigger milestone occurred three months after their meeting, when the two men, both Catholics, were among thousands at the White House on September 23, 2015 for Pope Francis’ visit.
Shortly before, Mr. Ledesma had started a blog called the gay catholic, hosted by Medium, for which he wrote about reconciling his sexuality with his faith. He said he created the blog for a younger version of himself: a 12-year-old Catholic boy who knew he was gay, but was too afraid to tell anyone.
A Catholic school student from kindergarten to college, Mr. Ledesma, 29, graduated in his first year of college. He said he heard Pope Francis in 2013 say “Who am I to judge? From the LGBTQ community signaled what Mr. Ledesma saw as a new openness to those who identify as both gay and Catholic. But the following year, after moving to Richmond, Mr Ledesma said he had stopped attending church for no particular reason.
Mr Earley, 32, had also ceased to participate by this time. He didn’t go to Catholic schools, but said the church was a big part of his life growing up. “I felt left out, that I wasn’t fully accepted there,” said Earley, who started coming out to some people when he was in college, but didn’t. spoke to his parents only after meeting Mr. Ledesma.
When Mr. Ledesma learned that Pope Francis was coming to Washington, he wrote to the Obama White House through his website. “I would be honored to be in the presence of two leaders who recognize and accept who I am,” said Mr. Ledesma’s message.
“The church is changing,” said Ledesma, who started attending services again in 2015. “Not at the rate I would like, but I cannot give it up.
Raised in Houston, Mr. Ledesma is the younger of two children of Robert Ledesma, retired procurement director at Shell Oil, and Patti McNeil, admissions coordinator at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory, Mr. Ledesma’s alma mater. . (Her parents divorced after receiving an annulment from the church.)
A graduate of Marquette University, Mr. Ledesma works as a visual content marketing specialist at the Steward School in Richmond. He also owns a photography business, Aaron Jay Photography, which specializes in family and couple portraits.
Mr. Earley grew up in Chesterfield, Virginia, an unincorporated area of Richmond. He is the younger of two children of Scott Earley, a career officer with the Chesterfield County Police Department, and Peggy Earley, receptionist, both of whom have since retired in Murrells Inlet, SC.
A graduate of a family nurse practitioner, Mr. Earley holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nursing from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Until recently, he worked as a clinical coordinator at the Evans-Haynes Burn Center at VCUHealth in Richmond. He will soon be a nurse practitioner at the Burn and Reconstructive Centers of America at Chippenham Hospital in Richmond.
Playing a role in the recovery of burn patients who are so close to death, said Earley, “has given me a more rewarding career than I could ever have imagined.”
Mr Ledesma added: “I see how much impact Tim has on his work. We both come from humble beginnings and were raised to make an impact in the world.
Mr Earley described Mr Ledesma as an extrovert and an introvert himself, citing Mr Ledesma’s assurance of his membership in the Catholic Church as an attractive quality. “It was a little piece of the cake why I fell in love with him,” Mr. Earley said.
The pair added that they knew bringing home another Catholic would delight their parents, who also had a lot in common, including the suspicion that their sons were gay long before they were released. After years of praying about their mutual suspicions, the two men’s parents said they came to the same conclusion: they would love their sons no matter what.
“We are both devout Catholics who share the understanding that our job is to love our children unconditionally and make sure they know God,” Ms. McNeil said, speaking of herself and Mr. Ledesma as well as Mr. Earley’s parents. “I can’t imagine how hurtful it would be if your own immediate family turned on you for religion.”
The couple’s relationship and their faith deepened in February 2019 when, shortly after Mr Ledesma threw a party for Mr Earley’s 30th birthday, Mr Ledesma’s paternal uncle passed away and the two fell apart. flew to Corpus Christi, Texas. The funeral rites that followed, Mr Earley said, stirred something in him and left him longing to return to church.
Soon after, they heard about St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Glen Allen, Virginia. Known as St. Mike’s, it has a ministry specifically for members of the LGBTQ community. Upon arriving in St. Mike’s, Mr. Earley said, “It was just right for me. It was the most affirmative moment of adulthood for what a religious life could be.
The trip to Texas also woke something up in Mr Ledesma, who said seeing how well Mr Earley was dealing with being with his extended and grieving family made him feel like he was. time to make her marriage proposal. In March, while visiting Mr Earley’s family in South Carolina, Mr Ledesma asked the Earleys for their blessing in marrying their son.
Mrs Earley later presented Mr Ledesma with his parents’ wedding rings. “Tim and my mom had a very special bond,” she said.
Mr Ledesma proposed in June 2019 at the Hill Café, just before the two celebrated their fourth anniversary as a couple. When Mr. Ledesma knelt down he said to Mr. Earley: “It was your grandmother’s ring. Mr. Earley burst into tears. (Mr. Ledesma wears the other family ring he received from Mrs. Earley.)
When they started planning a wedding, one of their first decisions was that Mr. Ledesma’s Glamma Sandy would officiate. But she died in June 2020, before they could make their wish come true. As she died, Mr Ledesma said Mr Earley was a heartwarming presence for him and his grandmother.
“As I lost my best friend, I got to see my soul mate take very good care of her and help her make the transition,” Ledesma said. “It was bittersweet.”
Their wedding on October 23 at the historic Mankind Manor in Richmond, a private estate turned into an event venue, was instead celebrated by Majel Stein, a friend of the couple, who was allowed to perform civilly by the County Circuit Court of Henrico. The bride and groom were escorted to the altar by their mothers and, before the ceremony, the men exchanged and read the letters each wrote to each other.
Recognizing those who fought for marriage equality, Ms Stein began by saying, “Tim and Aaron recognize that they stand on the shoulders of these men and women who fought to be able to stand here today. ‘hui.
By declaring them married, she also nodded to their faith. “Now, by the authority bestowed upon me by the Commonwealth of Virginia, and by the still higher authority of a loving God, I declare you husband and husband,” said Mrs. Stein. “What God has joined, let no one separate. “
The couple, who will both take the surname Earley-Ledesma, then hosted an on-site reception for their 149 guests, most of whom were fully vaccinated. In their remarks, they thanked the participants for coming and talked about their hopes of adopting a child one day soon. Instead of a registry, they set up a fund with Adopt Together, a crowdfunding website that focuses on adoptions, to help them with the fees.
Besides the bride and groom, the people who expect this the most, of course, are their mothers.
“I am so excited that they are having children,” Ms. McNeil said.
On this day
When 23 October 2021
Or Historic Manking Mansion, a restored Georgian Revival style estate that was once the home of brickmaker Edward Thurston Mankin, in Richmond.
Sami and Sullivan The signature cocktails served at reception, Sami (an old-fashioned one) and Sullivan (a mule from Moscow), were named after the dogs of the bride and groom.
End with a bang Guests were surprised by a late-night fireworks display, a common feature of mansion weddings. The show was set to “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” by Natalie Cole.