Falling Fast, Then Fiancés for Seven Years


Late on a September evening in 2010, as Luke Neville Kalat was preparing to head home from a dance party at Bowlmor Lanes near Manhattan’s Union Square, he noticed a man staring at him from across the room. That man was Justin Claude Conner.

Mr. Kalat flashed him a smile, and Mr. Conner walked over to introduce himself.

“We just started talking,” said Mr. Kalat, 42, who recalled being struck by how easily the two strangers hit it off while chatting about their nights and themselves. “It was just the most open, honest conversation that I’d ever had.”

Mr. Conner, 39, felt a similar connection. “I just remember him being extremely sweet and kind of quiet and just had this really gentle, open spirit,” he said.

The pair exchanged phone numbers and by the end of their conversation, Mr. Kalat said, “It just kind of dawned on me that this is the man I’m going to marry.”

A few days later, Mr. Conner invited Mr. Kalat to his birthday party. Mr. Kalat, who arrived with a few friends in tow, was impressed by how Mr. Conner’s friends “really embraced me,” he said. “We just clicked,” Mr. Kalat added, much in the same way that he and Mr. Conner had when they first met.

Not long after Mr. Conner’s birthday, the couple had their first official date: Lunch at La Bonbonniere, a restaurant in the East Village of Manhattan, where “we just kind of continued the conversation,” Mr. Conner said. “After that, we were in touch quite a bit.”

That November, Mr. Conner brought Mr. Kalat to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family in Newtown, Conn. Having never met a boyfriend’s family before, Mr. Kalat, who is from Olympia, Wash., said he was initially nervous. But Mr. Conner’s family made Mr. Kalat feel just as comfortable as his friends had.

By the fall of 2011 Mr. Kalat had introduced Mr. Conner to his family, and in June 2012, Mr. Kalat moved into Mr. Conner’s apartment in Brooklyn, where the couple still lives.

“I think that was when we sort of realized it was going to be long-term,” Mr. Conner said.

Three years later, in August 2015, Mr. Conner proposed while they were on vacation in Provincetown, Mass.

“Luke is my perfect complement, and just really keeps me sane and stable,” Mr. Conner said. “I’ve learned from him how to be a more sensitive, compassionate person.”

In 2016, the two bought an old farmhouse in New Milford, Conn., and spent the next few years restoring it, choosing to focus on that project before they began to plan a wedding. Mr. Conner, a founder of Third Eye, an arts and communications company in Manhattan, and Mr. Kalat, a hair stylist at Seagull Salon in Manhattan, now split their time between New York and New Milford.

The couple were married on June 18 at Club Getaway, an adult camp, in Kent, Conn. Their friend Kyle Goodwin, who was ordained through the Universal Life Church for the occasion, officiated before roughly 180 vaccinated guests. Paying homage to the grooms’ love of drag performers, their officiant dressed as what the couple described as a kind of “Mother Earth cult figure.”

The night before, the grooms hosted a welcome reception at the camp, where their guests enjoyed s’mores. Attendees spent the next day participating in activities, including archery and water skiing, which were followed by the ceremony. Then came a reception and dance party, which included a performance by the drag artist Shequida Hall.

After their seven-year engagement, “I’m so happy I don’t have to say ‘fiancé’ anymore,” Mr. Conner said.

Mr. Kalat agreed, adding, “He makes me smile every day and lets me be exactly who I am, and I do the same with him.”



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