Life Style

The Greatest, and Sometimes Silliest, Love of All

Before Ezekiel Oliver Smith and Michael Nicolas Briones Santos attended the GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles in April 2018, Mr. Smith enjoyed his time alone more than his time on dates. He loved his own company, and he had a strong community and a thriving social life. When he was alone, he never felt lonely, and he thought that maybe he was happiest when he was single.

Mr. Santos, on the other hand, was focused on his career. He told himself that he would never find his true love, and he was OK with that. He had moved to Los Angeles 13 years prior and finally achieved “the dream”: He was financially stable, supporting his family and proud of his career. He had a main role on NBC’s “Superstore” and a supporting role in “Crazy Rich Asians.”

“The fact that I had achieved this in my career was already such a win that in my head,” Mr. Santos said, “there was just no way I was going to be able to have it all.”

Then, they met, and in a matter of a few weeks, they fell in love. Mr. Santos, 44, found out that he could indeed “have it all.” And Mr. Smith, 35, found someone he enjoyed spending time with more than he enjoyed spending time alone.

Both comedians, they bonded over overcoming traumatic experiences and tough childhoods with humor. “That’s the reason we both became comedians,” Mr. Santos, who goes by Nico, said.

“Because when you can laugh, you’re not hopeless,” Mr. Smith, who goes by Zeke and competed on “Survivor” in 2016 and 2017, added. “And hopelessness is the saddest of all conditions.”

For fun, they often role play voices and characters at home. Take Bev, for example. Bev, played by Mr. Santos, is an Australian woman who launders money through Australian coffee shops in Los Angeles. (They find the sheer quantity of Australian coffee shops in Los Angeles to be suspicious.)

“We’re both very silly,” Mr. Smith said. “We’re basically like cartoon characters that live with one another.”

They first met before they stepped onto the red carpet at the 2018 GLAAD Media Awards. Their plus ones had known each other. Initially, Mr. Smith was flirting with Mr. Santos’s plus one. But when the group reconnected at the after-party, Mr. Santos thought Mr. Smith was cute, and he took charge. He offered Mr. Smith a drink and slyly mentioned the limousine waiting for him outside the venue.

“He was just very smooth,” said Mr. Smith, who is from Oklahoma City.

“Which is so not my mode when it comes to guys — I’m very shy,” added Mr. Santos, who is from Manila, Philippines. But that night, he felt emboldened.

Mr. Smith decided to take up Mr. Santos’s offer to ride in the limousine, and the two hit it off. They bantered about the New York and Los Angeles food scenes. Mr. Smith, who had moved to Los Angeles from New York in July 2017, said he complained that “there’s no good food” in Los Angeles. For Mr. Santos, those were fighting words.

Mr. Smith went to Mr. Santos’s apartment, and the two shared their first kiss and talked until 4 a.m.

The next day, Mr. Santos texted Mr. Smith, who responded 36 hours later. “I didn’t want him to think I’m too thirsty,” Mr. Smith said. The 36-hour waiting period caused a lot of anxiety for Mr. Santos. He was in Chicago with his friends, and he was confused when Mr. Smith wasn’t responding because he thought they had a wonderful time together.

(In Mr. Smith’s defense, he said it took him so long to respond not only because he was trying to play it cool, but also because his phone was “on the brink of death,” and he needed to get a new one.)

When Mr. Smith finally responded, they planned a dinner at Odys and Penelope in La Brea, which is now closed. Mr. Santos wanted to prove to Mr. Smith that there is indeed good food in Los Angeles. (Mr. Smith conceded the food was “great.”)

About a month later, the two happened to be in New York at the same time. “We had this magical, rom-com, the-stars-aligned weekend,” Mr. Smith said. They smoked a joint on a street in Hell’s Kitchen, watched “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical” and had dinner at the now closed Momofuku Má Pêche.

It was a night that sealed the deal for the two. In the week and a half that followed, they were traveling for work, but they talked on FaceTime every day.

After one of those FaceTime calls, Mr. Santos’s best man, Brian Kusler, looked at Mr. Santos and said, “You are in trouble, girl. You are in love.”

In May 2018, when they were both in Los Angeles again, Mr. Smith hand-roasted hazelnuts and baked Nutella cookies and sugar cookies. He brought them to Mr. Santos’s apartment in West Hollywood. His plan was to show up to Mr. Santos’s door with the treats, scoop him into his arms and ask him to be his boyfriend. But when he got there, he was too nervous to ask.

Later that night, Mr. Smith ultimately did ask Mr. Santos to be his boyfriend, and they made the relationship official.

In December 2018, the couple moved in together to an apartment by West Hollywood, where they had separate bedrooms and bathrooms. “What I really love about our relationship is we do what works for us,” Mr. Santos said.

Mr. Smith has supported Mr. Santos through several battles, including overcoming vision issues. Mr. Santos is blind in his right eye. In moments of stress, he loses vision in his left eye as well. The first time this happened was in their car ride to a party the night before the Emmy Awards in September 2018. Mr. Smith guided Mr. Santos the whole night.

“I had to grab his hand and be his Tony Hale from Veep,” said Mr. Smith, who graduated from Harvard University with a degree in the study of religion. Mr. Santos studied theater for three years at Southern Oregon University.

Binge more Vows columns here and read all our wedding, relationship and divorce coverage here.

In April 2022, Mr. Smith proposed to Mr. Santos onstage at the 2022 GLAAD Media Awards, four years after they first met. He had started planning it six months in advance. “That’s where we met, and that’s where we made it official,” Mr. Smith said.

The couple were presenting onstage, reading off a teleprompter. Once the script ended, and Mr. Smith kept talking, Mr. Santos’s face broke. “I’m like, ‘Why is he still talking?,’” he recalled.

“Your love has taught me how to love,” Mr. Smith said onstage. “You are my other half, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” He proposed with a emerald cut diamond ring from Tiffany’s.

The audience at the awards ceremony, which honors media for their accurate and inclusive representation of the L.G.B.T.Q. community, erupted into applause.

“It felt really electric,” Mr. Smith said, adding that the moment was even more special because it happened during a night that celebrates inclusion. Both are prominent members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community in Los Angeles, and Mr. Smith is trans.

On Nov. 4, the couple were married at the Parker Palm Springs in front of 142 guests. Mark McKinney, a comedian who also stars in “Superstore,” officiated.

Mr. Smith found the venue on a Martha Stewart list, and immediately fell in love with it. The interior and exterior design is by Jonathan Adler. “It’s elegant, it’s gorgeous, but it also has the silliness that we have as well,” Mr. Smith said. The goal was to have a “fun, silly, bougie, gay wedding,” Mr. Santos added.

On the night before the wedding, they had a welcome party that they called a “cheeky tiki kiki.”

During the wedding ceremony, the couple incorporated several Filipino wedding traditions, including the money dance. While the couple slow dances, guests pin money onto their clothes as a sign of prosperity. But since Mr. Smith and Mr. Santos didn’t want pins poked into their expensive wedding outfits, guests used money guns to make it rain money over the couple.

They also incorporated the veil and cord tradition, during which their godparents draped a veil over the two wedding participants. They then wrapped a cord around the couple to symbolize the bond in their union.

In the reception that followed, three local drag queens performed: Jo Lopez, Aiana Shaw and Nebuer Styles.

After the wedding, the two went to Joshua Tree National Park for their honeymoon.

“Life, much like in comedy, is all about timing,” Mr. Santos said. “It was the right time for him, it was the right time for me. It’s the right time to get married. I’m really looking forward to that next phase of our next time in our lives.”

When Nov. 4, 2023

Where Parker Palm Springs

Performances and Bits There were several performances during the ceremony, including a dramatic reading of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Mr. Smith also wrote a sketch using well known lines from various romantic comedies, including “When Harry Met Sally” and “10 Things I Hate About You,” and their friends performed it. Another friend sang Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All.”

Cowboys and Barongs Mr. Smith wore a black double breasted J. Crew tuxedo, cowboy boots and vintage cowboy cuff links and accessories. Mr. Santos wore a barong tagalog, a traditional Filipino formal shirt, custom made by the Filipino designer Veejay Floresca. Traditionally, the barong is shirt length, but he wore a mid calf length barong to “evoke bridal,” he said.

Palm Springs Pride After booking the venue, the couple found out that Palm Springs Pride would be held during their wedding weekend. It was “a really great energy to have it there during pride with our family and our chosen family,” Mr. Smith said.

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Mohammad SHiblu

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