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"As most every one of my friends and family know, I am a huge fan of Madonna's," Brian Rubin-Sowers (pictured above right) says. "I have a long list of very clear memories about my fascination with her that go all the way back 30 years to when I was only 9 or 10. I'm not sure how much of that Toby knew when we began dating, but the first time I walked into his apartment, her music was playing from his computer speakers, and there were two vintage magazines sitting on his desk with Madonna on the cover. Needless to say, I took that as a great sign."
Brian and his husband, Toby Sowers, officially tied the knot on May 25, 2014. But it was some time before that when they both knew they had found the one.
The two met on that infamous little app Grindr. "We exchanged a few texts, and very quickly got a good feeling for one another. We decided to exchange numbers and plan a date for two nights later," Toby shares. "We got to know each other over margaritas, roasted chicken and bananas foster at an energetic neighborhood joint called Tavern On Jane -- a place we now visit every 3rd of the month to commemorate the date. We connected over a mutual love of theatre and observations about life in New York."
Brian, 41, is vice president and co-founder of fortyseven communications, a public relations firm serving the interactive entertainment industries. He is the son of Arnie Rubin, of Park City, Utah, and Lilly Rubin, of Encino, Calif. Brian grew up in Los Angeles and went on to graduate from Occidental College before earning his MFA from New School University.
Toby, 32, is executive producer and founding partner of Spectacle Studio, a design and post-production boutique in downtown Manhattan specializing in 2D/3D animation. He is the son of Chuck Sowers, of Kitty Hawk, N.C., and Jody Kohler, of Lower Salem, Ohio. He grew up in Lower Salem and attended Kent State University. Toby and Brian now reside in Manhattan.
"Over those first months we would have abstract conversations about what our future would look like, including fantasies about the wedding we would someday plan and the family we would then build together," Brian says. "I knew from early on that I wanted to propose, but I wanted to wait until the right time. I just didn't know when that would be."
The proposal ended up occurring by happenstance when Brian noticed Madonna would be performing in Zurich, Switzerland, around the time he was going to be finishing up a business trip close by in Cologne, Germany. He invited Toby to meet him there for the concert. But before the concert, the two made plans to visit the Hohenzollern Bridge over the Rhine River -- a popular spot for couples to hang padlocks as a symbol of their love. The two had a lock engraved just for the occasion.
"Most couples engrave a date on their lock, and I wondered which date Toby would want on ours," Brian says. "I wanted our date to have greater meaning than simply the day we visited the bridge together. I planned to suggest January 3, 2012, which was our first date. If Toby preferred instead to engrave the date of our trip to the bridge, I would take that as a sign I should make it more meaningful by proposing there and then.
"The locksmith didn't speak a word of English, so we wrote down for him exactly what we wanted engraved on our lock: our names, our pet name for each other--'Crutches,' which originated when Toby once misheard me call him 'gorgeous'--and, per Toby's choice, the following day's date when we would be visiting the bridge.
"We walked to the bridge and found the perfect spot for our lock. We wanted a spot we would be able to find again amongst the innumerous padlocks on the fence," Brian continues. "Just as we were about to lock it into place, I turned to Toby and told him that I loved him very much, that when I imagined my future he was always a part of it and I asked if he would marry me...
"Nobody tells you that when you ask your future spouse to marry you, the first thing you see is the blood completely drain from that person's face, and a look of complete fear take over their eyes. Fortunately, that was only momentary and Toby responded with a yes. We locked our lock and we were engaged."
Brian had Toby lock, stock and barrel. The wedding ceremony was most every gay man's wet dream: It took place on the stage of the Hudson Theatre in Manhattan, officiated by Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah.
Even the lock, which played such a large part in the proposal, found its own special way into their wedding plans.
"Toby commissioned an interactive game featuring cartoon characters of the two of us wearing tuxedos and both holding onto a lock," Brian says. "Those same characters with the lock were featured on the stamps affixed to our invitation RSVP envelopes, on the marquis outside the theatre where we got married and on our cocktail napkins. And, instead of place cards, our guests found their table numbers engraved on locks on a recreation of the lock wall that our wedding planner built."
And of course the celebration wouldn't have been complete without a little Madonna. Brian found the perfect way to include her music. "We just loved all the time we got to spend on the dance floor with our friends and family. The final song of the night was Madonna's 'Like a Prayer,' and during the song, our friend Ben Grube hugged the two of us and then many, many others joined him and surrounded us in an amazing group hug. It was an unbelievable way to end the night."
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